Object: Kiowa Fan

E/1951/13/23
Kiowa: Peyote Fan
20th Century
United States: Plains
Materials: Feathers, beads, and buckskin

A peyote fan is an essential object for a peyote meeting. This Kiowa fan incorporates some of the main materials that are used in peyote fans.

The peyote religion is a sacred, yet often misunderstood, spiritual practice of some Plains Indian tribes. Peyote is the major sacrament of the Native American Church. The church has faced its share of scrutiny from the U.S. government and Christian followers. The spiritual use of peyote has its beginnings among indigenous groups in Mexico and the Southwestern part of the United States.

The plains groups learned about peyote in the late 19th century. The Comanche chief Quanah Parker brought it to his people after he was reportedly treated with it in Mexico. He later established the Native American Church, a combination of Christian concepts and traditional indigenous beliefs. Members of the Native American Church believe that peyote is a gift from God. They have a variety of art, objects, and symbolism that is incorporated with their ceremonies and beliefs.

Fans are very important for several reasons. First, the number of feathers in a fan can represent family members. Secondly, the fans are specifically made for individuals. This fan is 22” and is made with hawk feathers. Some peyote fans are made with eagle feathers, macaw, scissortail and even roadrunner feathers. This fan may have been used while cedaring or blessing a person. In effect, the fan brushes away evil spirits. This all takes place during the ceremony.

This Kiowa fan has a buckskin handle and the feathers are partially beaded with the colored glass beads. This bead pattern is consistent to Kiowa and other Plains styles. Beadwork patterns vary from regions and tribes. This fan was likely made before the 1940’s, since it was cataloged in the museum collection in 1952. During that time period, the peyote cult was highly controversial and illegal in the United States. Native Americans were also facing other obstacles in that time period. Since the turn of the 20th century, the Kiowa tribe has resided in Oklahoma due to the Indian Removal Acts. In 1993 the Religious Freedom Act was reinstated. Now, the Native American Church and tribal followers legally consume peyote for religious purposes. Today, there are an estimated 250,000 to 400,00 members of the church.

[Alana Cox]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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