Kiowa Language Story
[gàui[dóñ:gyá (Kiowa talk),
Within our names our language tells of our migration from the Northern country to where we are today in SW Oklahoma. As is with most cultures our epistemology is held within our language. Our ways, our customs, our history, is expressed through our language. We are still Kiowa without our language but a lot of who we are, is demonstrated through use of our language during our societal obligations with Kiowa songs and prayers. It is important that we continue to utilize our language as it is in danger of not being understood by those that still sing the songs and continue our prayers.
Kiowa language is an isolate language. No other Native American tribe uses our language. Therefore we have no other tribal group to help retain our language. At the moment there are approximately 20 fluent Kiowa speakers left out of approximately 12,000 enrolled tribal members. Due to this, it is extremely dire that we push to strengthen our language use and understanding. To date, Kiowa language programs are making relentless daily efforts to increase the usage and understanding of Kiowa language.
Another area of importance in our Kiowa language is that it is one of two main languages used for Southern Powwow singing. Powwow singing is mostly comprised of various Northern and southern Plains tribal songs. Southern singing comes only from the Oklahoma area. Of these two languages most frequently used in southern powwow singing, Kiowa has no other linguistic group to help retain our songs and language. Powwows are an important part of modern Native American life. Many Native Americans spend every weekend on the powwow trail across the United States and Canada dancing to and singing with Kiowa composed powwow songs. Therefore Kiowa language is not only important to retain Kiowa traditions but is also important to other Native people who follow the modern “Powwow Trail.”
Kiowa language is extremely important not only to Kiowa people and other Native Americans as it a way to keep traditions and customs alive but on a global scale, organizations from around the world invite Kiowa societal leaders to open ceremonies. Kiowa elders pray in the Kiowa language as Kiowa warrior societies are very active and Kiowa elders are very mindful of prayer. To not have Kiowa language in use would not only be a detriment to the Kiowa people and our way of life but also to all Native people who attend powwows as well the broader public who seek to have Native representation at their international functions.