Monroe Tsatoke was born on 29 September 1904 in Oklahoma Territory, near present day Saddle Mountain, Oklahoma. Tsatokee, which means "Hunting Horse", was his Kiowa name. His father was also named Tsatokee, and was a Kiowa scout. His grandmother was a European-American captive.
Tsatoke never received art instruction until Susan Peters, the Kiowa agency field matron, arranged for Mrs. Willie Baze Lane, an artist from Chickasha, Oklahoma, to teach painting classes for young Kiowas in Anadarko. Recognizing the talent of some of the young artists, Peters convinced Swedish-American artist, Oscar Jacobson, director of the University of Oklahoma's School of Art, to accept the Kiowa students into a special program at the school.
The Kiowa Five's first major breakthrough into the international fine arts world occurred at the 1928 First International Art Exposition in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Dr. Jacobson arranged for their work to be shown in several other countries and for Kiowa Art, a portfolio of pochoir print artists' paintings, to be published in France.
In 1924, Tsatoke married Martha Kooma. The couple had four children; Jewell, Lee Monette, Ross Maker, and John Thomas. Lee Tsatoke also became a respected Kiowa artist. Monroe and Martha lived in Red Rock, Oklahoma. Besides painting, Tsatoke also farmed, sang at Kiowa ceremonials and participated in fancy war dance.
He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and joined the Native American Church. He painted about his religious experiences and is credited with creating stylized representations of symbols associated with the Church, such as the water, birds, and feathers.
Tsatoke's work can be found in the following public art collections:
- Anadarko City Museum
- Cleveland Museum of Art
- Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
- The George Gustav Heye Center
- Gilcrease Museum
- Museum of the Great Plains
- Heard Museum
- Indian Arts and Crafts Board, US Department of the Interior
- Joslyn Art Museum
- McNay Art Museum
- Museum of Northern Arizona, Katherine Harvey Collection
- Museum of New Mexico
- Millicent Rogers Museum
- Oklahoma Historical Society
- Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
- Philbrook Museum of Art
- Seminole Public Library
- Woolaroc Museum
In 1934, the Oklahoma Historical Society commissioned Tsatoke to paint several murals. Although ill with tuberculosis, he worked on the murals until his death. Tsatoke died on 3 February 1937 from tuberculosis at the age of 32 years old.
- Watson, Mary Jo. Tsatoke, Monroe (1904-1937). Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (29 April 2009)
- Lester, 571
- Pochoir prints of ledger drawings by the Kiowa Five, 1929. Smithsonian Institution Research Information System. (retrieved 29 April 2009)
- Swan, 77
- Lester, 572
- Abouth the Kiowa Five. Jacobson House Native Art Center. (retrieved 29 April 2009)
- Lester, Patrick D. The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters. Norman and London: The Oklahoma University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8061-9936-9.
- Swan, Daniel C. Peyote Religious Art: Symbols and Faith and Belief. Jackson, University of Mississippi Press, 1999. ISBN 1-57806-096-6.
- Wyckoff, Lydia L., ed. Visions and voices : Native American painting from the Philbrook Museum of Art. Tulsa, OK: Philbrook Museum of Art, 1996. ISBN 0-86659-013-7.
- Jacobson House Native Art Center: About the Kiowa Five
- Monroe Tsatoke, article from the Oklahoma Historical Society