Kiowa Apache Indians

By: J. Gilbert McAllister and H. Allen Anderson

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: November 17, 2020

The Kiowa Apache Indians, a small group of Athabascan (Apachean)-speaking people, ranged the area of present southwestern Oklahoma and the Panhandle of Texas during the nineteenth century. Although their common name is derived from the erroneous belief that they were a detached band of Apaches from New Mexico and Arizona, their myths and oral history tell of a northern home, probably near the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, when they were an independent tribe with north and south divisions. They called themselves "Naishandina," which in their tongue meant "our people." While there is no clear account of the reasons why they migrated south, the fact that they were a small group among primarily hostile tribes caused them to become affiliated with the Kiowas for mutual protection; as far back as there is any record or knowledge, they have functioned as a band of the Kiowa tribe, though they speak a completely unrelated language. A few of the old Apache men usually learned a little Kiowan, but sign language was the primary means of communication between the Kiowa and its Apache band. Although many scholars lean toward the view that the Kiowa Apaches were linked with one of the Athabascan divisions, some speculate that they were originally eastern or Plains Apaches who became separated from their kinsmen when the Comanches first intruded into the southern Plains. Aside from linguistic differences, the Kiowa Apaches were practically indistinguishable from the Kiowa proper. They were buffalo-hunting, tepee-dwelling, horse and travois nomads, with soldier societies and medicine bundles (four). They participated in the annual Kiowa sun dance and camp circle. Like the Kiowas, the Kiowa Apaches believed in the passage of the spirit into the other world. Since death was awesome, names of the deceased were avoided and dropped from use.

Kiowa Apache integration was of a simple type. There were few groupings, and these tended toward fusion rather than apposition. The kinship system was the basis of the social structure and intimately bound together the extended domestic family, with the kin ties extending to everybody. Often a man had more than one wife and usually lived with the wife's relatives. A classificatory system of terminology was used. Political and religious interests usually followed family lines but again were extended to include the whole band. Heraldic tepees were symbols of a family, as were the shield groups, but these later could include more than immediate kin. Economically, family groups were independent, yet to secure a large number of buffalo, band cooperation was desirable. Thus, factors which bound family groups together extended to band limits. Band cohesion was furthered by the dancing societies, of which there were four: the Kasowe (Rabbit) for children, the Manatidie for adult males, the Klintidie for a select group of very brave old men, and the Izuwe, a religious and secret society given to owl worship, for elderly women. Cohesion was also achieved by the Apaches' functioning as a unit in the annual Kiowa camp circle, by linguistic isolation which distinguished the group and set it apart from plains peoples, and by inferiority of number which practically necessitated mutual agreement and cooperation for protection and consequent survival. The tribe is thought never to have numbered more than 350 persons. With so many social forces tending toward unity, it is not surprising that the Kiowa Apaches were a closely integrated people. This undoubtedly accounts for the maintenance of their identity through many generations during which time they were surrounded and literally engulfed by unrelated and mostly hostile tribes which far outnumbered them. Their "symbiotic" relationship with the Kiowas over so long a period is most unusual in cultural history; even though the two tribes lived together, relatively little intermarriage occurred between them.

The Kiowa Apaches were first mentioned in European records under the name "Gattacka" by the French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, in 1681 or 1682, at the frontier outpost on Peoria Lake, in the Illinois country. He reported that these people were neighbors of the Pana (Pawnee), with whom they often traded. Apparently both the Kiowas and Kiowa Apaches were ranging at that time between the Platte River and eastern New Mexico and engaging in a lucrative trade in Spanish horses. Judging from La Salle's reports, they may have visited the French post on occasion. In 1719 Jean Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe referred to them as Quataquois and reported them living in connection with the Tawakonis and other members of the Wichita confederacy in a village on the Cimarron River near its junction with the Arkansas, in the area of present Oklahoma. While on their trek west in 1805, Lewis and Clark mentioned the "Katakas" as living between the heads of the two forks of the Cheyenne River in the Black Hills region. Although the two pathfinders apparently made no actual contact with the Kiowa Apaches, they estimated their number as around 300 "in twenty-five tepees" and reported them rich in the horses that they traded to the Arikaras and Mandans on the upper Missouri.

The first recorded contact between the Kiowa Apaches and Anglo-Americans occurred on August 11, 1820, when Stephen H. Long and his party met a group of Indians they labeled Kaskaias, or Bad Hearts, on the Canadian River in the present Texas Panhandle. At one point, friction over some missing horses and utensils threatened the otherwise peaceful encounter, but the two parties parted amicably the following day. Edwin James, the expedition's chronicler, described the Kaskaias as "among some of the most degraded and miserable of the uncivilized Indians on this side of the Rocky Mountains." Along with the Kiowas and Tawakonis, the Kiowa Apaches (Katakas) entered into their first treaty with the United States government in 1837. In 1853 they were mentioned as a warlike band roaming the Canadian valley alongside the Comanches, whom they often accompanied in raids. They were among those attacked by Christopher (Kit) Carson's troops in the first battle of Adobe Walls on November 25, 1864. By the time of the Little Arkansas Treaty in 1865, however, they had grown weary of the Kiowas' hostile attitudes toward the Whites and were attached, at their own request, to the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Since such an arrangement lacked practical force, they were formally reunited with the Kiowas in the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, but some of them continued to live with the Cheyennes.

Under the leadership of their head chief, Pacer (or Peso), the majority of Kiowa Apaches were early advocates of peace and cooperation with the federal authorities; in October 1872 Pacer and two sub-chiefs, Daha and Gray Eagle, represented the tribe in the joint delegation to Washington, D.C. As a result a school was established among their people by A. J. Standing, a Quaker missionary, in 1874. Although a few individuals accompanied the war party led by Quanah Parker to Adobe Walls that summer, the Kiowa Apaches, as a whole, remained quietly on the reservation throughout the Red River War. After Pacer's death in 1875, the tribe settled on land between forts Cobb and Sill and made a rapid transition to sedentary life as farmers. One minor chief, Taw-haw, became a leader in the Ghost Dance craze in 1891. By that time, the tribe numbered around 325, but in 1892 a severe measles epidemic resulted in the loss of over a fourth of their number. Nevertheless the group endured the changes imposed by the outside world under the able leadership of Gonkon (Apache John) and Tsayadite-ti (White Man), successively. By 1905 they numbered only 155. With the breakup of the Oklahoma reservations, the town of Apache, in Caddo County, became the tribe's community center. Due mainly to increased intermarriage with the Kiowas and other neighboring tribes, the Kiowa Apaches numbered roughly 100 adults by 1933.

Mody C. Boatright, ed., The Sky is My Tipi (Dallas: University Press, 1949). Fred Eggan, ed., Social Anthropology of North American Tribes, 2d ed. (University of Chicago Press, 1955). Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). Mildred P. Mayhall, The Kiowas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962; 2d ed. 1971). James Mooney, Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians (Washington: GPO, 1898; rpt., Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979). Wilbur Sturtevant Nye, Plains Indian Raiders (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968). Frederick W. Rathjen, The Texas Panhandle Frontier (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Tribes (Other)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

J. Gilbert McAllister and H. Allen Anderson, “Kiowa Apache Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 17, 2020