James Auchiah

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James Auchiah
Born Tsekoyate
(1906-11-17)November 17, 1906
Oklahoma, US
Died December 28, 1974(1974-12-28) (aged 68)
Carnegie, Oklahoma, US
Education University of Oklahoma
Known for Painting
Movement Kiowa Five

James Auchiah (1906–1974) was a Kiowa painter and one of the Kiowa Five from Oklahoma.[1]

Early life[edit]

James Auchiah was born on 17 November 1906 in Oklahoma Territory, near present-day Meers and Medicine Park, Oklahoma.[1] His Kiowa name was Tsekoyate, meaning "Big Bow".[2] His father was Mark Auchiah, and his grandfathers were Chief Satanta and Red Tipi, a medicine man, bundle keeper and ledger artist,[3] respectively.

Auchiah was a student in government schools, where he was not supported in learning about his Kiowas culture. In 1890 the tribe was forcibly not allowed by the white soldiers to perform the Sun Dance, which is their most spiritual dance. Afterwards the tribe did not try to perform the dance.[4] Auchiah first studied art at St. Patrick's Indian Mission School in Anadarko, Oklahoma, under Sister Olivia Taylor, a Choctaw nun. His love for art was such that in elementary school, he was caught painting in class. As punishment, the teacher made him finish his painting instead of eating dinner. The young Auchiah said in response that was fine with him, "I would rather paint than eat."[5] The skills of several young Kiowa living near Anadarko, Oklahoma had caught the eye of a government field matron, Susan Peters, in 1920. She noticed the artistic talent of Kiowa children and teens as they drew sketches on feed bags while waiting for their parents receiving rations at the government Kiowa field office.[6] Susan Peters arranged for four young Kiowa, later adding a fifth student, James Auchiah, in helping them enter art classes at the University of Oklahoma. Peters arranged for Mrs. Willie Baze Lane, an artist from Chickasha, Oklahoma to provide further art instruction for the young Indians, including Auchiah. 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.[7]They were coached and encouraged by Edith Mahier.[8]

Kiowa Five[edit]

The Kiowa Five, now increasingly known as the Kiowa Six, included six artists: Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smoky and Monroe Tsatoke. James Auchiah was the last to join the group at OU in 1926.[7]

The Kiowa Five's first major breakthrough in the international fine art world was the 1928 First International Art Exposition in Prague, Czechoslovakia. [7] In January 1927 Dr. Oscar B Jacobson, Director of the School of Art at the University of Oklahoma, invited Spencer Asah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Louise Smoky, Monroe Tsatoke, and James Auchiah to live in Norman so that he could instruct them. With Jacobson's support they improved their skills while keeping their own unique style. Jacobson organized an exhibit of their art at the University and afterwards their art was shown outside the University. Their art then gained national attention in November 1927 at the convention of the American Federation of Arts. Afterwards they traveled around the nation exhibiting their art gaining more notice from art critics. In 1928 their art was shown at an art festival in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Kiowa paintings become a popular attraction internationally. By the 1930s many of the Kiowa painters were commissioned to paint for several different occasions. [9]

Sun Dance[edit]

The last Sun Dance took place on the Washita River above Rainy Mountain Creek in 1887. The Sun Dance is a sacred dance for the Kiowa, especially when the Dance involved the Sun Dance Doll, Tai-Me. Tai-Me characterized the most powerful medicine and symbolized a Kiowa's spiritual well being. The final time Tai-Me was represented in the dance was in 1887, the last time the dance took place.[10]

Grandfather's burial[edit]

Jame's grandfather, chief Satanta, was arrested with another chief during a wagon train raid on May 18, 1871. The two chiefs were sentenced to death by hanging, but only through the intervention of Indian officials, they were sentenced to life in prison. In 1873 the two chiefs gained parole and were released from prison. in 1874 during the Red River War chief Satanta was arrested again. He was in prison for four years until he learned that he would not gain parole again and committed suicide. He was buried by convicts in the prison cemetery.

James and his family were allowed to remove Satanta's remains eighty-five years after his death and after a long legal battle. This was a great victory for the family. They were able to move the great chief from his dishonorable grave to a more honored one. Before Satanta was laid to rest in his grave, James performed a Kiowa ceremony. During the ceremony cedar dust and gray granite dust was sprinkled on the fire built at the end of the chief's gave. This assured that chief Satanta would have a joyful journey to his new resting place.[11]

Individual pursuits[edit]

During the 1920s and 1930s, Auchiah painted murals at the Oklahoma Historical Society, St. Patrick's Mission School, and the United States Department of the Interior.[2][5]

As his art progressed, he incorporated more imagery from the Native American Church, of which he was a leader. His work became more stylized, symbolic, and visionary.[12]

He joined the US Coast Guard during World War II. Later he taught art and was an illustrator for the US Department of the Interior.[3] Auchiah also worked at the US Army Artillery and Missile Center Museum in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was a curator there.[1]

Public collections[edit]

Auchiah's work can be found in the following public art collections:


Auchiah died in Carnegie, Oklahoma on 28 December 1974,[1][3][5] although it is sometimes listed as being in 1975.[2][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Watson, Mary Jo. Auchiah, James (1906-1974). Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (28 April 2009)
  2. ^ a b c Reno, 13
  3. ^ a b c d Lester, 30
  4. ^ Pate, J'Nell (Autumn 1974). "Kiowa Art from Rainy Mountain: The Story of James Auchiah". American Indian Quarterly. 1 (3): 193-200. doi:10.2307/1184603. Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c About Kiowa Five. Jacobson House. (28 April 2009)
  6. ^ Neuman, Lisa (Summer 2006). "Art and Ethnography". Ethnology. 45: 173-192. 
  7. ^ a b c Pochoir prints of ledger drawings by the Kiowa Five, 1929. Smithsonian Institution Research Information System. (retrieved 24 April 2009)
  8. ^ Campbell, Isabel (1928). "With Southwestern Artists: All Indians have Six Fingers". Southwest Review. Dallas, Texas: Southern Methodist University. 14 (3): 360–369. ISSN 0038-4712. JSTOR 43466014. 
  9. ^ Pate, J'Nell (Autumn 1974). "Kiowa Art from Rainy Mountain: The Story of James Auchiah". American Quarterly. 1 (3): 193. doi:10.2307/1184603. 
  10. ^ Pate, J'Nell (Autumn 1974). "Kiowa Art from Rainy Mountain: The Story of James Auchiah". American Quarterly. 1 (3): 193. doi:10.2307/1184603. 
  11. ^ Pate, J'Nell (Autumn 1974). "Kiowa Art from Rainy Mountain: The Story of James Auchiah". American Quarterly. 1 (3): 193. doi:10.2307/1184603. 
  12. ^ Swan, 78–79
  13. ^ James Auchiah (1906-1975). AskArt (retrieved 28 April 2009)


  • Lester, Patrick D. The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8061-9936-9.
  • Reno, Dawn. Contemporary Native American Artists. Brooklyn, NY: Alliance Publishing, 1995. ISBN 0-9641509-6-4.
  • 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.

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