Kiowa (kī´əwə), Native North Americans whose language is thought to form a branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The Kiowa, a nomadic people of the Plains area, had several distinctive traits, including a pictographic calendar and the worship of a stone image, the taimay. In the 17th cent. they occupied W Montana, but by about 1700 they had moved to an area SE of the Yellowstone River. Here they came into contact with the Crow, who gave the Kiowa permission to settle in the Black Hills. While living there, they acquired (c.1710) the horse, probably from the Crow. Their trade was mainly with the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Hidatsa. After the invading Cheyenne and the Sioux drove the Kiowa from the Black Hills, they were forced to move south to Comanche territory; in 1790, after a bloody war, the Kiowa reached a permanent peace with the Comanche. According to Lewis and Clark, the Kiowa were on the North Platte River in 1805, but not much later they occupied the Arkansas River region. Later the Kiowa, who allied themselves with the Comanche, raided as far south as Durango, Mexico, attacking Mexicans, Texans, and Native Americans, principally the Navajo and the Osage.
In 1837 the Kiowa were forced to sign their first treaty, providing for the passage of Americans through Kiowa-Comanche land; the presence of settlers in increased numbers accelerated hostilities. After 1840, when the Kiowa made peace with the Cheyenne, four groups—the Kiowa, the Cheyenne, the Comanche, and the Apache—combined to fight the eastern tribes, who had migrated to Indian Territory. This caused more hostility between Native Americans and the U.S. government, and U.S. forces finally defeated the confederacy and imposed the Treaty of Medicine Lodge (1867). This confederated the Kiowa, the Comanche, and the Apache and provided that they should settle in Oklahoma. However, parts of the Kiowa remained hostile until the mid-1870s. Oncoming American settlers, unaware of treaty rights, caused friction with the Kiowa, resulting in a series of minor outbreaks. In 1874 the Kiowa were involved in a serious conflict, which was suppressed by the U.S. army. American soldiers killed the horses of the Kiowa, and the government deported the Kiowa leaders to Florida. By 1879 most of them were settled on their present lands in Oklahoma. The Kiowa Apache, a small group of North American Native Americans traditionally associated with the Kiowa from the earliest times, now live with them. The Kiowa Apache retain their own language. There were close to 9,500 Kiowa in the United States in 1990.
See R. H. Lowie, Societies of the Kiowa (1916); A. L. Marriott, Kiowa Years (1968); M. P. Mayhall, The Kiowas (rev. ed. 1972).