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Title: Notes on the Kiowa Sun Dance
Author: Spier, Leslie
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  1. Groundplan of Dance Lodge                           441


The following notes were obtained from Andres Martinez (Andele, a
Mexican captive of the Kiowa whose history[1] is well known) in August,
1919. Attention was directed in the first instance to the organization
of the dance, but a brief description of the whole ceremony was also
obtained, chiefly by way of comments on Scott's account.[2] The last
Kiowa sun dance was held in 1887.[3]

The Kiowa sun dance is the prerogative of the individual who owns the
sacred image, the _tai´me_. He deputes the ancillary offices where he
sees fit, although there is a well-defined tendency for them to be
hereditary. The predominant idea of this image is that of a war
medicine. Thus the dance is fundamentally like that of the Crow, but it
differs from it in two important respects. First, the Kiowa rites
cluster about only one particular medicine, whereas among the Crow, any
one of a number of medicine dolls may be used in the ceremony. The
question arises whether the dozen minor Kiowa images, which are
sometimes brought into the dance, were more recently acquired or
constructed in order to reproduce the functions of the _tai´me_, or
whether one medicine doll has completely overshadowed all the others, as
seemed about to happen among the Crow. The evidence favors the first
view, since no rites, other than those attendant on any personal
medicine, are described, or even intimated, for the minor images. The
second difference is, that while the Crow shaman invokes his medicine
for any one who appeals to him for aid, acting only in a directive
capacity, the Kiowa _tai´me_ owner is himself the principal suppliant.
Were it not for the hereditary bias in the distribution of ceremonial
functions, the Kiowa sun dance would be the prerogative of one man as
completely as that of the Crow is, when the latter is once under way.
The hereditary principle does not appear in the military societies
except in the ownership of the medicine lance or arrow (_zë´bo_).[4]

The Kiowa sun dance (_k'oθdun_ specifically the name for the lodge) was
an annual tribal affair, in which the associated Kiowa Apache freely
joined.[5] It was danced in an effort to obtain material benefits from,
or through, the medicine doll in the possession of the medicineman, who
is at the same time director and principal performer.

    This is a small image, less than 2 feet in length, representing a
    human figure dressed in a robe of white feathers, with a headdress
    consisting of a single upright feather and pendants of ermine skin,
    with numerous strands of blue beads around its neck, and painted
    upon the face, breast, and back with designs symbolic of the sun and
    moon. [Martinez says the face is entirely obscured by hanging
    beads.] The image itself is of dark-green stone, in form rudely
    resembling a human head and bust, probably shaped by art like the
    stone fetishes of the Pueblo tribes. It is preserved in a rawhide
    box in charge of the hereditary keeper, and is never under any
    circumstances exposed to view except at the annual sun dance, when
    it is fastened to a short upright stick planted within the medicine
    lodge, near the western side.... The ancient _tai´me_ image was of
    buckskin, with a stalk of Indian tobacco for a headdress. This
    buckskin image was left in the medicine lodge, with all the other
    adornments and sacrificial offerings, at the close of each ceremony.
    The present _tai´me_ is one of three, two of which came originally
    from the Crows, through an Arapaho who married into the Kiowa tribe,
    while the third came by capture from the Blackfeet.[6]

The bundle containing the image is usually hung outside of its keeper's
tipi. It is not customary to expose the image except at the sun dance,
but tobacco is placed with it from time to time. Its function outside of
the dance is identical with its use there: those who need its aid make
vows to it, which they fulfil by sacrificing horses, etc., and making
sweatlodges. The image is the property of one man, or more properly of
his family, since it may be inherited by his blood relatives. If the
transfer is made before the father's death, payment and a sweatlodge
must be given by the son.[7] After Long Foot died about 1870, as he had
no son, it passed into the possession of three of his nephews in
succession, and reverted in 1894 to his daughter who still has it.[8]
While she may handle the image, she would not be permitted to enter the
dance with it.[9] There the functions which would normally devolve on
her would be performed in their entirety by a captive. This captive has
been trained to the position in order to take the place of the image
keeper should he be sick. A captive is chosen for the substitute so that
a calamity incurred by a mischance in the proceedings may fall on him
alone and not on the Kiowa. The erstwhile substitute, a Mexican, is
still living. The image keeper, like his four associates, must not look
in a mirror, nor touch a skunk or jackrabbit. One who touches these
animals cannot enter the tipi where the doll is housed until four days
have elapsed. No dog is allowed in this tipi, nor is one permitted to
jump over the keeper or his four associates, the _g.uołg.uȧt`_.

There are ten or twelve minor images (_tailyúkȧ_) which strongly
resemble the _tai´me_ in function, as they are essentially war
medicines. Most of them were in the keeping of men other than the sacred
doll owner, but two were kept by him for a time.[10] They have little or
no part in the sun dance.

    The _Gadômbítsoñhi_, "Old-woman-under-the-ground," belonged to the
    Kiñep band of the Kiowa. It was a small image, less than a foot
    high, representing a woman with flowing hair. It was exposed in
    front of the _tai´me_ at the great sun-dance ceremony, and by some
    unexplained jugglery the priest in charge of it caused it to rise
    out of the ground, dance in the sight of the people, and then again
    sink into the earth.[11]

The sun dance was normally an annual ceremony, but sometimes a year
passed without one. The dance was theoretically dependent on someone
going to the keeper and saying, "I dreamed of it (_i.e._, the sun
dance)," or on the keeper himself dreaming of it. On two occasions a
second dance was held in the dance lodge after the keeper had removed
the sacred doll at the close of the first dance, because a second man
had also dreamed of it.[12] After the dream is announced the keeper
hangs the image on his back and rides out to all the camps, announcing,
as he circles them, that he will conduct the ceremony the following
spring (May or June). This announcement was sometimes made immediately
after the close of the preceding dance, but usually it came just before
they intended to hold the dance.[13] The keeper fasts while he is making
the announcement, even if it takes three days, as may happen when the
camps were scattered. When they know the dance is to be held, others vow
to dance for a specified number of days, and all gather near the dance
ground. No one may absent himself: they are all afraid of his medicine.
When the tribe is assembled, the keeper circles the camp, again bearing
the sacred doll on his back.

Two young men are selected by the keeper from one of the military
societies[14] to scout for a tree to serve as center pole for the dance
lodge. While searching, they must refrain from drinking. About this time
all those intending to dance are building sweatlodges to purify
themselves: the keeper must enter each of these to direct the
proceedings; this entails considerable work on him. Should he be sick at
this time, the doll is carried into the sweatlodge by the captive in his
stead. It is incumbent on the _tai´me_ shield owners to accompany this
captive and help him perform the necessary ceremonies. When the tree for
the center pole has been selected, the whole camp moves after the keeper
and his family to the dance ground. A dozen or more old men follow
immediately after him. The main body is guarded front, rear, and both
flanks by the military societies, as is customary when a camp moves.[15]
The procession halts four times on its journey while the keeper smokes
and prays. Next, the soldier societies charge on the dance ground,
or rather on a pole erected there before the camp circle is
established,[16] according to Methvin (p. 64), but on the newly
established camp itself according to Scott's informants (p. 357).

The next morning the man who has that privilege sets out with his wife
to get the hide of a young buffalo bull. When such a person dies, the
keeper appoints one of his kin to take his place.[17] The couple must
fast while on this hunt. If the buffalo is killed with a single arrow,
it is a favorable omen, if many are needed, the opposite is indicated.
The buffalo must be killed so that he falls on his belly with his head
toward the east. A broad strip of back skin, with the tail and head skin
attached is carried to the keeper's tipi, where feathers are tied to its

The next morning they set out to fetch the center pole. Scott describes
a parade around the camp circle by the military societies which then
proceed to charge the tree selected for the center pole, which is
defended in sham combat by one of the men's societies[19] (_akiaik`to_,
war with the trees). After the chiefs have recited their coups, and
prayers have been said by the sacred doll keeper and his wife, who have
brought the doll there, the tree is chopped down by a captive Mexican
woman. A captive is always selected for this difficult task, so that any
harm due to an error on her part may not fall on a tribesman. This
function is always performed by a Mexican woman: when she dies, the
keeper appoints her successor. As the tree falls, they shout and shoot
in the air. The pole is carried to the dance ground by a society
designated by the keeper,[20] where a hole to receive it has been dug by
a men's military society.[21] The pole is set upright by a single
medicineman who owns this privilege. The buffalo hide is then fastened
across the forks with its head to the east and offerings of cloth, etc.,
brought by various individuals are tied to it. In 1873 Battey

    The central post is ornamented near the ground with the robes of
    buffalo calves, their heads up, as if in the act of climbing it;
    each of the branches above the fork is ornamented in a similar
    manner, with the addition of shawls, calico, scarfs, &c., and
    covered at the top with black muslin. Attached to the fork is a
    bundle of cottonwood and willow limbs, firmly bound together, and
    covered with a buffalo robe, with head and horns, so as to form a
    rude image of a buffalo, to which were hung strips of new calico,
    muslin, strouding, both blue and scarlet, feathers, shawls, &c., of
    various lengths and qualities. The longer and more showy articles
    were placed near the ends. This image was so placed as to face the

The center pole is not painted.

After the center pole is in place, everyone, but especially the military
societies, assists in building the enclosing structure. The lodge is
like those of the Arapaho and Cheyenne: it is circular, the rafters rest
on the center pole, and the covering of boughs extends a third of the
way to the center of the roof. An entrance is left on the east side. A
flat stone is placed here so that every dancer passing through must set
his foot on it. Wet sand is spread over the ground in the dance
lodge[23] and heaped around the base of the center pole. Two little
round holes, walled in with mud, are dug near the rear of the lodge to
hold incense smudges. A screen of cottonwood and cedar branches is
constructed just north of these.

    This business continued through the day, except for an hour or two
    in the middle of the afternoon, when the old women[24]--the
    grandmothers of the tribe--had a dance. The music consisted of
    singing and drumming, done by several old women, who were squatted
    on the ground in a circle. The dancers--old, gray-headed women, from
    sixty to eighty years of age--performed in a circle around them for
    some time, finally striking off upon a waddling run, one behind
    another; they formed a circle, came back and, doubling so as to
    bring two together, threw their arms around each other's necks, and
    trudged around for some time longer; then sat down, while a youngish
    man circulated the pipe, from which each in turn took two or three
    whiffs, and this ceremony ended.[25]

    [When the dance lodge was completed] the soldiers of the tribe then
    had a frolic in and about it, running and jumping, striking and
    kicking, throwing one another down, stripping and tearing the
    clothes off each other.[26]... Before this frolic was over, a party
    of ten or twelve warriors appeared, moving a kind of shield to and
    fro before their bodies, making, in some manner (as I was not near
    enough to see how it was done), a grating sound, not unlike the
    filing of a mill-saw.[27]

    In the afternoon, a party of a dozen or more warriors and braves
    proceeded to the medicine house, followed by a large proportion of
    the people of the encampment. They were highly painted, and wore
    shirts only, with head-dresses of feathers which extended down the
    backs to the ground, and were kept in their proper places by means
    of an ornamented strap clasping the waist. Some of them had long
    horns attached to their head-dresses. They were armed with lances
    and revolvers, and carrying a couple of long poles mounted from end
    to end with feathers, the one white and the other black. They also
    bore shields highly ornamented with paint, feathers, and hair.

    They took their station upon the side opposite the entrance, the
    musicians standing behind them.

    Many old women occupied a position to the right and near the
    entrance, who set up a tremulous shrieking; the drums began to beat,
    and the dance began, the party above described only participating in

    They at first slowly advanced towards the central post, followed by
    the musicians several of whom carried a side of raw hide (dried),
    which was beaten upon with sticks, making about as much music as to
    beat upon the sole of an old shoe, while the drums, the voices of
    the women, and the rattling of pebbles in instruments of raw hide
    filled out the choir.

    After slowly advancing nearly to the central post, they retired
    backward, again advanced, a little farther than before; this was
    repeated several times, each time advancing a little farther, until
    they crowded upon the spectators, drew their revolvers, and
    discharged them into the air.

    Soon after, the women rushed forward with a shrieking yell, threw
    their blankets violently upon the ground, at the feet of the
    retiring dancers, snatched them up with the same tremulous shriek
    that had been before produced, and retired; which closed this part
    of the entertainment. The ornamented shields used on this occasion
    were afterwards hung up with the medicine.[28]

These may be the shields which are associated with the _tai´me_. Later,
after the sacred doll has been brought into the lodge, they are either
hung with it on the cedar screen as Battey observed,[29] or on stakes
set up outside the dance lodge to the west, i.e., behind the image,
where Martinez saw them. No offerings are made to them there. It is
incumbent on a _tai´me_ shield owner to dance with the associates
(_g.uołg.uȧt`_) in every sun dance so long as he continues to own the
shield. He is not considered one of the associates however. Shield
owners always help the image keeper when he asks their aid. They must
also assist his captive substitute when officiating in a sweatlodge. A
shield owner cannot sell his shield, but he may give it to his son in
anticipation of his death, receiving presents in return. Otherwise, on
the death of its owner the shield is placed on his grave. Should a son
or nephew dream of it, he has the right to make a duplicate with the
help of the doll owner in order to keep it in the family. However, if
any other man dreams of it and wants to make the duplicate, he must pay
the owner.[30] The shield is usually hung outside of its owner's tipi.
The shield owners "must not eat buffalo hearts, or touch a bearskin, or
have anything to do with a bear." Like the associates, "they must not
smoke with their moccasins on,[31] or kill, or eat any kind of rabbit,
or kill or touch a skunk."[32] These shields are used only in war as
their owner's personal medicine: no offerings are ever made to them.

Late in the day, a number of men who have vowed to take part in the
subsequent dance, together with one woman who has the privilege,[33] are
garbed in buffalo robes to represent the living animals. They gather to
the east of the lodge where they simulate the actions of a herd of
buffalo. A man, called a scout, starts from the entrance of the lodge
with a firebrand and circles about the herd until he meets a second man,
mounted and carrying a shield and a straight pipe, who thereupon drives
the buffalo toward the dance lodge, which they circle several times
before negotiating the entrance. Once inside they lie down; the man with
the pipe dismounts and enters. Picking up the hairs on the back of first
one animal and another, he says, "This is the fattest animal. He is our
protector in war." Then he recites a coup. This designated (or makes ?)
a brave man of that buffalo.[34] Both the man with the firebrand and he
with the pipe ought to be medicinemen. The present incumbent of the
first office also has the privilege of erecting the center pole. When
these men die, the sacred doll keeper selects successors from their

That evening after sunset the dance proper begins, to last four nights
and days, ending in the evening. The doll keeper proceeds to his own
tipi, where, with the assistance of seven other medicinemen (_tai´me_
shield keepers and some others not otherwise connected with the
ceremony), he unwraps the _tai´me_. Carrying it on his back, he walks to
the dance lodge, and, completely circles it four times, feigning to
enter each time he passes the entrance. After entering, he goes around
by the south side to the northwest quadrant, where he plants the image
hanging on a staff. Formerly two or more of the minor images,
_tailyúkȧ_, were placed with the _tai´me_. After the image is in place
the dancers enter to perform for the night.

The keeper dances throughout the whole four-day period. He is painted
yellow, with a design representing the sun, and sometimes another for
the moon, drawn on his chest and back. "His face was painted, like that
of the Taimay itself, with red and black zigzag lines downward from the
eyes." He wears a yellow buckskin kilt, a jackrabbit skin cap with down
attached, and sage wristlets. He is barefoot. He carries a bunch of
cedar in his hand, and an eagle bone whistle from which an eagle feather
is pendent. Battey observed that he was painted white at the
"buffalo-herding" rite, and not painted at all in the dance proper.[36]

Beside the _tai´me_ keeper there are three classes of persons who dance;
the associates (_g.uołg.uȧt`_), the _tai´me_ shield keepers, and the
common dancers. The four associates (Scott's "keeper's assistants") must
dance throughout the whole four day period. They appear in four
successive dances (normally four years), after which they choose
successors from among those young men, eighteen to thirty years old, who
have made the best records in war. These young men, with the assistance
of their relatives,[37] pay horses and buffalo robes for the privilege,
receiving the regalia in return.[38] One who is chosen cannot refuse: if
he does, he may expect a calamity. The associate may belong to any of
the military societies. His office does not impose obligations of
foolhardiness in war (such as the no-flight idea), but he is obliged to
act the part of an intrepid warrior, because he enjoys security in
battle.[39] The associate must not look in a mirror lest he become
blind,[40] nor can he touch a skunk or jackrabbit, nor remain near a
fire where someone is cooking. Dogs must not be permitted to jump over
an associate. He must remove his moccasins before he smokes, but others
may keep theirs on when smoking in his presence. The associate dances in
order to live long and to be a great warrior. His body is painted white
or yellow: a round spot representing the sun is painted on the middle of
his chest, with a crescent moon (the concavity upward) on both sides of
the sun, and the same decoration is repeated on his back. The skin is
cut away as a sacrifice and to make these designs permanent after his
first dance. A scalp from a _tai´me_ shield hangs on his breast with two
eagle feathers; another on his back. His face is "ornamented with a
green stripe across the forehead, and around down the sides of the
cheeks, to the corners of the mouth, and meeting on the chin."[41] He
wears a yellow buckskin kilt, with his breechclout hung outside, like
the Arapaho and Cheyenne sun dancers. Bunches of sage are stuck into his
belt, others tied around his wrists and ankles, and carried in each
hand. On his head is either a cap of jackrabbitskin in which is stuck an
eagle feather or a sage wreath with down attached. He carries a bone
whistle. Like the sacred doll keeper and all other dancers, he is
barefoot.[42] Battey saw three associates purify themselves in the
incense from the censors, and then dance on piles of sage.[43]

The _tai´me_ shield owners, who dance with the associates are sometimes
painted yellow or green with pictures of the sun and moon on their
bodies, but otherwise they wear the regalia of the common dancers.

The rank and file of the dancers are men, never women. Anyone may vow to
dance a certain number of days, with the object of becoming a better
warrior and living long.

    They believe that it warded off sickness, caused happiness,
    prosperity, many children, success in war, and plenty of buffalo for
    all the people. It was frequently vowed by persons in danger from
    sickness or the enemy.[44]

Sometimes a medicineman danced to intercede for a sick man. A sick man
who had vowed to attend the dance in order to be cured would be carried
into the dance lodge, but he would not dance. These dancers make
offerings to the _tai´me_. They do not pay the doll keeper in order to
enter the dance, and they have no rights in any subsequent performance
by reason of having once participated. Like all other dancers they must
fast and go without water during the period that they dance; they can
however, smoke, provided the proper rites are observed.

    ... The pipe was filled, brought forward, and laid upon the ground;
    the person, carefully turning the stem towards the fire, and bedding
    it in the sand, so that the bowl should remain in an upright
    position, arose and stood with his back towards it, or facing the
    medicine. It was then approached by one of the musicians, who, in a
    squatting position, raised his hand reverently towards the sun, the
    medicine, the top of the central post, or buffalo; then, passing his
    hands slowly over the pipe, took it up with his left hand, and
    taking a pinch from the bowl with the thumb and fore finger of the
    right, held it to the sun, the medicine, the top of the central
    post, then the bottom, and finally covered it up in the ground. He
    then proceeded to light the pipe, blowing a whiff of smoke towards
    the several objects of adoration, and placed it carefully where he
    found it, in reversed order, that is, with the stem from the fire.
    The person who brought it had stood waiting all this time for it. He
    now took it up and retired to the dancers, who, wrapped in buffalo
    robes, were waiting, in a squatting position, to receive it. The
    sand where the pipe had lain was carefully smoothed by the hand, and
    all marks of it wholly obliterated.[45]

These dancers are painted white; they wear white buckskin kilts, with
the breechclout outside, carry bone whistles, and are barefoot. They
have no headdress, wrist or ankle ornaments. They paint themselves.[46]
There is only one style of paint used by either the principal or the
common dancers throughout the sun dance.

The dancers form a line on the east side of the lodge facing the image.
Their step is that characteristic of the sun dance of other tribes: they
stand in place, alternately bending their knees and rising on their
toes. They dance intermittently throughout four days and nights; the
common dancers leave as the periods for which they have vowed to dance
have elapsed or when they can no longer stand the combined strain of
fasting, thirsting, and dancing. Martinez left after three days and
nights. The "four days and nights" which are specified are in reality
only three nights and days; evidently the first day of preliminary
dancing is included to fill out the quota to the magic "four." In
Scott's account, the dancers perform on the first day from evening to
the middle of the night, and on the succeeding days from sunrise to the
chorus's breakfast, nine o'clock to dinner, four in the afternoon to
sundown, and from evening to midnight, ending in the evening of the
fourth day. The dance Battey describes evidently began in the evening of
the 18th and continued intermittently to late afternoon of the 21st.
Apparently the dancers do not leave the lodge during this entire period.

    _19th_ [June, 1873.]--Music and dancing continued in the medicine
    house through the night. At an early hour this morning I went
    thither with Couguet, and witnessed one dance throughout. The ground
    inside the enclosure had been carefully cleared of grass, sticks,
    and roots, and covered, several inches deep, with a clean, white
    sand. A screen had been constructed on the side opposite the
    entrance, by sticking small cottonwoods and cedars deep into the
    ground, so as to preserve them fresh as long as possible. A space
    was left, two or three feet wide, between it and the enclosing wall,
    in which the dancers prepared themselves for the dance, and in front
    of which was the medicine. This consisted of an image, lying on the
    ground, but so concealed from view, in the screen, as to render its
    form indistinguishable; above it was a large fan, made of eagle
    quills, [an error, these are crow feathers], with the quill part
    lengthened out nearly a foot, by inserting a stick into it, and
    securing it there. These were held in a spread form by means of a
    willow rod, or wire, bent in a circular form; above this was a mass
    of feathers, concealing an image, on each side of which were several
    shields, highly decorated with feathers and paint. Various other
    paraphernalia of heathen worship were suspended in the screen, among
    these shields or over them, impossible for me to describe so as to
    be comprehended. A mound had also been thrown up around the central
    post of the building, two feet high, and perhaps five feet in

    The musicians, who, if I mistake not, are the war chiefs, were
    squatted on the ground, in true heathen style, to the left, and near
    the entrance, having Indian drums and rattles. The music was
    sounding when we entered.

    Presently the dancers came from behind the screen; their faces,
    arms, and the upper part of their bodies were painted white; a soft,
    white buckskin skirt, secured about the loins, descended nearly to
    the ankles, while the breech-cloth,--blue on this occasion,--hanging
    to the ground, outside the skirt, both in front and behind,
    completed the dress. They faced the medicine--shall I say idols? for
    it was conducted with all the solemnity of worship,--jumping up and
    down in true time with the beating of the drums, while a bone
    whistle in their mouths, through which the breath escaped as they
    jumped about, and the singing of the women, completed the music. The
    dancers continued to face the medicine, with arms stretched upwards
    and towards it,--their eyes as it were riveted to it. They were
    apparently oblivious to all surroundings, except the music and what
    was before them.

    After some time, a middle-aged man, painted as the others, but
    wearing a buffalo robe, issued from behind the screen, facing
    the entrance, but having his eyes fixed upon the sun, upon
    which he stood gazing, without winking or moving a muscle,
    for some time, then began slowly to incline his head from side
    to side, as if to avoid some obstruction in his view of it,
    swaying his body slightly, then, stepping slowly from side to
    side--forward--backward--increasing his motions, both in rapidity
    and extent, until in appearance nearly frantic, his robes fell off,
    leaving him--except his blue breechclout--entirely naked. In this
    condition he jumped and ran about the enclosure,--head, arms,
    and legs all equally participating in the violence of his
    gestures,--every joint of his body apparently loosened, his eyes
    only fixed. I wondered how, with every joint apparently dislocated,
    and every muscular fibre relaxed, he could maintain the upright

    Thus he continued to exercise without ceasing, or once removing his
    eyes from the sun, until the sweat ran down in great rolling drops,
    washing the white paint into streaks no more ornamental than the
    original painting, and he was at length compelled to retire, from
    mere exhaustion, the other dancers still continuing their exercises.

    Presently another man [the _tai´me_ keeper] entered from behind the
    screen, wearing an Indian fur cap and a blue breechcloth reaching to
    the ground. He was unpainted, and had a human scalp fastened to his
    scalplock, the soft, flowing hair of which, spreading out upon his
    naked back, bore mute testimony to the tragical death of some
    unfortunate white woman. This man, with a kind of half running jump,
    still in step with the music, went around all the dancers, who did
    not notice him, with one arm stretched out over his heads, first in
    one direction, then the other, turning his course at every time,
    after stopping in front of the medicine, and making some
    indescribable motions before it. He sometimes parted the feathers
    concealing the small image, appearing to examine it minutely, as if
    searching for something, and sometimes putting his lips to it, as if
    in the act of kissing it. [He takes some medicine root into his
    mouth, chews it and blows it on the dancers.][47] At length, after
    repeated examinations, he, apparently for the first time, discovered
    the fan, and took hold of it hesitatingly, and as if afraid.

    This was loosed from its fastenings by a hand behind the screen, and
    he slowly raised it up, looking intently at it, while the expression
    of his countenance indicated a fearfulness of the result of handling
    an object whose hidden and mysterious powers were so far beyond his
    comprehension. He held it up before the medicine, waved it up and
    down, and from side to side, then, turning round so as to face the
    dancers and spectators, waved it from side to side near the ground,
    once around the dancers; then, raising it above his head, he waved
    it in the same manner, performing another circle around the dancers.

    Then, with gestures of striking, and a countenance scowling as with
    fierce rage, he began to chase them around and around the ring,
    [i.e., around the center pole] from left to right. Finally, getting
    one of them separated from the rest, he pursued him with the most
    fiend-like attitude, fiercely striking at him with his fan. The
    pursued one fled from him with a countenance expressive of almost
    death-like terror, until, after several rounds, he stumbled and fell
    heavily to the ground. Another and another were thus separated from
    the dancers, pursued, and fell before the mystical power of the fan,
    and the act closed.[48]

The "feather-killing" (_staiĕnkiăł_, he runs after them with feathers)
occurs every day in the late forenoon.[49] The associates as well as the
other dancers, are fanned into unconsciousness.[50] In such a condition
they would try to get visions: they would rise, call for a pipe, and
announce what they had seen.[51]

    Being called to a council of the war chiefs, I went no more to the
    medicine house to-day, though the music and dancing continued the
    whole time, by day and by night, with short intervals between the
    different acts, to give opportunity for rest, arranging dress,
    painting, and such other changes as the programme of the ceremony

    _20th._--Saw but one dance to-day. Quite a quantity of goods, such
    as blankets, strouding (blue and scarlet list-cloth), calico,
    shawls, scarfs, and other Indian wares, had been carried into the
    medicine house previous to my entrance. The dancers had been painted
    white, three of them [the _g.uolg.uȧt`_] ornamented with a green
    stripe across the forehead, and around down the sides of the cheeks,
    to the corner of the mouth, and meeting on the chin. A round green
    spot was painted on the back and breast, about three inches in
    diameter, while on either side of it, and somewhat elevated above
    it, was a crescent of the same size and color. Two small, hollow
    mounds of sand and clay had been made before the medicine, in which
    fire was placed, and kept just sufficiently burning, with the
    partially dried cottonwood leaves, cedar twigs, and probably
    tobacco, to produce a smoke. A small fire was burning near the
    musicians, for lighting pipes, tightening drums, &c.

    When all was ready, the three young men, who were painted as
    described, were led, each by a man clad in a buffalo robe [possibly
    the former _g.uolg.uȧt`_ who were transferring their privileges],
    near to the smoking mounds in front of the medicine. An ornamented
    fur cap was, with some ceremony, placed upon the head of one of
    them; wisps of green wild wormwood were fastened to the wrists and
    ankles, which being done, he reverently raised his hands above his
    head, leaning forward over one of the mounds, brought them down
    nearly to it; then, straightening up, passed his hands over his face
    and stroked his breast. This was repeated several times; then, after
    holding one foot, and the other, over the mound, as if to warm them,
    two or three times, he went around the central post, and back to the
    other mound, where the same ceremony was repeated. During this whole
    ceremony I could perceive that his lips moved, though he uttered
    nothing. I afterwards learned that it was in prayer to this effect:
    "May this medicine render me brave in war, proof against the weapons
    of my enemies, strong in the chase, wise in council; and, finally,
    may it preserve me to a good age, and may I at last die in peace
    among my own people." The others, one at a time, were similarly
    brought forward, and went through with the same ceremony. Three
    bunches of wild wormwood were then placed on the ground in a row,
    crossing the line of entrance, and between it and the central post,
    upon which the three young men were placed by their attendants, who
    stood behind them, with their hands upon their shoulders, the music
    playing all the time. Two or three men then approached the pile of
    goods, selected therefrom some plaid shawls, strouding, blankets,
    scarfs, and an umbrella, and hung them over the medicine; this being
    done, the six men began to dance,--the three foremost ones upon the
    wormwood, with their arms stretched towards the medicine, the three
    others with their hands still resting upon the shoulders of the
    former. After some time the latter retired; the other dancers came
    from behind the screen, and joined in the dance, which continued
    until they were driven off by the medicine chief, as described in
    yesterday's dance. All these ceremonies had a sacred significance,
    which I did not understand, but have been informed that they believe
    any article of wearing apparel, or of harness for their horses, hung
    up by the medicine during these ceremonies, receives a charmed power
    to protect their wearers from disease, or the assaults of their
    enemies, during the year.

    _21st._--At one of the dances to-day, all but one retired behind the
    screen, who continued to dance by himself for a long time. Various
    articles were brought forward, and laid upon the ground, which he
    took up and hung in proximity to the medicine. After along time, the
    other dancers reappeared, and he retired; these continued their
    exercises, until driven off as before. The last dance differed from
    the preceding in this: the last man selected and separated from the
    others by the medicine chief to be driven off, though he ran from
    him, did not appear terrified, and would not fall down, but retired,
    with the medicine chief, behind the screen.

    At one of the dances to-day, five human scalps were exhibited,--one
    attached to each of the right wrists of two men, and one to each
    wrist of another, besides the one worn attached to the scalp lock of
    the medicine chief. Two of these scalps were from the heads of
    Indians. They had all been tanned, and evidently belonged with the
    medicine fixtures.

    The whole ceremony closed about four o'clock in the afternoon. The
    medicine was packed away by the medicine chief, and the several
    articles which had been hung about it--medicated, I suppose, or, in
    other words, sanctified by proximity to the sacred things during
    the ceremonies, and consequently having power to protect their
    possessors from evil--were restored to the proper owners. They then
    packed them, took them upon their backs, formed into a procession,
    and marched, to the music of the drums, around and out of the
    medicine house, whence every one took the direction of his or her
    own lodge, and the ceremonies of the great medicine were ended.[52]

At the end of the ceremony, the image keeper chews up some medicine root
and prepares a drink, of which the dancers are permitted to imbibe a

After the image has been removed, old clothing is hung on the center
pole as a sacrifice. Once Martinez saw a horse tied to the center pole
as a sacrifice to the sun. It remained there until it starved to death.
Horses were also painted and placed, together with blankets and similar
valuables, on high hills as sacrifices. Others beside the associates
sacrificed their flesh to the sun at this time, or in fact, whenever
they wanted to, as Martinez has done. The Kiowa never suspended their
dancers, as in the self-torture dance of other tribes, neither in the
sun dance, nor when an individual sought a vision while fasting alone in
the mountains.

The night the dance closes everyone joins in a hilarious time in the
dance lodge. Next morning the camp circle breaks up, and the warriors
soon go off to war.[54] They do not molest the dance lodge, though other
tribes passing that way may do so: the Kiowa do not care.


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[1] Methvin, J. J., _Andele, or The Mexican-Kiowa Captive_. _A Story of
Real Life among the Indians_ (Louisville, Kentucky, 1899).

[2] Scott, Hugh Lenox, "Notes on the Kado, or Sun Dance of the Kiowa"
(_American Anthropologist_, N. S., vol. 13, pp. 345-379, 1911). The
phonetic system used in the present paper is that of the "Phonetic
Transcription of Indian Languages" (_Smithsonian Miscellaneous
Collections_, vol. 66, no. 6, 1916), 2-7.

[3] Mooney, James, "Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians" (_Seventeenth
Annual Report_, _Bureau of American Ethnology_, part 1, pp. 129-445,
Washington, 1911), 385.

[4] Lowie, R. H., "Societies of the Kiowa" (this series, vol. 11), 847;
Mooney, 325, 338.

[5] Mooney, 253, states the contrary.

[6] Mooney, 240; Plate LXIX shows a model (see Scott, 349).

[7] This coupling of purchase with inheritance is strictly comparable to
the Hidatsa bundle (this volume, 416-417).

[8] Scott, 369, 373.

[9] If this is more than a general taboo against women handling sacred
objects, it has its parallel in a similar Crow bias (this volume, 13).

[10] Mooney, 241, 323, 324.

[11] Mooney, 239.

[12] Mooney, 279, 343.

[13] Lowie, 842.

[14] Lowie, 843.

[15] Compare, Battey, Thomas C., _The Life and Adventures of a Quaker
among the Indians_ (Boston, 1876) 185.

[16] The Southern Cheyenne also charge and count coup on some sticks
marking the site of the dance lodge (G. A. Dorsey, _Cheyenne Sun

[17] Cf. 83, 109. Mooney, 349.

[18] Scott, 358-360, 365. In this account the hide is taken into a
sweatlodge at this juncture.

[19] "Foot-soldiers," Scott, 360-361.

[20] Lowie, 843.

[21] Not by a woman's society as Scott's informant states (361).

[22] Battey, 170.

[23] By the "old women soldiers" according to Scott (361), but Martinez
informs me that, with the exception of the dance described by Battey,
the two women's societies have no significant part in the sun dance.

[24] The Old Woman society (Lowie, 850).

[25] Battey, 168.

[26] Cf. Lowie, 843.

[27] Battey, 169.

[28] Battey, 170-172. War singing _gwudańke_, was customary before an
expedition set out for war (Lowie, 850).

[29] Scott, Pl. XXV.

[30] Evidently a shield of this type was made by Koñate, who was
instructed to do so by the _tai´me_ which appeared to him as he lay
wounded (Mooney, 304).

[31] Lewis notes this custom for the Shoshoni, and Lowie for their
medicinemen when treating the sick (Lowie, Northern Shoshone, 213-214).
The Crow do not smoke where their moccasins are hung up, according to
Maximilian, (Reise in das innere Nord-America in den Jahren 1832 bis
1834 [Coblenz, 1841], I, 400).

[32] Scott, 373.

[33] Scott, 362.

[34] Martinez puts this performance after the image has been brought
into the dance lodge: this does not seem correct.

[35] Battey has the keeper signal to the herd with a firebrand. Neither
Battey nor Scott mention a mounted herder; the former puts the pipe in
the hands of the keeper, and the latter in those of a third man who
remains in the dance lodge, but in Scott's account also the function of
the pipe is to force the buffalo to enter the lodge. In Battey's account
two men assist the keeper in designating warriors, and in Scott's three
men with straight pipes do it. (Battey, 172-173; Scott, 362-364).

[36] Battey, 173, 176; Scott, 351-352, 367, Pl. XXII; Methvin, 66, notes
that his feet are painted black with sage wreaths about his ankles.

[37] Lowie, 843.

[38] Martinez, in Methvin's account, (71), states that the payment is
made in four successive years.

[39] Methvin, 71; Scott, 352, states that these men directed the sun
dance as substitutes for the keeper and did the ceremonial painting, but
this is contrary to my information.

[40] Compare Mooney, 296.

[41] Battey, 178.

[42] Compare Scott, 352, 368, Pls. XVIII, XXII; Methvin, 70-71.

[43] Battey, 178-179.

[44] Scott, 347.

[45] Battey, 181-182.

[46] Mooney, 302, notes that one of these individuals carried his
personal medicine in the dance.

[47] Methvin, 66; Scott, 366.

[48] Battey, 173-177.

[49] Once, not three times a day as Scott states (366).

[50] Scott, 366, places raven fans in hands of the associates.

[51] In the ghost dance a shaman hypnotizes the dancers by waving a
feather or scarf before their faces. The subject staggers into the ring
and falls (Mooney, _Ghost dance_, 925-926). This performance may not be
related to that of the Kiowa, since it appeared among the Sioux before
the southern Plains tribes took up the ghost dance. On the other hand,
the Paiute, from whom the ghost dance was derived, did not hypnotize.

[52] Battey, 177-181.

[53] Scott, 365, 367.

[54] Mooney, _Kiowa Calendar History_, 282, 297, 304, 321, 322. Another
suggestive similarity to the Crow is the assumption of "no-flight"
obligations in both tribes at the sun dance (_Ibid._, 284, 287, 320).

Transcriber's note: On page 443, 'the the' changed to 'the' (Once inside
they lie down; the man with the pipe ...)

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