- Kiowa Belief and Ritual by Benjamin R. Kracht
By Benjamin R. Kracht. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017. viii + 334 pp. Illustrations, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $75.00 cloth.
In 1935 an ethnographic research group from the Santa Fe Laboratory spent the summer collecting oral accounts from Kiowa elders about tribal lifeways and history before the reservation period. They collected and typed their thousand-plus pages of roughly organized field notes but never published them. Benjamin Kracht brings this lost research to light, synthesizing its data with later research and his own fieldwork to produce a highly informative account of the pre-reservation Kiowa religion and its lingering effects on modern Kiowa beliefs.
Particularly interesting is the extended portrayal of Kiowa beliefs of power and its positive and negative effects on people’s lives. Readers progress through various manifestations of this power in the natural world, among individuals, in a collective sense through the Sun Dance, and in sacred material objects like the Táimé bundles. Kracht weaves the many strands of information about the past into a coherent pattern, and finishes each chapter by linking the pattern to the observations he has made over the last three decades, clarifying how the modern versions of these beliefs informs contemporary Kiowa Christianity and religiosity.
Kracht consistently links elements of Kiowa belief to elements found in the belief systems of other Plains tribes. The comparisons he draws add the Kiowa experience to our understanding of intertribal connections in trade and culture.
The exposition is fully clear, except for its reliance on using other ethnographers’ linguistic transcriptions without phonetic standardization. This choice, especially concerning the work of the Santa Fe students, who spoke no Kiowa, obscures the identity of some concepts and people whose name recurs under wildly different spellings. It thus becomes more difficult for non-Kiowa speakers to draw certain lines of continuity beyond what Kracht explicitly spells out.
This book provides a comprehensive account of traditional Kiowa beliefs. It should hold a place alongside classic works of Kiowa ethnography like Mooney’s Calendar History. It makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Plains indigenous religion, and offers Kiowa community members an engaging link to their indigenous heritage. [End Page 249]
Indigenous Studies Program
University of Kansas