Editor’s Note: This is part of the 2021/22 Emily H. Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, and the second of the author’s three articles.

The role of Kiowa art in the lives of the Kiowa people embodies intangible teachings in our education: our oral histories, our songs and our prayers. Grandparents and other elders share songs, hymns, and prayers to children as instruction, protocols and lessons for being a Kiowa. Families are often assigned specific responsibilities and are encouraged for their essential ways – respect, contribution and assistance.

In 1978, the Kiowa Business Committee responded to requests from the tribal community to preserve culture and sought out tribal members who could share their cultural knowledge. The committee selected Parker Boyiddle, Jr. (Kiowa / Wichita / Delaware / Chickasaw, 1947-2007), Sherman Chaddlesone (Kiowa, 1947-2013) and Mirac Creepingbear (Kiowa, 1947-2013) to paint murals depicting creation , the story of Kiowa. , and contemporary cultural expression. The elders of Kiowa came together to dialogue to share historical experiences, speaking the Cáigù (Kiowa) language and advising artists on the subject. The artists translated from Cáigù to visual expression in mural painting.

The murals reveal the artists’ traditional teaching on the Kiowa aesthetic, from calendar keeping to skin painting and back to petroglyphs. All three artists grew up in Kiowa Territory in southwestern Oklahoma and attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Each artist has been celebrated for their participation in Kiowa ceremonial groups throughout their career, and each artist has been recognized as a descendant of the Kiowa chiefs.

Artists first approached murals knowing the Engagement Protocols, which recognize the creative principles of the Kiowa Tribe. These include, but are not limited to, collecting natural materials and understanding the uses and histories of cultural objects, which often identify a person’s status in the Kiowa community. The murals interpret the creative origin stories of the Kiowa, including the belief that our community first emerged as ants through a log. The murals illustrate our belief that everyone has a purpose and how we share the intention to work together. The series reveals the influence of the Creator and a Trickster figure in our spirituality. To the Kiowa, this Trickster is known as the Saynday, and his exploits often teach others to refrain from selfishness.

The vibrant color palette of the murals reflects Kiowa color theory, based on directions, and our preference for bold primary colors, with a duality of reds and blues. the crawling bear Arrival on the Southern Plains and Alliance with the Comanches and Cheyennes marks our migration from the northern Rockies to the southern plains. Chaddlesone Transition: the beginning of organized religion for the Kiowa is emptied of any color. Her blacks and grays and whites echo loss and grief when we were forced to book. It refers to the famous ledger drawing, A man receiving the power from two spirit animals (1877), by Wohaw (Kiowa, 1855-1924), a complex piece of this period of transition with the loss of bison herds and the growth of domesticated cattle. Each painting contains teachings of sacrifice and celebration through survival. The final mural, Chaddlesone Kiowa today, features specific individuals of the Kiowa community of the late 1980s and restores the color and cultural sovereignty of the Kiowa people rooted in our lands.

In 2019, Angela M. Chaddlesone McCarthy, daughter of muralist Sherman Chaddlesone, approached the Kiowa Museum to organize a traveling exhibition. Due to the Covid-19 closures in 2020, Ah-Kaw-Lay District lawmaker Angela has expressed her wish to move the collection to an online exhibition. On September 17, 2020, the Kiowa tribe lost Angela to Covid-19. Knowing her duty and obligation to protect her people and culture, she wanted to make sure our story continues. Previously, these works were only presented in private. The Kiowa Tribal Government has decided to share and open up the murals to the world. This decision was made in the hope that these works of art would inform those outside our community of the presence and perseverance of the Kiowa people. As an agreement between the three artists and the tribe, the original intention and hopes were for the murals to travel nationally and internationally. The Kiowa Tribal Executive Branch is currently keen to honor requests from artists and families.

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