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Self-Portrait / Monroe Tsatoke


In Self-Portrait, Kiowa (Cáuigù)1 artist Monroe Tsatoke portrays himself as young, healthy, and in the prime of his life, a stark contrast to his decline and eventual death a few years later from tuberculosis. Tsatoke lived during the early twentieth century, and this was a critical period in the political and cultural history of both the region and the United States, when Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma (1907) and Native Americans received U.S. citizenship under the Indian Citizenship Act (1924). These changes led to a collision of cultures as Indigenous communities were confronted and disrupted by settler colonialism; that is, the rapidly increasing number of non-Indigenous people living in proximity. Artists such as Tsatoke, and others, were forced to live among conflicting ideologies and realities, which the artist’s grandson described as “navigating two worlds.”

Tsatoke’s eagle-feather headdress—which has beaded loom-work along its crown—pays homage to his ancestors’ authority within Kiowa society as well as his own leadership within the community. The long, mature feathers are fixed to the crown with braintanned buckskin fitted with red wool broadcloth. The fluffy down feathers of the eagle are laced onto the mature feathers at the base, while the tips of the feathers have been adorned with yellow tufts.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

This text was developed from an interview with Monroe Tsatoke, Monroe Tsatoke’s grandson, by Jordan Poorman Cocker, May 19, 2021

1 Cáuigù is the correct identity used by the Kiowa Tribe.

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Monroe Tsatoke (Artist)
Native American; Kiowa
oil on board
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
0127.2397; 29032
Not On View

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