Ritual, Reciprocity and Social Organization

by John Beatty

      The Kiowa-Apache (now known as Naische*) are an Athabascan speaking group located on the southern Plains and are currently found in the area in and around southwestern Oklahoma. Linguistically related to the S.W. Apachean speakers (the Navaho and the other Apache), they are the easternmost representatives of this language family, although the language is near extinction with fewer than five native speakers still surviving. The name, Kiowa-Apache, derives from their close social affiliation with the Kiowa, a Ute Aztecan speaking group, who, along with the Kiowa-Apache are listed by Wissler (1955 p. 220) as one of the "typical" Plains Indians. The Kiowa Apache functioned as one of the bands of the Kiowa. These band level societies split up during the winter months but would come together during the summers. The Kiowa would arrange their summer camp in a circle by bands, with the Kiowa-Apache functioning as one of the bands. As a result, it is very difficult to discover any kind of strong socio-political organization at a "tribal" level. Currently, of course, this dispersement of the "tribe(s)" into separate bands in the winter no longer occurs and the summer camp circle is no longer found.

      Kiowa Apache language and culture have been documented for some time (Mooney 1896, 1907; McAllister 1935; Bittle 1960, 1962; Brant 1949, 1953). Among the aspects of Kiowa-Apache social organization that have been examined are the specific organizations that were found within the group. McAllister lists four societies that functioned in pre and early contact times. These included a children’s society known as the "Rabbit Society"**, (given as kasowe by McAllister (1955 p 139)), a women’s society known as the Izuwe*, (although within the last 10 years some of the Kiowa-Apache have denied this society existed) and two military societies – one known as the Klintidie or Tlintidie, (the -tidie is a suffix meaning "those who" tlii means "horse" hence the people who go on horseback). The other was the Manatidie (the people who “mana”. “mana” according to Bittle is a stem of unique occurrence – that is a stem that occurs only in one word as was the case with the "cran" of "cranberry" until the arrival of "cranapple"!). One Kiowa-Apache woman said that she felt it had to do with people moving, perhaps in a line or a row across the land. Whether this was an intuition or hunch based possibly on the contrast of "manatidie" with “klintidie” is hard to know.

     All of these societies appear to have dances associated with them, and the performance of the various dances was an important aspect of the society. Although all children belong to the Rabbit Society, the remaining two men’s societies were not age graded. Men did not join the Manatidie and then move on to the Klintidie, but could join either or both in no specific order.

     According to McAllister, the Rabbit society was the last to stop functioning. All children joined it often being brought to the society shortly after birth. An old man presided over the meetings which appear to have been rather raucous and the children got to know all the other children and also began the process of learning to behave by a set of rules. Rules and prohibitions are typical of all four of these societies.

     The women’s society, the Izuwe, was a secret one and McAllister holds that it was "practically unknown today by even the oldest of men and women, because it was a secret organization” (1937 p 150). The society seems to have been involved with both praying for the success of a man on a war party and welcoming him back when he returned. Like the rabbit society, an older male was involved in the drumming and keeping order in the society. This almost indicates that older people’s status allowed them access to any group regardless of age and sex. Perhaps we need to consider gender as a category in Kiowa-Apache which becomes neutralized after a certain age.

     The Klintidie appears to have been one of the "contrary" societies in which people did the opposite of what they were told and “talked backwards '. If you told them to advance, they would retreat, if told to retreat, they would advance.

     The Manatidie, the last of the four groups is the one which was revitalized on two separate occasions and is the one which is of interest to us here.


The Organization’s History

      The Kiowa-Apache themselves claim (Bittle 1962) variously that the Manatidie sometimes known as the Blackfeet Society was taken from Pawnee speakers or from the Blackfoot Indians. Bittle points out, that variations in the “origin” stories occur not only between different people, but even in versions collected from the same individual at different times! (See Beatty 2000)This is an indication of some of the problems encountered when relying on native interpretation, and should be something of a warning in terms of accepting native interpretations of functions as well.

     At the time of McAllister’s visit to the Kiowa-Apache in the 30’s, he found that all the organizations had ceased functioning before the turn of the century, although there was a revival of the Manatidie just after World War I, but after about two years it died off

      In the early 1960’s the Manatidie was once again revitalized. Bittle (1962), who was there at the time, described the event and argued that the Manatidie had become a focus for Kiowa Apache tribal identity. Bittle’s argument rested on the idea that other people in the area, like the Kiowa had been performing a dance called “The Kiowa Gourd Clan” (as well as a “Black Leggings Society”). The Ft. Sill Apache (the remnants of some of Geronimo’s band who opted to stay in Oklahoma rather than returning to Mescalero, in New Mexico performed a spectacular dance known as “Fire Dancing” by the locals, but gan or “Crown Dancing” or occasionally “Mountain Spirit Dances”.

      Since the Kiowa Apache are relatively few in number, the use of “Kiowa” in their name made many suspect they were Kiowa, while others, because of the term “Apache” confused them with the rather famous Ft. Sill Apache. Hence Bittle’s argument was rooted in the idea that the society was revitalized as a way of asserting the Kiowa-Apache identity.

      Just as Bittle’s paper was being published, a rift developed among the Kiowa-Apache and two factions emerged, each arguing it had the rights to perform the ritual. As a result, two Manatidie societies formed and have persisted ever since.

      This tends to argue that the society has more complex functions than simply tribal identity. Many of these are in fact, pointed out by Bittle (1962)who notes that the society still has an integrating function since there are men, women and even children who are members of the society.

Organizational Structure

      The Manatidie Society is composed of men who were soldiers. Traditionally, men are often inducted into the society in pairs and they become ritually brothers to one another (McAllister, 1937 p 125). Currently this aspect of the society is no longer in vogue. However members are required to take part in a number of fund raising activities as well as participation in the performance of the ritual of the same name, associated with the society.

     Although there are discussions of children being “brought in”, and of women being members actual “initiation” into the society (often accompanied by a give-away) seems largely restricted to males, and veterans of the U.S. armed forces at that. Women certainly play a major role in the society, both during the performances and are also very active when the organization convenes to practice singing the songs for the ritual. Raffles of food are held and it is largely the women who get the groceries for the raffles and go about the business of selling raffle tickets while the male singers practice their songs. The women also sing at the actual performances (although they do not drum). McAllister’s states “Although it was an honor to belong to the Manatidie one of the two adult male societies or dancing groups, men tried to avoid becoming members. The duties were irksome, the dances were long and arduous, and one had to be brave which was ‘dangerous’”.

     There is no mention of women being “inducted” nor is it likely that children would be expected to take on these onerous responsibilities. It might be possible to see the organization as having a male membership with women and children an “affiliates”. Certainly no women or children are known to have performed in any of the four roles required for any performance of the Manatidie – the four staff bearers or the whip. These are invariably performed by men. In fact the four staff bearers are always found at the head of the line of men dancers on the north side of the dance ground.

The Ritual and its Performance

     In order to understand the performance of the Manatidie, a quick synopsis of the society’s structure and its ritual is perhaps helpful.

     The ritual performed by the society has strict rules dealing with its form and behaviors that occur around it. The ritual requires a large drum placed on its side in the center of the dance area and around which sit the men drummers. Behind them, forming a semicircle on the east side of the drummers, sit the women singers. Male dancers (save one) line up on the west side of the area, while women dancers form a line at the north side of the area. To the south is a solitary male dancer known as the “whip”, who keeps order and controls the performance. The actual performance is described in some detail in Beatty (1974 and 1978) and the details of it need not concern us here. More important at the moment are events that occur during the ceremony.

      The society, like similar societies among other Southern Plains peoples, performs the dance many times during the year, and holds an “annual” event that lasts four days. During these four days, the society performs its ritual in the daytime while the evening is devoted to other dancing, which includes social dancing and performances by organizations (like the Gourd Clan) from other groups.


Military Functions

      Although the society does not, as a group go to war or go on raiding parties, there are aspects to the behavior of the members that clearly indicate its military identification. One rule holds that if any article of clothing should fall off any of the male dancers, one of the spectators must retrieve the article and recite a war deed before returning it to the owner. This aspect of the dance seems clearly related to its military nature. Soldiers should be prepared for fighting and hence care should be taken in terms of keeping one’s gear in proper order. The idea that a part of the clothing (including feathers, plumes, or individual bells) should fall off is indicative of a kind of sloppiness and carelessness on the part of the wearer. The recitation of the war deed serves to remind the dancer of his proper position and gives other soldiers a chance to discuss their own military accomplishments. I hesitate to use the word “brag” here because much of the narrative of the war deed while clearly dramatic is almost always couched in rather humble terms with men usually saying how they are just “average people”.

Economic Functions

      A second aspect of the society that manifests itself in several ways is an economic one. Depending on how far one wished to look for economic involvement, the area of economics is very open. At its widest, the questions of the creation of the traditional clothing and accoutrements can be called into focus. The expenses of making the clothing, silver work, beading and so on are not minimal. People may be hired to make these things, or relatives and friends with some talent in this direction can help.

      During the summer powwow season all dancers (social as well as ritual) require traditional outfits which often have to be made or in many cases reclaimed in whole or part from the pawn shops where they have been during the winter months. The economics around the costuming and the pawn shops is a complex one, and not of real relevance here. It is also not one restricted to the Manatidie and its performances.

     Each year the Manatidie society holds an annual dance or powwow which lasts four days. During this time many people come and camp at the dance ground and the society feeds all visitors. This means that all year long the organization is raising funds in order to supply the food that will be needed for the event.

      Of more short-term economic importance are two types of giveaways that occur regularly during the performance. The more complex of the two are held by families to honor some relative (often a soldier home on leave). In both cases someone, or some family, honors a person by giving away gifts to a third who then becomes indebted to the person being honored. The family of the honoree tells the “Whip” that they would like to have a give away. An announcement is made and the dancers perform after which the names of various people are called out and are given gifts (blankets, and other objects). The recipients will give similar gifts at future giveaways that they hold. In effect, this is a kind of social security for the honored person in that for years to come, they will receive gifts. Usually the organization will place a blanket on the ground and will sing a song and dance and members of the audience will come up and throw money on the blanket, which will be given to the honoree. This will, for example give the soldier some money while home on leave. In a sense this giveaway deals with both more traditional gifts (long term) and the less traditional cold hard cash (short term). There may be many of these major giveaways in the course of the performance and as a result the performance may last five or more hours.

      In addition to these major giveaways, there are more minor ones in which one of the spectator’s honors one of the male dancers while he is actually dancing, by throwing something (often a bill) in front of him. Any other spectator can come forward and claim the gift.

      Bittle points out that there appears to be some charitable work done by the organization – an organization to which poor people could come for aid. This charitable function is not restricted by any means to the Manatidie, but is also associated with the “medicine bundle complex”. Kiowa-Apaches approach one or more of the medicine bundles, owned by specific families, in order to communicate with supernatural beings. Those making use of the bundles in this manner leave behind yards of cloth or other objects which ultimately are given to the needy.

The Ceremony as a Kind of “Currency”

     A more complex function is that the organization’s performance itself is a kind of currency that can be used as a form of exchange with other societies. Each of the societies from different Southern Plains tribes (the Kiowa-Apache Manatidie, the Kiowa “Black Legging Society” and the Kiowa “Gourd Clan” etc.) holds an annual powwow. At these powwows dance groups from other tribes are asked to come and perform. As a result, during the Kiowa-Apache Manatidie annual performance, another organization, such as the Kiowa-Gourd clan may be asked to perform a shortened version of their ceremony, and always without the give-away aspects. When the Gourd Clan holds its annual powwow, they might invite the Kiowa-Apache Manatidie to come and perform. In effect, different tribes are able to exchange rituals during the year by performing at one another’s events. The ability to control the performances becomes a typical form of politics – dealing with people outside the tribe.

Functions and the Idea of Tribal Identity

     It is important at the outset to note that the discussion that follows is meant to describe or discuss one of the functions of the Manatidie in its revitalized form in the 60’s rather than its original function or even the revitalized form at the time of World War I.

     The idea that the Manatidie can be seen as a focus for tribal identity is somewhat complex one. At one level, (which I will call “individual tribal identity”) tribal identity refers to the idea that an individual “identifies” with a given group (in this case Kiowa-Apache), but the idea that the Manatidie was formed (or was revitalized) for such a purpose tends to be a psychological explanation rather than a cultural one. This is a distinction made some time ago by Durkheim (1951) in his famous book on Suicide in which he asserts the dictum that psychological factors should not be given as cause for social phenomenon. The Kiowa-Apache would have to have formed the organization, in a sense, to give individual Apaches something to identify with. While it certainly might be possible people would identify with the organization if they belonged to it, there is a far more complex problem in trying to decide just why the revitalization of ceremony would be a choice as something to put forth as a focus for identity. There are clearly many things that are peculiarly Apache about the Kiowa Apache that would have served equally well as a focus for tribal identity. There isn’t much serious difference between “we are the people who do the Manatidie” and “We are the people who make such and such design in beadwork, or silverwork, or whatever”.

     At another level, (which I will call “social tribal identity”) “tribal identity” can be used to represent the tribe – in the same sense that an American flag can be a symbol of identity for the country as a whole. It would appear to be this sense that Bittle had in mind when he wrote the paper. Just why such an institution needed to appear at that time – and presumably not only to the Kiowa-Apache - is not clear.

Social Implications

      In the late 1950’s and early sixties, there was a growing feeling of disenfranchisement and isolation in the United States, much of which, centered around America’s involvement in the Vietnam war. These feelings manifested themselves in a number of activities such as communal living and other similar aspects of the “hippie movement”, which in effect gave people groups with which to identify.

     In addition, the growth of “ethnic movements” and the assertion of an individual’s identity with a certain ethnic group were also occurring at the same time. Black Power movements and American Indian movements were developing and finding their footing so there is little reason to suspect that the factors producing this in the general population would not have had a similar effect on individual Native (i.e. tribal) populations as well. Pan Indian movements were growing as were tribal ones.

      When a group establishes or chooses to assert itself it does require some symbolism to mark itself as a group. Certainly it is altogether possible for the Manatidie to have been established as the “logo” as it were, for the Kiowa-Apache, who as Bittle points out, did have a kind of “name recognition” problem. It is reasonable that given the Kiowa-Apache involvement with warfare as evidenced by a number of societies involving the U.S. Military (such as the Gold Star Mothers society) and the fact that some of the developing problems in the U.S. were produced by American military involvement, that the Kiowa-Apache would lock onto a military organization – and the only one that anyone had ever seen – as the representation of the society as a whole.

      Societies need not only to find a form of representation, but require recognition through interaction with other groups against whom they define their own identity (i.e. “We are the Kiowa-Apache NOT the Kiowa and NOT the Ft. Sill Apache”). In this sense, the existing powwow structure already existing on the Plains makes the creation of such an organization a reasonable choice.

      In a sense then the Manatidie allows a kind of exchange with other groups on a societal level (rather than an individual one). Since the various tribes can make requests of other tribes to have their organizations come and perform, the groups become mutually dependent on each other. This is a classic aspect of social organization where two organizations have a mutual dependency on one another and hence become solid (Durkheim’s organismic solidarity).

     The performance can become a kind of currency, then, in effect, the Kiowa-Apache were creating a form of exchange that allows the tribe to interact reciprocally with other tribes in the area. In effect, the revitalization of the Manatidie may have had less to do with tribal identity than the establishment of the Kiowa-Apache as a political entity.

     In a sense this is an ideal situation since the Manatidie becomes at once, the symbolic manifestation of the Kiowa-Apache marking the tribe as an independent unit (the tribe) and also a currency that can be exchanged (almost like Kula) and allows for an inter-tribal solidarity as well. This is in accordance with some feelings of growing pan-Indianism. In effect it allows for the establishment of social tribal identity as well as solidarity at an inter-tribal level. In effect, the Manatidie says “We, the Kiowa-Apache do this ritual and we can exchange it with other Indians”. The major question of course is who has the ability to control the performances of the group.

The Nature of Bands and Splitting

     The nature of the political organization of the Kiowa-Apache seems to fall in pre contact and early contact times into a level which would be considered “sub state” level by Service. Whether this would have been band or tribal level is not significant (it may have even shifted over time). What is important is that the idea of a state level with concomitant ideas of citizenship based on something other than kinship was and is largely unknown. People do not become members of bands or tribes by joining the state, but rather by being kin with people already in the group; hence “adoptions” are the equivalent in some ways of “citizenship”.

      Of course, it is reasonable to assume that splits in loosely knit political entities occur occasionally and in a sense, this may have been the beginning of such a split, each of the groups maintaining the ritual, although in slightly different forms.

     The initial split of the Manatidie into two groups has to do with exactly that problem – whether or not a specific performance should have been allowed to take place, implying that control of the performance is a major aspect of the organization. It is in effect a policy making function that operates on a level more complex than is usually associated with band or perhaps even tribal levels of organization (see Service, 1963).

     The split in the Kiowa-Apache is largely along descent lines. The two factions are often referred to by specific family names. In small scale societies the family is the major feature in social organization.

     Marriages cross cut these lines, and if one traces one’s ancestry back far enough (and they certainly do) it is possible to find both affinal (by marriage) and consanguineal (by “blood”) relatives in both factions. Hence members of either faction may be found performing with the other faction. It would appear that when a split is beginning to form, people can maintain some sort of alliance with both factions, although the factions themselves are becoming distinct. This would be a clear indication of Service’s “tribal” level.

      Interestingly enough, in tribal elections, the same family splits and affiliations can be noted. In effect, what may have been going on is an example of factionalization or fragmentation in a small group, which could, be indicative of new band formation. There is almost a split into two different loosely organized groups who are in fact biologically, socially and culturally connected. What might, in the past, have been the beginning of a split in a single society into two new groups has probably in some ways been thwarted by both the lack of recognition of the two by the U.S. federal government and the general loose nature of the South Plains social organization.

      As the group begins to coalesce and become a recognized group, it requires some sort of "marker" of itself. In this case the ritual is a kind of marker. It is a kind of emblem of the group (Kreutzer 1988), but not necessarily individual identity with the group. It is a kind of “logo” 0 a symbol that gives substance to an organization that has no physical reality. (One of the Kiowa-Apache designed a police patch for tribal police that has as its main feature, the four staves used by the Manatidie organization in the ritual).

      The group(s) then enter(s) into reciprocal ritual relationships with other tribes in the area as an indication of their status as a separate entity. It is a kind of “recognizing the credentials” of the group.

      The powwows held during the year by the various groups have numerous functions, but certainly one is to identify the group. At the Southern Plains powwows, it is common to have a “ritual performance” in the afternoon, with a “guest performance” in the evening before the social dancing (War Dances, Round Dances, Two-Steps etc.) begin. For example, at a performance held by one of the Manatidie groups, the Kiowa Blackfoot Society might put in an appearance. The ability of a tribe (or perhaps even faction) to assert an identity would be in part contingent on its ability to mount a performance by one of its organizations at a neighbor’s powwow.

      What may in fact be happening is the formation of a new group - a split creating two bands which may have been in the works for some time. Although there are very few speakers (perhaps one or two) of Kiowa-Apache left, there are statements made that there are dialect differences within the language which actually follow the lines of the Manatidie split. This would imply that factionalization leading to different bands (or tribes) may be a process that is in the works for some period of time and is marked in later stages by the development of “emblems” of the groups.

      The current legal status of the Kiowa-Apache by the U.S. government is that of a single political unit which has a single election for a tribal chief. This position may already be stretching traditional political structures in that no such position would have traditionally existed. Interestingly enough, most elections are hotly contested and usually the candidates are from the same rival factions.

* The Kiowa-Apache currently use a term held by them to be a Comanche word for "thieves". Traditionally the Kiowa-Apache called themselves "cedar people" (?át dìndéh). One of the last fluent speakers when asked why the Comanche term was being used rather than the Kiowa-Apache one, told me this name is sort of “old fashioned”

** McAlllister (1955), who was not a trained linguist, gives the Apache words as kasowe, izuwe, manatidie, and klintidie. A more accurate transcription contains tone and length markers /gátsàwèè/, /íízùwè/ /mànáátìdìè/ and /tliitìdìè/. I will in this paper use the spellings adopted by McAllister and followed by Bittle.


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