Manataka American Indian Council
The Kiowa Calendar
Silver Horn Records
This online exhibition and teacher resource features the calendar drawings of Kiowa artist and calendar-keeper Silver Horn. The images depict key events in the history of the Kiowa people between 1828 and the winter of 1939-40. The descriptions were prepared by Candace Greene, ethnologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
In the traditional Kiowa calendar, each year is represented by two images – one for the summer and one for the winter. The events depicted are agreed upon by tribal elders and drawn and maintained by designated tribal calendar-keepers, like Silver Horn. The calendar records were originally kept on hides or cloth, but eventually were copied into ledgers.
Silver Horn was born in 1860 (“The Summer That Bird Appearing was Killed,” according to his calendar). Both his father and older brother also were calendar-keepers for the tribe. He was a prolific artist, and created hundreds of drawings representing Kiowa history and tradition before his death in 1940.
This calendar was donated to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in 2001 from the estate of Nelia Mae Roberts, who ran an Indian trading post in Anadarko. The museum subsequently received a Save America’s Treasures Grant that provided for the conservation and restoration of the calendar’s fragile pages by a professional paper conservator. The process took over a year, and the restored pages went on display for the first time in the museum from May 1 through Aug. 23, 2009. For conservation reasons, the calendar has now been returned to the safety of the museum’s ethnology collections, but the images can still be viewed and studied through this online exhibition.
Only one other full Silver Horn calendar is known to exist today. It was created by Silver Horn in 1904 specifically for the archives of the Smithsonian Institution and covers the period from 1828 through 1904.
Pipe Dance Summer
This scene shows an adoption ceremony in which the Wichita tribe adopted the son of Wolf Teat. Ceremonial adoptions of adults was a way to establish formal bonds of friendship between tribes or communities.
1829 Buffalo Hide Summer
The buffalo robe represents the name of the location where the Kado was held that summer. An area near Fort Elliott in Texas called Ka-tode-a Pa Gado,
1830 Dry Creek Summer
This year the Kado was held at Sand Creek of Colorado, a northern tributary of the Arkansas River, notable as the site of a Cheyenne camp that was massacred by Col. Chivington and a troop of Colorado volunteers in 1864.
Woman Hanged Summer
This image is of a woman who hanged herself after her husband discovered that she had eloped with another man. It is said that she committed suicide because her relatives had criticized her behavior.
1832 Wolf Creek Summer
Silver Horn notes the birth of Stumbling Bear with a picture of a baby in a cradle board and a picture of the shield he later carried. The powerful design on this shield came from a Crow shield that was captured by a man named Kicking Bird during the period when the Kiowas were still living in the north.
1832-33 Unnamed winter
A bare tree is used to mark each winter, but Silver Horn did not include any other identifying images for this year.
1833 Cut Off Their Heads Summer
A party of Osage attacked a camp, which was poorly. Many people were killed and the attackers cut off their heads and left them in brass buckets for the survivors to find on their return. The Osages were warning the Kiowas not to interfere with their trade with the Euroamericans, the source of these brass trade kettles.
Stars Fall Winter
The Leonid meteor storm of November 1833 is noted in the calendars of all the Plains tribes. An impressive display recurring on a thirty-three year cycle, the showing of this year was spectacular all over North America.
1835 Water Plant Summer
This was the first Kado held since the Osage had returned the Taime. The dancers were not allowed to drink but were given water plants to chew on to relieve their thirst. A water plant is shown on the right.
1835-36 Unnamed winter
Silver Horn shows the bare winter tree without further identification.
Taimpego organized winter
The picture shows a rattle with a cylindrical head trimmed with feathers, representing the regalia of the Taimpego society, which organized this winter.
1839 Peninsula Summer
The Kado was held a number of times on a large bend in the Washita River, referred to by the Kiowa as Piho,
1839-40 Smallpox winter
This and other calendars record a smallpox epidemic of this year.
Credits: The conservation and preservation of the Calendar Record benefitted from a generous grant from the Save America’s Treasures Program of the National Parks Service. This website and the publication of the book One Hundred Summers (University of Nebraska Press) were made possible through the support of the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
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