Kiowa Ethnogeography

Kiowa Ethnogeography

Kiowa Ethnogeography

Kiowa Ethnogeography

Synopsis

Examining the place names, geographical knowledge, and cultural associations of the Kiowa from the earliest recorded sources to the present, Kiowa Ethnogeography is the most in-depth study of its kind in the realm of Plains Indian tribal analysis. Linking geography to political and social changes, William Meadows applies a chronological approach that demonstrates a cultural evolution within the Kiowa community. Preserved in both linguistic and cartographic forms, the concepts of place, homeland, intertribal sharing of land, religious practice, and other aspects of Kiowa life are clarified in detail. Native religious relationships to land (termed "geosacred" by the author) are carefully documented as well. Meadows also provides analysis of the only known extant Kiowa map of Black Goose, its unique pictographic place labels, and its relationship to reservation-era land policies. Additional coverage of rivers, lakes, and military forts makes this a remarkably comprehensive and illuminating guide.

Excerpt

This book explores the ethnogeography, or place names and the cultural and historical knowledge associated with them, of the Kiowa. Except for a few English versions and translations of Kiowa place names, most are unknown to non-Kiowa and even to many Kiowa. Studies of Oklahoma place names (Gould 1933; Shirk 1965) include only a few entries associated with the Kiowa, primarily those related to the post-allotment Anglo division of reservation lands in 1901 and the formation of towns and post offices. Only the names of a few mountains, streams, and historical sites are recorded. Reflecting on the mixture of Indian and non-Indian names in America, Gould (1933:14) wrote, “I found that Indian Territory names were chiefly of four kinds; namely Indian names, English translations of Indian names, English names and French names.” Many existing Indian place names were determined more by Anglo land developments (counties, cities, post offices) or by the increasing prominence of the military, railroad, and cattle industries than by native associations.

The major work on Kiowa geography (Schell 1994) lists only a few of the better known Kiowa sites. U.S. Geological Survey 7.5-minute topographic maps, state gazetteers (DeLorme 1998a, 1998b, 1998c, 1998d), and other maps similarly show only a few of the best-known geographic locales of importance to the Kiowa, such as Medicine Lodge River, Rainy Mountain, and Saddle Mountain. These sites are unknown to most people outside southwestern Oklahoma, and even when local non-Indians are aware of the sites they often do not know the Kiowa’s relationship to them. This body of knowledge is quickly disappearing in the Kiowa community. Although a few places are known by virtually all Kiowa, with the rapid decline of the Kiowa language even tribal elders know a limited number of Kiowa place names, the places themselves, and their history. Because place names are . . .

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