A long time ago, a Kiowa woman brought beadwork to the Kiowa people. She was compelled to express herself and her experience as a Kiowa woman of her day. Perhaps she had begun as a parfleche painter or a tipi builder or a clothing maker. However she arrived there, she was compelled to bead/express herself and at some point, compelled to share her techniques. Today, a Kiowa is not properly dressed if they do not have at least one piece of beadwork on.
My grandmother was a beadworker. She made money doing menial jobs- field worker, dishwasher, cleaning lady but she was always a beadworker…and an artist. She not only showed and won awards at the Gallup Ceremonials for several years; she also made the outfits both of her daughters wore as Kiowa and Cheyenne royalty. She too was compelled to bead/express herself and her experience as a Kiowa living during her time for her family, for her tribe, and for the larger community.
I am a beadworker. I’ve been beading since I was about 8 years old. I am compelled to do it. I have no choice in the matter. I must express myself and my experience as a 21st Century Kiowa and I do it, like all those unknown artists before me, through beadwork. And though my medium may be considered “craft” or “traditional”, my stories are from the same source as the voice running through that first Kiowa beadworker’s needles. It is the voice of my grandmothers.
To all the Kiowa women who labored over their families most beautiful and prized objects, who gave us such an awe inspiring canon of expression to be born from, I thank them. Ah-ho.