About The Kiowa Six
THE KIOWA SIX The Native American artists; James Auchiah (1906-1974), Spencer Asah (1905/ 1910-1954), Jack Hokeah (1902-1969), Stephen Mopope (1898-1974), and Monroe Tsatoke (1904-1937) and Lois (Bougetah) Smoky (1907-1981) were young and they Kiowa Tribal members from the Anadarko area of Oklahoma. Because of their talent and the opportunities afforded them at The University of Oklahoma, they became international celebrities. It is well-remembered that these young Kiowa artists were occasionally homesick for their Kiowa cultural heritage and that during those times they would gather at the Jacobson House to sing, dance and tell Kiowa stories.
These six Kiowa artists, not alone but in particular, exerted a strong and positive influence on Native American artists, all Native Americans trying to accommodate drastic new conditions. Their achievement was a source of pride. Art is a vocation compatible with Native American communal values; the world of art has become a major arena for economic development for Native Americans.
Lois Bougetah Smoky (1907 - 1981): Lois Smoky was an original member of the Kiowa Five artists. She was also the only female and the youngest member of the group. During the time of her arrival at the University of Oklahoma it was customary among the tribes of the Plains that women not draw or paint in a representational style. Because of this feeling, Smoky fought some resentment on the part of the Kiowa group at the University. Upon her return to the reservation after only a few short years of painting, she did not pursue a career in the art world. She was later replaced in the Kiowa Five by James Auchiah. Once home, Smoky married and completely devoted herself to her husband and family. Lois Smoky is too often overlooked when the Kiowa Five artists are mentioned; she had an abundance of talent that was never allowed to blossom. On an ironic note, Lois Smoky's art, due to its rarity, is now the most sought after of all the Kiowa Five artists.
James Auchiah (1906 – 1974): James Auchiah was born with an innate artistic ability. In recognition of his talent and artistic achievements, his birthplace, Medicine Park, has become a communal center for Native American art. Born into a prominent Kiowa family, Auchiah excelled in art from an early age. In elementary school the young artist was once caught drawing and painting, which was not allowed in the Indian schools at that time. As punishment, he was required to finish his painting after school and thus forfeit his dinner. Auchiah exclaimed that he was glad to do so: "I would rather paint than eat," he said. As Auchiah grew older, his interest in art continued to increase. So when the opportunity to become the sixth of the Kiowa Five arose, he happily joined the group in the fall of 1927. Throughout his life, Auchiah served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, became a teacher, an illustrator, a museum curator and continued to paint, though not as a career artist. His later artwork was devoted primarily to the Native American Church.
Jack Hokeah (1902-1969): Born in 1902, Jack Hokeah was raised by his grandmother. Hokeah developed his art at an early age though it was often overshadowed by his dancing talent. This did not keep him from joining his fellow Kiowas at the University of Oklahoma. He worked hard at his art while under Oscar Jacobson, but dancing was still in his blood. In 1930, Jack Hokeah, along with Asah and Mopope made the trip to Gallup for the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonials. Following the festivities Hokeah met the renowned potter, Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso Pueblo staying with her family for some ten years as her adopted son before passing away in 1969.
Spencer Asah (1905-1981): Spencer Asah was born near Carnegie, Oklahoma and was the son of a Buffalo Medicine Man. Consequently the atmosphere that he grew up in was full of tribal legends and rituals, the influence of which is evident in his paintings. Asah came to the University of Oklahoma to refine his painting skills under the tutelage of Oscar Jacobson. During his classes at the University of Oklahoma he developed this painting allowing it become more refined. Like Hokeah and Mopope, Asah was a celebrated dancer who was able to balance his love for painting with his love for dancing. Asah was commissioned murals at OU, Riverside Indian School, but did his best work aiding Stephen Mopope in his murals in Anadarko.
Stephen Mopope (1898 – 1974): Stephen Mopope was the oldest member of the group of the young Indian artists that would become known as the Kiowa Five. He was born in 1898 or 1899 near Red Stone Baptist Mission on the Kiowa Reservation. While growing up on the reservation, Stephen was observed drawing designs in the sand. Thus, tribal elders decided to teach him how to paint on tanned skins in the old Kiowa way. As his artistic talent began to take root, so did his skills as a dancer. Mopope blossomed into one of the Kiowa’s tribe’s finest dancers considered by some to be the best. As he got older his skills as an artist increased and eventually caught the eye of Oscar Brousse Jacobson. Mopope was invited to join four of his fellow tribal artists in attending the University of Oklahoma’s Indian Art Program. While under Jacobson’s tutelage Mopope’s art career flourished and he became the most prolific artist of the Kiowa Five. Some of his more notable commissions included murals in The University of Oklahoma, The Federal Building in Muskogee, Oklahoma, First National Bank of Anadarko, as well as, the U.S. Post Office in Anadarko and the U.S. Navy Hospital in Carville, Louisiana. Though he concentrated on painting Mopope continued to be an accomplished dancer and flute player.
Monroe Tsatoke (1904-1937): Monroe Tsatoke was a gifted painter, as well as a bead worker and singer. As the Kiowa Five’s fame grew, it was increasingly obvious that Tsatoke and Mopope were the most prolific artists of the group. Unfortunately, as his painting skills grew stronger Tsatoke was developing tuberculosis and was increasingly sick. During this time, Tsatoke joined the Peyote faith. He became a member of the Native American Church and began a series of paintings that depicted his religious experiences. Tsatoke continued to work through his sickness, refusing to let the tuberculosis get the better of him. In 1934, he was commissioned by the Oklahoma Historical Society to paint a series of murals, in which he featured numerous personal images, including religious symbols, and two of his family shields. He worked on these murals until his death from tuberculosis in 1937 when he became the first member of the Kiowa Five to pass away. In 1950, Oscar Jacobson produced a portfolio featuring the best of the Native American art, including art be Tsatoke, to whom the portfolio was dedicated.