Silver Horn Calendar

Teachers Resource Site

This online exhibition and teacher resource features the calendar drawings of Kiowa artist and calendar-keeper Silver Horn. The images depict key events in the history of the Kiowa people between 1828 and the winter of 1928-29. The descriptions were prepared by Candace Greene, ethnologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

In the traditional Kiowa calendar, each year is represented by two images – one for the summer and one for the winter. The events depicted are agreed upon by tribal elders and drawn and maintained by designated tribal calendar-keepers, like Silver Horn. The calendar records were originally kept on hides or cloth, but eventually were copied into ledgers.

Silver Horn was born in 1860 (“The Summer That Bird Appearing was Killed,” according to his calendar). Both his father and older brother also were calendar-keepers for the tribe. He was a prolific artist, and created hundreds of drawings representing Kiowa history and tradition before his death in 1940.

This calendar was donated to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in 2001 from the estate of Nelia Mae Roberts, who ran an Indian trading post in Anadarko. The museum subsequently received a Save America’s Treasures Grant that provided for the conservation and restoration of the calendar’s fragile pages by a professional paper conservator. The process took over a year, and the restored pages went on display for the first time in the museum from May 1 through Aug. 23, 2009. For conservation reasons, the calendar has now been returned to the safety of the museum’s ethnology collections, but the images can still be viewed and studied through this online exhibition.

Only one other full Silver Horn calendar is known to exist today. It was created by Silver Horn in 1904 specifically for the archives of the Smithsonian Institution and covers the period from 1828 through 1904.