Paukeigope Jennings doesn't think of herself as an artist.
Instead, she views herself as a Kiowa woman living in the aged
traditions and ways passed down from her grandmother.
52-year-old wears her hair in braids and dresses primarily in leggings,
moccasins and broadcloth dresses she makes herself. She also makes
cradleboards, beadwork, saddles, headdresses, headstalls for horses
and men's leggings, shirts and moccasins.
don't like the title 'artist.' I look at myself and see myself as
just a traditional woman," Jennings said. "It wasn't that
long ago, in my grandmother's generation, the generations before
her, they all did everything."
vast knowledge and skill in traditional Kiowa crafts earned her
the title of Honored One for Red Earth 2004. She will be recognized
during the festival at the noon Grand Entry on Friday, said Dee
Ann Alexander, executive director of Red Earth Inc.
done work with Red Earth in the past, she's well respected in the
community ... and she's a favorite artist among some of the board
members. And she's an all-around good person," Alexander said.
Honored One is the highest award the festival bestows on an artist.
The Red Earth board of directors presents the award to an American
Indian artist with a distinguished record of promoting and contributing
to American Indian art, Alexander said.
1989, The National Endowment for the Arts named Jennings a National
Heritage Fellow, which earned her the title of Living National Treasure
from the president and Congress. Besides the 1992 President's Award
at Red Earth, she has earned awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market
and Great Plains Indian Rendezvous.
immersion in her culture, commitment to her roots and extensive
knowledge of traditional crafts cause her to stand out, Alexander
few years ago, Alexander attended a workshop where Jennings demonstrated
the ancient and arduous technique of brain tanning, or using an
animal's brains to tan its hide so it is soft and supple.
knows how to do all that old stuff that no one knows how to do anymore,"
who is of Kiowa, Apache and Pima descent, said she inherited the
Kiowa songs, crafts, manners and language from her maternal grandparents,
Stephen and Jeanette Mopope. In Kiowa tradition stemming back to
the tribe's "free days," her grandparents raised her while
her parents played an active role in her youth.
didn't learn how to be Indian out of books or take classes. We didn't
separate it out. It was just who we were," she said.
up in Lawton, Jennings said, she endured teasing for wearing leggings
and braids in a time when people were supposed to conceal their
American Indian heritage. Even some of her relatives and friends
pressed her to not look and act so Indian.
took heart from her grandfather, one of the Kiowa Five artists who
studied with Oscar Jacobson. She considers her grandfather a true
artist and credits him with any sense of artistry she possesses.
said if he stopped painting, he might as well stop breathing,"
has the same attitude when it comes to making cradleboards, doing
beadwork or creating any of the other traditional crafts her grandmother
taught her. It's just who she is.
walk through life and you pass monsters and angels and thieves and
liars. But then you meet people who are the most extraordinary beings,
and they can shape your life. I'm a direct result of my grandmother's
teachings," Jennings said.
who lives in Red Stone, a rural Kiowa community east of Fort Cobb,
said she worked to share her grandparent's teaching with her own
three children. Since her parents died in the 1950s, Jennings raised
her children herself. But she is raising one of her grandsons, Cade
Morgan, the 5-year-old son of her daughter, Summer Morgan, and striving
to pass the teachings to him, too.
she knows sharing her culture is the only way to ensure it isn't
forgotten, Jennings said she sometimes struggles in her efforts.
She sometimes encounters people who don't care or have negative
stereotypes about American Indians.
time she gets discouraged, Jennings said, she will get a commission
for a cradleboard, an award at an art show or some other validation
that her work is worthwhile. She said she cried in happiness when
she found out she had been named Red Earth's Honored One.
just a simple, steady journey. Keep putting one foot in front of
the other," she said. "God will always reward you."