The present day
Kiowa Gourd Clan celebration comes at the time of the Sun Dance
and in the olden times was danced just before the 'Sun Dance'
proper began. This organization, known and called by the Kiowa's
by its Kiowa name as 'Tdiepeigah', has a membership of
approximately 300 select men, made up of civil servants,
doctors, educators and even a Pulitzer prize winning author.
Preparations for the annual celebration begin in the Spring
of each year with fund raising benefit dances and culminating
with the colorful ceremonial and pageantry of the Fourth of July
held in Carnegie, Oklahoma each year. Although this is a time of
celebration of independence Day for the United States of
America, it must be remembered that the Kiowa's celebrated this
annual affair long before there was a United States of America.
The Kiowa's held their 'Sun Dance' in the middle of Summer during
the longest and hottest days of the year which comes around the
Fourth of July. Since this is a holiday and most members work,
this holiday was selected as the time to hold the annual Kiowa
Gourd Clan celebration.
The Gathering of Nations 2002 Head Gourd Dance Singer, Ralph
Zotigh, Kiowa, a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico (center) is
the Grandson of Harry Hall (left) one of the revivers of the
Gourd Dance in the 1950s in Carnegie, Oklahoma and Great, Great,
Grandson of Satank (right) member of Koet-Senko, 10 Bravest
The history of the gourd
dancers has been handed down by word of mouth;
therefore, sequences may be reversed, relationship
distorted, memories fade, but the Kiowa Gourd Clan tries
to remain as traditional as possible.
The society of men was made up of camp police, hard
riders and fighters, and selection for membership was
made from affluent respectable families.
Appointment for lifetime leadership was made by the
wise elders, priests, and keepers of the sacred religion
of the Kiowa's. The leadership continues until voluntary
retirement or death, and even for non performance of
duties. When the Sun Dances were banned by the
Federal government, the society still continued having
dances in the summers until the late 1930's, when it
almost disappeared as far as the official recognition by
the Kiowa tribe was concerned.
Some leadership names
recalled are Red Teepee, his son, Satanta, Kiowa Bill
Maunkee, Little Bow, Jack Bointy and his brothers who
were sons of Red Teepee, Lone Bear, White Fox, Heap O'
Bears and others.
About 1955, as a special presentation at the American
Indian Exposition in Anadarko, Oklahoma, the Kiowa
director, Fred Tsoodle, gathered together the following
men, Clyde Ahtape, Harry Hall Zotigh, Fred Botone,
Oliver Tanedooah, and Abel Big Bow who were in Kiowa
Gourd Dance dress and singers Bill Koomsa and William
Tanedooah who knew and remembered the dance songs of the
gourd dancers. This presentation brought back memories
of the Kiowa cultural heritage and there were tears and
some crying among the elder Kiowa spectators.This was the beginning flame of the revival of the
gourd dancing. But it was almost two years before the
Kiowa Gourd Dance Clan was formally organized on January
30, 1957 at the home of Taft Hainta.
The purpose and function of this organization was to
perpetuate our Kiowa heritage and to revive the Kiowa
dance from the past original ceremonies. At this time an
English name was voted on and adopted as 'Kiowa Gourd
Dance Clan' to be officially known throughout the entire
Indian country. It was also decided to display early day
trophies taken from the enemies during the various
encounter. The army bugle was taken at one of the
frontier forts, a lariat rope was taken from a Texas
Ranger, and also eagle staff and lances owned by past
members. These trophies are regarded as marks and
symbols of bravery and courage of the Kiowa Tribe.
Recently other trophies from members of the United
States military have been allowed to be placed in the
arena as symbols of acts of engagements with the enemy.
Present day officers are dedicated to their
positions, to perpetuate traditions, ceremonial dances,
songs and history of the Kiowa tribe. There are other
gourd dance organizations that have branched off from
the original clan and the dance itself has spread to
other tribes over the continent, but only the Kiowa's
look upon with feelings of deep reverence for "This is
our dance, our songs, our heritage, and a sacred part of
our Kiowa culture!!!"
Reprinted from the
Kiowa Gourd Clan - 1996. 2002 Kiowa Gourd Clan Membership: President- Glenn Hamilton, Vice President-Curtis Horse, Secretary-Gary Kodaseet.