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Kiowa Warriors / Dennis Belindo


The distinctive visual language of Kiowa (Cáuigù)1 and Navajo artist Dennis Belindo is revealed in his carefully composed abstract and figurative paintings, which reflect his various worldviews as educator, community advocate, combat veteran, and member of the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society.2 The background of Kiowa Warriors is formed from geometric, balanced, color-blocked sections—a kaleidoscope of lavender, purple, red, pink, and blue—that frame the two warrior figures, who appear to be inextricably linked to each other within the teardrop-shaped ovals.

The passage of time from life to death, and the traditional views of the world that extend through generations in perpetuity, are critical frameworks within Kiowa families, and this intergenerational knowledge and cultural continuity are key to Belindo’s thought-provoking artworks.

The artist’s connections to the Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society can be seen in his use of certain colors for regalia and articles pertaining to the group’s annual ceremony, particularly the color red, which references medicines. Belindo advocated for the establishment of Native American rights initiatives among tribes. This lifelong service to the protection of his people and ancestral land is represented in the painting by the bows and arrows carried by the warriors.

“My grandfather was in the service, but he also had stories of who his ancestors were and what they encountered. The Kiowa warriors who encountered the U.S. Army were considered criminals,3 when in reality they were heroes, defending their land and protecting their peoples from being removed to what we now know as the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache [Reservation]4 in Oklahoma. . . . I look back now at the stories he shared of family members. Just as he taught and influenced me at a young age, those were the relatives who taught and influenced him at a young age.”
—Antonia Belindo, granddaughter of Dennis Belindo, 2021

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

This text was developed from an interview with Antonia Belindo, Dennis Belindo’s granddaughter, by Jordan Poorman Cocker, May 4, 2021

1 Cáuigù is the correct identity used by the Kiowa Tribe.
2 The Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society honors Kiowa warriors and military veterans for the sacrifices they made for tribe and country. The original group was established generations ago. It was banned in 1927 and revived in 1958 by Gus Palmer Sr. and a contingent of Kiowa veterans of the two world wars. The Warrior Society holds an annual ceremonial in Anadarko, Oklahoma.
3 In the 1800s and 1900s, the nature of these encounters with the U.S. military—violent or nonviolent—was irrelevant. Native Americans including the Kiowa were regarded as “merciless Indian savages,” a rationale that served as the impetus for the seizure of Native American land and other natural resources.
4 The Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty of 1867 grouped these three tribes together. The Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation created later was actually a prison within a small section of ancestral territories.

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Kiowa Warriors
Dennis Belindo (Artist)
Native American; Kiowa, Navajo (Diné)
acrylic on matboard
Portrait; single-sided 1.331-1.341mm Matboard. Poor quality fibers, high lignin.
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of R. Mack Bettis
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
TL2005.47.21; TL 2005.47.21
Not On View

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