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Black Waist Shawl

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  • Black Waist Shawl

    Many old photos show Comanche and Kiowa men wearing a black shawl wrapped around their waist, over the breechcloth, with the shawl fringe hanging at their knees, as seen on the man standing on the far left in the photo below, taken at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

    Comanche - no date

    These black shawls, called a peet-squi-nah-wi by the Comanche, can be seen on some Comanche straight dancers today.

    In addition, members of the Kiowa To-go-gaut, or Black Legs Society, also wear a black shawl wrapped around their waist when they dance. While the term "Black Legs" was in reference to an practice during the buffalo days of painting the lower legs with black paint, since the societies revival in 1958, the society is now commonly referred to as the "Black Leggings," or the "Black Leggings Warrior Society."

    The following comments, taken from a thread titled "Black Shawl Wraps," I hope will help in understanding this sometimes misunderstood straight dance component worn by only a few Comanche or Kiowa individuals who have the right to wear one.


    07-03-2003, 01:30 PM
    Powwowbum49 stated,

    "From what I have been taught, among the Kiowa, the shawl wrap represents a physical connection to ones wife and family. As for wearing one, that varies from family to family in my experience. Some families limit it's wearing to elder members of the family while other have no qualms about when one can wear it, even allowing small children to wear them..."

    "...I know little to nothing about the use of the wrap among the Comanche and will leave that for another to address."


    07-04-2003, 02:25 AM
    Str8Dancer49 stated,

    "Basically, I've only seen Kiowas wear them if they were members of TonKonGat (Ton-Kon-Gha) - the Black Legs/Leggins Society. This is a highly respected veterans society and their symbols - the waist shawl, Ghoulayee's red cape, the bonnets, the Tipi with Battle Paintings - are guarded and cared for very deeply."

    "For Comanche folks, that waist shawl is called a Pitskwinawi (closest I could get to the Comanche pronunciation!). From what I've been told by Comanche folks, these were origianlly a society emblem of the Tuuwii or Black Knife society, which has been revived in the past couple of decades, primarily under the Sovo family's leadership. In a battle long ago, these warriors went up against Mexican soldiers protecting a town. They took the dark steel swords of the soldiers, and the black shawls of the women, and used them as society emblems. The name Tuuwii refers to these swords, but also has multiple other meanings, especially in reference to the beaks of ravens - a patron animal of the society's warriors - and to the wings of the red-wing blackbird - which look like blood-stained black knives. The Battle Dresses worn by the female assistants in the Tuuwii are black w/ red sleeves and gussetts and also make reference to the red-winged black bird (Kiowa Battle Dresses are dark blue and red). In that battle where these Comanche warriors claimed these trophies, their Kiowa allies, including Ghoulayee, also got black shawls and Ghoulayee ripped the red cape from an officers neck while pushing his face away with his bloodied bare hand. Therefore, people will ask if you have the right to wear one."

    "However, and this is where this issue becomes tricky, the pitskwinawi has become a kind of symbol of "Comancheness" and is worn by many Comanches who aren't in Tuuwii. Some Comanche families who have dressed other NDNs and even some non-NDNs in Comanche clothes have given those people permission to wear the shawl. Jerry Harjo and Justin Yerby are two Straight Dancers who come to mind in this regard - both are NDNs, but from southeastern tribes - but both have been given permission to wear that shawl by particular Comanche families."

    "Interestingly, a handful of Ponca folks who I've talked to, especially those involved with Helushka, tend to view that shawl as an emblem of the Comanch War Dance Society. In theory, that's not the case, but in practice, there's a lot of overlap as men can be in more than one society if they can manage all those responsibilities. The current head man for the Comanche War Dance Society has served as the camp crier for the Tuuwii, so the origin of this confusion is understandable..."


    07-15-2003, 08:46 AM
    WhoMe stated,

    "According to some interpretations by Kiowa people (oral history and paintings) when the Kiowa still had hunting grounds inbetween the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Black Hills, they wore animal skin "wrap arounds" as everyday garments - not breechclouts as Hollywood portrayed all NDN's wearing."

    "In warm weather just the wrap around was worn. In colder weather a skin top and leggins were worn in addition to the wrap around."

    "With the coming of European traders (particularly the Spanish at the Taos rondezvous), the Kiowa adopted the blanket wraparound as an everyday garment. This evidence can again be found in oral history, paintings and photographs."

    "The breechclout was later adopted."

    "As Indian people are prone to adoption - when chainette fringe became available, it too was added for formal occasions."

    "Today the Kiowa, Comanche and Kiowa Apache still wear this "formal" black shawl wrapped around their lower body for ceremonial occasions."

    "Other tribes can tell that a dancer comes from these 3 above tribes by their symbollic black shawls."


    07-24-2003, 09:02 AM
    WhoMe stated,

    "...The black shawl wrap around is symbollic of another form of "dress up attire" for the Kiowa, Comanche and Kiowa Apache people. It is also tribal specific attire..."

    Boyd, Maurice.
    1981. Kiowa Voices: Ceremonial Dance, Ritual and Song. Christian University Press, Fort Worth, TX.

    Buntin, Martha Leota.
    1931. History of the Kiowa, Comanche and Wichita Agency. MA thesis, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK.

    Kavanagh, Thomas W.
    1992. Southern Plains Dance Tradition and Dynamics: Native American Dance Ceremonies and Social Traditions. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution with Starwood, Washington D.C.

    Lowie, Robert H.
    1916. Plains Indian Age Societies: Historical and Comparative Study. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, Part 13, New York, NY.

    Lowie, Robert H., Ed. Clark Wissler.
    1916. Societies of the Plains Indians. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 9, New York, NY.

    Mails, Thomas E.
    1985. Plains Indians: Dog Soldiers, Bear Men and Buffalo Women. Bonanza Books, New York.

    Meadows, William.
    1999. Kiowa, Apache and Comanche Military Societies. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX.

    Wallace, Ernst and E. Adamson Hoebel.
    1952. The Comanches: Lords of the South Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

    Wright, Muriel H.
    1965. A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.
    Last edited by Historian; 03-09-2009, 02:56 PM.

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

  • #2

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)


    • #3

      "Be good, be kind, help each other."
      "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

      --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)


      • #4
        I thought Dr. W. Meadows is at Springfield MO University


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