OHS aquires Kiowa artifact

The Oklahoma Historical Society Office of American Indian Culture and Preservation recently secured the acquisition of an artifact related to Kiowa history in Oklahoma, an approximately 5-foot-by-8-foot bison hide.

The Oklahoma Historical Society Office of American Indian Culture and Preservation recently secured the acquisition of an artifact related to Kiowa history in Oklahoma.

The artifact is an approximately 5-foot-by-8-foot bison hide that was hand painted by Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Big Bow (1914-1988) and his father in the 1930s. Woody Big Bow was the grandson of Kiowa Chief Big Bow (c. 1833-1900). The bison hide was painted in traditional ledger style. It documents the history of the Big Bow family from the 1860s through the 1930s.

Also depicted on the hide are scenes from the Red River War. During the war, the U.S. Army broke up a large encampment of Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne, killing only a few American Indians, but capturing and slaughtering more than 1,400 horses. The painted hide also documents the decimation of the bison herds, which was an important source of sustenance for the Kiowa Tribe.

The acquisition of the painted bison hide was made possible through funding assistance from the Friends of the OHS Archives, the Indian Territory Posse of Oklahoma Westerners, and private donations.

"The Big Bow family hide is an important artifact of Kiowa history relating tribal events over half a century. The collaboration of these entities, along with private individuals, to help us acquire this piece means it will stay in Oklahoma and preserve important aspects of Kiowa history," said Bill Welge, director emeritus of the OHS Office of American Indian Culture and Preservation.

For more information, call 405-522-5206.

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