"The Ten Grandmothers" by Alice Marriott. A Review

The Ten Grandmothers: Epic of the KiowasThe Ten Grandmothers: Epic of the Kiowas by Alice Marriott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every year, for the past 6 or 7 years, I have traveled from north Oklahoma City to southwestern Oklahoma, involved in a week-long service among Native Americans in the region. Many of the folks I end up rubbing shoulders with are Comanches, Apaches, Kiowa-Apaches, Delawares, Kiowas, and others. So I was delighted to pick up a copy of this volume at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center bookstore on our last visit.

Alice Marriott, the first woman to earn an anthropology degree from the University of Oklahoma, accomplished author on Native American and Southwestern history, and posthumous inductee into the Oklahoma Historians Hall of Fame in 2004, published this work in 1945. It is a one-hundred-year segment - 1847 through 1944 - of living memory from one "camp" (or band) of the Kiowas, lifted out and laid before interested readers. "The Ten Grandmothers: Epic of the Kiowas" is a 320-page softback that is an ideal resource for anyone studying Native American culture and history, whether they're in High School, College or post graduate studies. But even those outside of academia will find these historical narratives fascinating and memorable. And more so, those who live in Oklahoma will be captivated by the stories and locations.

Marriott collected these accounts mainly from two older Kiowas during the summers of 1935 and 1936, and then picked up a few of the further events over the next eight years. The only thing fictitious in these narratives are the names of those who were living at that time or had recently passed on. The author gives readers valuable historical information in the introduction, covering the dancing and religious societies, the Kiowas' possible ethnic lineage, and their tribal foes and allies.

The tales begin with a young "chief" named Sitting Bear somewhere close to Saddle Mountain, Oklahoma, in 1847. They then develop and unfold, drawing in the recalled perspectives, encounters, mores, heartaches, and dismay that the main subjects experienced. The stories are taken "as an eye-witness account of the event related, and where the feelings of the person are described, it is only because he himself said he felt that way" (xi). The accounts are often intriguing, bringing to mind many aspects of terrain and treatment that held my attention. I also found several of the incidences very touching. I loved watching as scenes evolved in areas of Oklahoma where I've been, which means that that part of the State will never be the same for me! The final chapter from 1944 almost left me in tears, and gave me a greater appreciation for Buffalo grass and the passing away of an age and a heritage. I highly recommend the book to all, especially for anyone who is descended from one of the Plains tribes, and every Oklahoman.

The book can be purchased here: OUPress

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