THE tribe was divided
into bands with a chief for each band. These prairie people had not yet
developed the clan system. A man rose to the position of chieftain by
force of personality, by prowess in war and by wisdom in council, and he
stayed in power until death unless he proved himself unworthy. Then he
was deposed and another put in his place, by common consent
In the faraway time the
Kiowas did not have a head chief. The leaders of the several bands were
guided in their important affairs by the medicine men, who believed that
in dreams and visions they received revelations from above. And since
these men spent their lives in fasting and praying, we felt them to be
especially fitted to listen to the Voices of The Above-Ones.
There were five orders of
warriors. Into some one of these the boy—the “rabbit”—was initiated when
he reached the proper age. He then chose another newly promoted “rabbit”
for a life-and-death friend. Each took a vow to stand by the other even
unto death. If one was killed in battle it was the sworn comrade’s duty
to avenge his death.
The fifth order—the
Kho-ee-tsay-ko—dog soldiers —was composed of members of the other four.
These men had distinguished themselves in battle and were known to be
men of exceptional worth. Their badge of distinction was a belt of skin
painted red. To them were assigned the most dangerous duties. Also they
had oversight of the tribe when it was on the move—a sort of police
When the various bands
were together in camp, which was always pitched in a circle, the tepees
of the Kho-ee-tsay-ko were on the eastern edge—the place of honour.
In the old days when a
party went upon the warpath, they rode one sleep from camp. On the
morning of the second day the chief of the band asked of each man: “Is
your wife soon to become a mother?” If answered in the affirmative, the
man was sent back home.
The return of a war party
was an occasion of deepest grief or of wildest joy. If it had met with
defeat and had suffered loss of warriors, there was a slow approach to
camp amid the wails of the women. If it had met with success, a warrior
was sent on ahead with the news. Shortly followed the victors. Near home
they lashed their horses into a run and dashed into camp to the delight
of the whole village. Then followed scalp dances, feasts and a time of
One summer two of the
chiefs with their followers went upon the warpath against the Utes. One
of them shot a Ute chieftain near his tepee, scalped him and returned to
camp. The other Kiowa happened along soon after, gave his war whoop and
charged toward the Ute’s tepee. At the approach of the enemy the dying
chieftain’s warriors propped his body up against the lodge and placed
his war bonnet upon his head and his bow and arrows in his hands so he
might die like a man. Then they fled.
The Kiowa sent an arrow
through the body of the supposedly defiant Ute, then jumped from his
horse and jerked the war bonnet from the enemy’s head to scalp him. The
scalp was gone! The Kiowa was certain he had killed the chief, and the
missing scalp brought terror to his heart. He leaped to the saddle,
called to his warriors and they lashed their horses madly homeward. The
party arrived at the camp while the other chief was celebrating his
victory by dancing around the scalp he had taken.
The frightened chief,
whose heart still trembled with fear, dismounted and told of his
adventure. With the war bonnet in his hand as evidence, he explained, in
“I took this from the
head of the Ute. The scalp was gone. Where did it go?”
Amid shouts of laughter
from the victorious chief and his merry-makers, he soon learned the
truth. He didn’t appreciate the joke. Downcast and ashamed, he remounted
his horse and headed alone for the Ute country. When he returned the
scalp of a Ute was dangling from his belt. So he regained prestige in
the eyes of his warriors.