October 28th, 2014 Last Updated on: October 28th, 2014
Tristan Ahtone (Kiowa) recently wrote a story for Al Jazeera America about the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society. The story was touching and the pictures absolutely beautiful. In this piece Ahtone follows Michael Sankadota, an Iraq War veteran, who is about to join the Black Leggings.
Here's an excerpt from the article:
For as long as anyone can remember, veterans have held one of the most revered places in the culture of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. The ceremonial is the crowning manifestation of the tribe’s attitude toward its warriors.
“In American society, when the war is over, you’ve got your ticker-tape parade, you’ve got your speeches, and you’ve got Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and that’s pretty much it,” says Dr. William Meadows, a professor at Missouri State University and author of “Kiowa Military Societies.” “Here, it’s never-ending. Once you’re a veteran, that respect is always given to you.”
Participants must be Kiowa tribal members, and they are heirs to a legacy stretching back centuries to a time known only through oral history. A time before English. Before the state of Oklahoma. A time when the society was known only by its Kiowa name: Ton-Kon-Gah.
On the surface, the Black Leggings celebrate warrior culture, but at its core, the society offers a lesson to the next generation of tribal members on what it is to be a Kiowa in a changing world.
“Every culture has values and beliefs and ideology, but there’s always a handful of things that are more important in that particular culture than the others,” says Williams. “One of them, in this culture, is the importance of the veteran.”
Do yourself a favor and read the rest of the Black Leggings story on Al Jazeera America! There's even a sound clip from one of the ceremonial songs.
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