• Carla Vreeland

Horace Poolaw Depicts Life for the Kiowa Tribe in the Twentieth Century

Years after his death, Kiowa tribe member Horace Poolaw's photography provided noteworthy insight into the everyday life and rituals of his tribe.

Unlike many others who had taken pictures of Native tribes, Poolaw was a part of the community and had focused on individuals as well as the tribe as a whole. Since photography was only a hobby for Poolaw, he had taken most of his pictures at important events of his friends and family: funerals, baseball games, weddings.

Poolaw’s photographs not only provide an unparalleled perspective into the daily life of Native Americans during a period in time where they were often invisible to the rest of the country, but they were also taken at a time when many Native tribes were becoming immersed in Western American culture. Poolaw had been born just six years following the conclusion of the

Image by Horace Poolaw reservation period and a year prior to

Oklahoma being granted statehood.

As a result of the period of transition for Native Tribes, one of Poolaw’s pictures depict young children dressed up as cowboys and another of men on leave from duty adorned in full-feather headdresses. The Kiowa tribe began incorporating their traditions that had been suppressed before the conclusion of the reservation.

Images by Horace Poolaw

In 1989, five years after Poolaw’s death, his daughter organized an exhibit at Stanford University to display her father’s work. Once the exhibit experts examined Poolaw’s work, he began to be considered a significant and major Native American photographer of the 1900s.

Decades after his death, Horace Poolaw's photography provides documented visual history of his tribe and community, during a time period when they had been forgotten by much of the United States.




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