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Who are the Kiowa Indians?

By I. Kidd
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Kiowa Indians are a recognized American Indian tribe by the federal government of the United States. The tribe originally lived in the U.S. states of Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, but was forced to a reservation in Oklahoma in the 1800s. Most members of the tribe continue to live in Oklahoma today.

In early times, the Kiowa Indians were a nomadic tribe and followed the buffalo trails because the animals provided a good source of food. The Kiowa lived in tents known as teepees, which were ideal for such a nomadic tribe — they were very easy to move on short notice and to carry to their next location. Though their constant movement was almost entirely due to the fact that their primary source of food came from the buffalo herds, the tribe also ate vegetable, such as berries and plants. The Kiowa Indians were a tribe of hunter gatherers: men took care of the hunting and women were in charge of running the home and gathering fruits and vegetables. The women did more than just cook and clean that home, however; they were actually responsible for setting up and tearing down the family's teepee and carrying it with them when they moved.

The Kiowa Indians were close allies with another tribe of American Indians known as the Comanche. The Kiowa tribe became infamous for traveling very long distances in order to carry out raids. The two tribes often joined forces to carry out raids in Texas.

Before the introduction of horses to the United States, the Kiowa used dogs as their animals of choice to help them carry around materials. In fact, when the Kiowa first saw a horse, they believed it was some new kind of gigantic dog, hence the name that the tribe coined for horses: sacred dogs, which the tribe still uses to describe horses today.

The Kiowa also are famous for their artistry, in particular for their beadwork and paintings. The Kiowa beadwork is typically created from natural elements such as stone, animal bones and shells. The tribe also began using glass in their artistry upon its introduction to the United States by the first colonists.

The Kiowa operated a social class within the tribe based around wealth and family connections. Interestingly, members of the tribe could actually move up the social strata. One could improve his social status through good deeds or a strong work ethic, but could also move down in class if he were judged to have performed dishonorable acts.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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