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Peyote Man / Monroe Tsatoke

Essay/Description

Kiowa (Cáuigù)1 artist Monroe Tsatoke, a member of the Kiowa Six art collective,2 produced iconic, late-career self-portraits, but he also painted subjects he encountered in his life, such as this representation of a Native American Church (NAC) peyote ritual. After he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, Tsatoke became a spiritual practitioner in the NAC. His dedication to faith in DawK’ee (God) was a pivotal life calling for the artist, and one for which he was known prior to his untimely death at age thirty-two.

In Peyote Man, Tsatoke depicts a Kiowa Roadman—a leader in the Native American Church—in ceremony. The Kiowa Roadman holds a fan of waterbird feathers, and he is dressed in formal Kiowa attire that includes a blue and red NAC robe. NAC prayer meetings last through the night, and some can be up to twenty hours long. Through each phase of the prayer meeting, different feather fans are used to coincide with midnight and sunrise.

“My grandfather said, ‘There are two things I learned in church—humility, how to be humble, and how to pray.’ He learned those two things in the tipi. . . . They [the old people] lived a plain and simple life; nothing was rushed. It was a good life.” —Monroe Tsatoke, grandson of Monroe Tsatoke, 2021

—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

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1 Cáuigù is the correct identity used by the Kiowa Tribe.
2 The Kiowa Six (first known as the Kiowa Five) was an early twentieth-century artist collective under the tutelage of Professor Oscar Jacobson at the University of Oklahoma. The collective birthed an Indigenous art movement known as the Kiowa Style of painting, also called Oklahoma Style and Flatstyle, which is recognized by its lack of figural shading, and backgrounds that have a shallow or indistinguishable depth of field. The other Kiowa Six artists are Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, and Lois Smoky; all are represented in the Gilcrease collection.

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Title(s): 
Peyote Man
Creator(s): 
Monroe Tsatoke (Artist)
Culture: 
Native American; Kiowa
Date: 
early 20th century
Materials/Techniques: 
tempera on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
02.233
Previous Number(s): 
0227.233; 36629
Department: 
Signed by hand in tempera, "TsaToke" in lower right on recto; Handwritten notes are present on artwork.
Not On View

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