ANADARKO, Okla. – The Battle Tipi of the Kiowa Black Leggings Society dates back to the early 1800s with Kiowa Chief Tohausan, whose tipi is known to have had black and yellow stripes on one half and battle scenes depicted on the other.
“They would record specific incidents on the tipi, and it was like a record of the tribal history of the preceding year – what happened in the year, where they moved, things of that nature,” said Kiowa artist and society member Sherman Chaddlesone. “That was what the most important thing was – maintaining a record.”
The tipi would be renewed annually due to wear and tear from being set up and used on a daily basis. Upon the revival of the Kiowa Black Leggings Society in 1958, the tradition of the Battle Tipi continued as part of its ceremonials. In addition to the stripes and battle scenes, the names of those Kiowa who have been killed in action since World War II were added to the tipi.
The society celebrated its 50th anniversary Oct. 11 – 12 with ceremonial dances that honor both veterans and those who are currently in military service. One of the added features of this celebration included a newly painted 21-foot battle tipi, painted by Chaddlesone and Kiowa artist Jeff Yellowhair.
“Prior to when we dance, we gather inside the tipi,” Chaddlesone said about the tipi’s purpose. “We have a little ceremony in there before we start dancing. It’s a closed thing, just for the society members. Even if they’re not dancing, the members are allowed to come in. Beyond that, it stands there as a visual record of who we are.”
Photo by Brian Daffron One scene on the Battle Tipi depicts a battle in Vietnam.
He also said that the Kiowa have always honored their warriors and veterans, acknowledging their importance to the survival of the tribe.
“The Kiowas, when they moved onto the Plains, were a very small tribe,” Chaddlesone said about why Kiowa honor veterans. “They had to be well organized militarily for protection. During their movement across the Plains, they encountered a lot of hostile tribes. They were basically the ones who kept the tribe alive and kept them going. The Kiowas have always recognized that and paid their respects to the soldiers and warriors.”
The current tipi features the black-and-yellow stripes of the Tohausan tipi that cover half of the entire tipi, which were painted by Chaddlesone along with the society logo and scenes of an 1864 Kiowa battle, World War I, World War II and Iraq. Yellowhair’s work on the tipi includes the multiple military unit logos and the Korea and Vietnam battle scenes.
Chaddlesone went into detail to describe the chronologically oldest scene on the tipi, a depiction of Lean Bear defending a winter encampment, which was painted by Chaddlesone in the “ledger style.” He said that the battle took place Nov. 26, 1864, where Kit Carson led 400 U.S. troops and 90 Ute warriors against a Kiowa camp near Adobe Walls in the Texas panhandle. With most of the warriors from the camp either on a war journey or out hunting, only four warriors were present in the camp: Tohausan, Satethieday, Stumbling Bear and Lean Bear.
According to Chaddlesone, the four warriors charged the enemy until other warriors hunting nearby could help them and allow the women and children to escape. Although Carson and the troops made it halfway into camp and burned it on the way out, the enemy was turned away.
Photo by Brian Daffron Kiowa artist Sherman Chaddlesone, member of the Kiowa Black Leggings Society, is one of the artists who created the illustrations on the society’s newly painted 21-foot-tall Battle Tipi.
“He sang a song that required him to charge the enemy and to not retreat until he had killed one of them,” he said about Lean Bear. “Sometimes it’s called a ‘No Retreat’ Song. That’s recorded in the Little Bear Calendar. James Mooney did a study of that calendar and he recorded that particular incident.”
The two artists collaborated together on the design of the names of the Kiowa killed in action, with Yellowhair painting the names and Chaddlesone painting the hatchets in between the names.
The previous tipi included the names of those killed from World War II to Vietnam and included Lyndreth Palmer, Germany; Mathew Hawzipta, Germany; Joe Guoladdle, Luzon; George Neconie, Okinawa; Silas Boyiddle, Korea; Luke Tainpeah, Korea; Dennis Karty, Korea; Pascal Poolaw, Vietnam; and Donald Bear, Vietnam. For this tipi, the artists added the names of two Kiowa killed in Iraq – Joshua Ware and Anthony Littlecalf Yost.
Chaddlesone said that as a Kiowa and as a society member and veteran, he is honored to have been one of the artists to paint the new tipi. He had originally been asked to create a new tipi by the previous commander of the society, the late Gus Palmer Sr.
Photo by Brian Daffron Kiowa Black Leggings Society member and artist Sherman Chaddlesone painted images onto the society’s Battle Tipi, which commemorates Kiowa soldiers who have died in combat since World War II.
“In the Kiowa scheme of things, Gus Palmer is my brother,” he said. “He asked me, so it was important for me just because of his request. Secondly, it’s a record of things the tribe has been involved in – the warriors of the tribe, mostly veterans now. We do have a few that have been taken into the society that are still out there, like in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re the true current warriors, but the rest of us are veterans who have been through all of these theaters.
“The significance of that is that I’m associated with that. I’m a member of the Black Leggings Society. I’m just trying to do this the best I can to pay respects to all my brothers who have served also.”
Photo by Brian Daffron Chaddlesone also painted the 1864 Kiowa Black Leggings battle of 1864 in the “ledger art” style.
He added that it was important for future generations to not only see the tipi as a record of Kiowa past and present, but also to know the names of those who paid that ultimate sacrifice with their lives.
“This particular tipi, apart from all the battle scenes and all that, I think they need to read the names. That list of names – that’s the reality of what we’ve all faced and gone through. I’ve tried to portray that in some of the battle scenes, but when you see the names, it’s a lot different.”