Stephen Mopope was born on 27 August 1898 near the Redstone Baptist Mission on the Kiowa Reservation in Indian Territory. Qued Koi was his Kiowa name, which translates as "Painted Robe," and is sometimes spelled, "Wood Coy." His maternal grandfather was Appiatan, a famed Kiowa warrior, and his great-uncles were Silver Horn and Oheltoint (Ohettoint), both of whom were accomplished artists. Oheltoint was one of the Fort Marion ledger artists. Mopope's paternal grandfather was a Spanish captive, adopted by Kiowa chief Many Bears.
When Mopope was a young child, his relatives observed him drawing pictures in the sand, so the artists in his family taught him how to paint on hides in the traditional manner. His grandmother was also instrumental in his early education.
In 1916, Mopope attended St. Patrick's Indian Mission School in Anadarko, Oklahoma, where he received further art instruction under Sister Olivia Taylor, a Choctaw nun. In a move that contradicted US federal policy at the time, 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.
In 1928, the Kiowa Five made their debut into the international fine arts world, when they participated in the 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 prints and artists' paintings, to be published in France.
Mopope was commissionined to paint murals in the US Department of the Interior building in Washington, DC, along with five other Native aristists, including James Auchiah. Mopope's mural was 6 by 60 feet and portrayed a Kiowa ceremonial dance.
He joined the Native American Church and created stylized paintings that combined ceremonial implements with religious imagery. Besides being a visual artist, he was a highly accomplished dancer and flute-player.
Today Mopope's granddaughter Vanessa Jennings is an award-winning Kiowa beadworker and traditional artist.
Mopope's work can be found in the following public art collections:
- Anadarko City Museum
- Bank of America Collection, Phoenix, Arizona
- Cleveland Museum of Art
- Dartmouth College Collection
- Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
- The George Gustav Heye Center
- Gilcrease Museum
- Heard Museum
- Indian Arts and Crafts Board, US Department of the Interior
- Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art
- McNay Art Museum
- Museum of Northern Arizona, Katherine Harvey Collection
- Museum of New Mexico
- Millicent Rogers Museum
- Oklahoma Art Center
- Oklahoma Historical Society
- Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
- Oklahoma State Art Collection
- Oklahoma Science and Art Foundation, Gerrer Collection
- Peabody Essex Museum
- Philbrook Museum of Art
- Southwest Museum
- Seminole Public Library
- Southern Plains Indian Museum
- University of Oklahoma, Library
- Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian
- Woolaroc Museum
- Watson, Mary Jo. Mopope, Stephen (1898-1974). Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (2 May 2009)
- Lester, 372
- Wyckoff, 192
- Pochoir prints of ledger drawings by the Kiowa Five, 1929. Smithsonian Institution Research Information System. (retrieved 29 April 2009)
- Swan, 77-78
- Swan, 77
- 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
- Stephen Mopope, article from the Oklahoma Historical Society