The Kiowa Peyote Meeting Disc 1

Ethnic Folkways Library FE 4601
Recorded and edited by Harry Smith

(The following notes are rather diffuse because the material essential to their understanding is on the recordings. The use of the peyote cactus, Lophophora Williamsii, as a medicine and vision producing substance among a large number of North American Indians is so well known as to require no botanical or physiological comment here. My purpose has been to give a glimpse of the Peyote Meeting through the narrations and songs of Kiowa who were worshippers there, and this can only be gained through a close study of the records themselves. This booklet is ancillary to that purpose and no comparison with other accounts of the Kiowa rites are given. Persons interested should consult La Barres' book which has an essential account and bibliography.)

In February 1964 Muriel Wright, that Grand Lady of the Oklahoma Historical Society, told me "If you want to see a real Western Town go to Anadarko." I decided to visit there for a day or so. It really turned out to be a Western Town; before I had been there half a day I was arrested and held a week for "investigation. " Two guns had been stolen from the "Candy Kitchen" the evening I got there. I had also unknowingly got myself involved with some talkative but, according to the police, rather unsavory characters in one of the local bars that night. Nine years have passed since then, but for various reasons the material I collected has not been made public until now. The notes that follow were mostly written in the winter of 1964-65. 1 have left them unchanged partly because they represent the ideas I had at the time I heard the songs, and partly because I have been unable to consult all of the material on Kiowa Peyotism. I have, however, added a few quotations from Winston's records regarding the nature of music, a comparison of the short introductory statements about the "Four Songs" made by various singers, some meager notes on intercalation of songs and, also, on some of Everett's favorite songs, plus a few comments on peyote graphic art. I would like to make it clear that of the people I later worked with, none were met in the jail; the unfortunate victims of that place only provided the contacts. Also it would be only fair to say that while I was in Anadarko I was drinking heavily and it was only natural that some of the people I worked with also drank. Everett was a hard drinker, but not an alcoholic; Winston enjoyed what he called a "nip" now and then as did Ray and Blossom. George drank not at all. The short biographical notes I collected from the singers were mislaid when the police gave me a few days to get out of town. At this time it will suffice to say that all of the singers on these records were middle-aged persons of Kiowa background. George, and especially Henry, were older than the others, and Everett younger, but not by much. The personalities of the singers can be best learned from their recordings. They were all persons of happy, even, disposition who took their poverty and disappointments with grace. They were mostly of what might be called a short stocky build. George was taller as befitted his former occupation as a wrestler. Henry was thinner than the others. Ray is Everett's older brother and was married to Blossom.

Except for the police, white people are unique in the Anadarko city jail. This is not because whites are rare in Anadarko, far from it, but because, like the rest of that town, the Jail is supported by exploiting the owners of the land; and so, the police arrest few but Indians. Out of the thirty or so people that almost starved in that place during the week I was kept there, only three were white; and thus it was I met some Indians and a short visit to Anadarko expanded itself into four months.
Anadarko (Population about 5600) is on the Washita River sixty-six miles southwest of Oklahoma City. On the north side of the river live the Caddo, Delaware and Wichita; on the south side the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache, Kiowa is really the only language heard spoken there (other than, of course, English). Once in a while the Wichita or Comanche will speak in their respective tongues, but I have infrequently heard Caddo, and never Delaware, spoken except on request. The Anadarko Chamber of Commerce says that "Anadarko has always been an Indian town. " As nearly as I could see, more than two-fifths of the population is "Indian, about a fifth "Negro" and the rest "white. " I did what I could with each of these. Naturally, I did not set out to find the most wonderful singers or the most gifted narrators but to locate singers or narrators who were capable of projecting their individuality through recordings to other people. I was therefore very fortunate in locating George Saloe, Winston Catt, and the Cozads. All of these people were definitely music connoisseurs. As individuals they had all consciously collected songs that reflected their interests. Everett's former position as Peyote "Roadman" and his love of a good time are revealed in the large number of Peyote and "forty-nine" songs that he sang, George, as a professional singer, knows those marvelous traditional songs of the warrior companies and the social and religious ceremonies of the tribe. George, Winston, and Everett were all ascetics. A hundred years ago they would have been fasting in some wilderness. Everett for a while habitually slept in the front seat of a truck. George, painfully crippled, picked up shingles after the storm, Winston has made frugal living fundamental to his philosophy. I particularly hope that examples of the Kiowa approach to things will give an insight into how one people has dealt with the problem of rhythm in relation to thought, and that persons interested in the Ritual, but unable to attend a Meeting, will partake of the herb while listening to the records.

All of us like to think that our particular teachers are the smartest of all and best of all. Even so) the Kiowa are a remarkable people. They ranged within the historic period from Canada to central Mexico and from Arkansas to the borders of California (Mooney, 1898, p. 147). For the Kiowa, like most other North American Indians, had no nations; no government in the sense that we intruders understand those terms. Such rulership as existed was vested in the philosopher-priests of certain rites I and those rituals transcended boundaries between languages and of antagonisms, and thus it was that wanderers interlocked with wanderers, Supreme among these rovers were the Kiowa.
They differed from most other plains tribes in that they possessed a social organization so diffuse that its outlines can be ascertained only by statistical methods. They had no moiaties or clans--those things would have been inappropriate for a group that was constantly absorbing refugees and lovers from the farflung tribes that the Kiowa came in contact with. They also seem to have been the center of diffusion for the Peyote religion over a large area, and the Kiowa rites give a very good idea of what the ceremonies consist of, at least on the American plains.

The amount of peyote used per capita in Anadarko is fairly staggering by ordinary standards. Hardly a day passed that someone didn't bring in a few laundry bags full; the whole plant, not just the top, was brought back. At one time I estimated that well over a ton a month was available. Not all of this ends up in nearby meetings, however, Quite a bit is sold or traded to other groups farther away from the Texas-Mexican border where the Anadarko tribes go for their supply. Also a surprisingly large number of plants end up in the hands of people who have no particular connection with the Peyote Meeting itself. They keep them around the house or on their persons to heal aches and pains, colds, etc. Everett, who preferred not to have gone to a Meeting for quite a while due to his drinking, showed me a dried plant he carried with him to ease the pain in his leg. The cactus is also said to be a specific against alcohol. From my own experience I believe this to be true.
The peyote plants are viewed as aesthetic objects and particularly beautiful ones will be passed around to be commented on. Especially esteemed are fresh plants of a leaf green color, having a medium length root of even shape with a round top symmetrically tufted. The single pink or blue flower on the plant is also admired, and people particularly like to show a plant thus adorned. I was told several times that red and blue, the colors of the Native American Church were derived from the shades of the flower in its various stages.
Mooney, Marriott, and Denman (the latter quoting Monroe Tsa Toke) give fairly long narratives, of supposed Kiowa origin, about a woman who had lost either her brother or her baby and discovers the herb in the ensuing search. A Wichita in Anadarko told me a form of this story in which the search for the baby led to plants that were seen at night. The cactus were shining like stars, distributed in the form of a man on the ground, Curiously, I was unable to collect this narrative or any other material on the origin of peyote from my singers other than short statements by Everett: "The Indian man met the Mexican on the border and brought this herb here." - 'We worship here, we worship there, poor Indian Man had to find something to worship." (side I, band 5)
(continued on disc 2)

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Performed by


Native Words



A number of descriptions, or partial descriptions, of the ceremony and how the "Four Songs" are connected with it are given on the records. The most complete of these are the long versions by Everett and Winston on sides 1 and 2. Everett, except for slight digressions, treats the physical acts of the ceremony; Winston analyzes its metaphysical background. Shorter descriptions are also given by Ray and George on sides 3 and 4 Everett's, Ray's, and George's accounts duplicate a lot of the same components. Winston's is totally aberrant. He is much more interested in giving philosophical interpretations than he is with details of who does what and when at the Meeting. Only once, when he sings the Morning Water Song, does he mention the smoking and prayers for the family, all of which figure prominently in the other accounts.
In the following truncated transcripts I have arranged the most important statements of Ray and George according to which of the "Four Songs control the parts of the ceremony. These two short descriptions give the minimal outline of the Meeting according to two different people, and combined give a good idea of what are considered the most important acts. I have consolidated, in parentheses, a few relevant statements from Winston and Everett in order to show examples of their way of thinking. In these cases I have mostly employed only a few key words to indicate similarities with other accounts. Detailed descriptions can be heard on their records., sides I and 2.
Both Slotkin and La Barre, especially the latter, give circumstantial accounts of the Kiowa Peyote Meeting. It is interesting how closely Slotkin's description, based mainly on Mooney's research of the late 1890's, corresponds to Everett's. La Barre states a great number of details that are not mentioned on the recordings. Especially interesting notes are given of symbolic interpretations of the implements and rites. Mostly these symbolisms were not mentioned by my singers although similar, and exhaustive, correlations were given me by other tribes farther north, particularly the Arapaho.
It is noteworthy that both Winston and Everett devote a good deal of their material, and their most moving accounts, to the period between the Midnight Water Song and the Morning Water Song; the time when You get the vis(ion)" according to Winston. Everett does not specifically mention the Quitting Song but merely says that the drum is stopped when the woman brings the breakfast in. His long account of the breakfast, which is not even mentioned in the other narratives, is in line with his preoccupation with food in descriptions of the "Forty-Nine" and "Round" dances and in the trickster stories that he gave. For some reason Ray recapitulates the entire ceremony in his description of the Quitting Song (side 4, cut 8). In the case of Winston I have added a second recording of each of the "Four Songs" in order to illustrate how he varied his performance from time to time. The first series was recorded in his home, the other in my hotel rooms. The second versions seem to be regularly faster in tempo than the first and are generally less complex in accents, alissandos, and ornamentation.
Midnight Water Song Kiowa
Morning Water Song Kiowa
Quitting Song Kiowa
Origin Of Peyote Kiowa
The Meeting Described (Section One) Kiowa
Firechief's Prayer Kiowa
The Meeting Described (Section Two) Kiowa
Midnight Prayer Kiowa
The Meeting Described (Section Three) Kiowa
Prayer To The Four Directions Kiowa
The Meeting Described (Section Four) Kiowa
The Water-Woman's Prayer Kiowa
The Meeting Described (Section Five) Kiowa
Introductory Statement Kiowa
Starting Song (Version One) Kiowa
Midnight Song (Version One) Kiowa
Morning Song (Version One) Kiowa
Quitting Song (Version One) Kiowa
Starting Song (Version Two) Kiowa
Midnight Song (Version Two) Kiowa
Morning Song (Version Two) Kiowa
Quitting Song (Version Two) Kiowa