Episode 38 – The Kiowa – Nomadic Warriors of the Plains
(Not a Complete Transcript) According to their traditions, the Kiowas originally lived at the mouths of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers in present day Montana. As it is now, then it could have very cold winters and the ground covered by a deep layer of snow. As hunter-gatherers, they primarily used a bow and arrow along with their only domesticated animal the dog, which pulled their travois after being attached to it with poles that hooked to a harness.
Close neighbors of the Kiowa were the Flatheads and several Athabascan tribes lived to their north and west. Now according to legend the people had a quarrel over the udders of a doe which were the spoils of a hunt. The group that won the delicacy headed to the southeast and went to live with friends, the Crows. Those left behind were never heard of again.
The Crows essentially helped change the Kiowas and made them much more mobile. They taught the Kiowas ride horses and hunt buffalo which was something they had never before been able to do. There was some intermarriage with the Crows but they had much more in common with and joined together with the Kiowa Apaches. The first time they were written about was in 1682 by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who had knowledge of them from one of a Pani slave boy at Fort St. Louis. That boy called them Manrhouts and Gattacha. When they were in the Yellowstone region in1804, Lewis and Clark heard of them but did not meet them.
Moving out of the north and their previous mountainous home, the Kiowas had taken the first steps towards becoming a real part of the Plains Culture by learning to ride horses. This enabled them to hunt buffalo on horseback, and it became their main foodstuff. Of course, with the horse came mobility and they moved steadily towards the south. This mobility also turned the Kiowa into a completely nomadic lifestyle which consisted of predation, pillage, and warfare. They excelled at it until they became one of the most feared and hated of the Plains tribes. Part of their success was how they constantly had the largest number of horses of all the Plains Indians.
Around the year of 1790 the Kiowas made a lasting peace with the Comanches and together they traded horses and captives east via the Wichitas and Taovayas to the French and English. In exchange they received guns, ammunition, and metal for points and vermilion for face paint. In 1840, with the encouragement of trader and negotiator William Bent, the Kiowas, Kiowa Apaches, and Comanches joined with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapahos at Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas River and agreed to an inter-tribal peace that was never broken. Together the five tribes in union created a formidable barrier that was able to prove an obstacle to those who wished to cross the southern plains. Finally, the U.S. sent the First Dragoons to protect wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail. In later years, both the Second Dragoons and the Mounted Rifles made an effort to defend and protect the southwest and Texas from Indian raids. In the 1850s the Second United States Cavalry sought to reduce the number of attacks on the frontier settlements but like those before they had little success.
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