Khoiye-Goo Mah: Kiowa Women Tennis Shoes
Collection of the Museum of Art and Design
New York, NY
Khoiye-Goo Mah, Kiowa women, have been a major influence on what I strive to do with my beadwork. My grandmother, Sarah Ataumbi, was a beadworker. Though she had only a 6th grade boarding school education, she managed to raise 5 children and 5 grandchildren doing menial jobs and selling her beadwork. Despite all of the obstacles facing a Kiowa woman of her generation, she took great pride in her beadwork and won many awards from the Anadarko Fair to the Gallup Ceremonials.
When my mother, Jeri Ah-be-hill, was a young woman, working at the Southern Plains Museum Shop in Anadarko, Oklahoma, she dreamed of one day showing and selling beadwork in a respectful manner. Having seen her mother’s beautiful and well crafted beadwork sell for just a few dollars only be re-sold in a café showcase next to the antacids and gum, my mother vowed at a young age to work the rest of her life to promote Indian beadwork as the intricate and meaningful work that it was.
My Aunt Lorene Big Eagle Rolette was one of the first female fancy war dancers in the state of Oklahoma. Before the time of shawl or jingle dress dancing, my aunt’s only option for being able to express herself with the athletic grace of war dancing was to dress in a man’s outfit. She won many contests against the men and eventually, because of her placing so much, the men discouraged her from competing anymore. Her brave insistence on participating in what was considered a male-only dance pre-dated Title 9 funding of women’s sports by 20 years.
Nina Kodeseet was the keeper of the Kiowa’s most sacred medicine bundle when I was a child. She is the woman that my parents asked to name me in the Kiowa language. Every year Nina visited the Wind River Reservation where I grew up bringing the bundle with her to help out at the Arapaho Sundance. When she was a young woman, and was told that she was to carry the bundle, she worried about her ability to care for the traditional Kiowa bundle because she was Catholic. But she did care for it and gracefully found a way to embody both spiritual practices within her. It is an honor to have known her and to have been named by her.
It is these women that I illustrate on my shoes. They have helped me become the person I am today. Their sacrifices and the sacrifices of those Khoiye-Goo Mah that came before them are my inspiration to strive to be as strong as they were and are.
Materials: Size 13 cut beads, silver lined seed beads, tennis shoes
Dimensions: H-6”, W-4”, L-12”