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.
1828 Pipe Dance Summer
1831 Woman Hanged Summer
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.
Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
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