The Crow, both literally and metaphorically, is an instrumental and profound symbol to many Native American nations, including the Kiowa tribe. Crow and its natural color of black are representative of attributes of change, power, and wisdom.
Crows and ravens have distinctive qualities that lend themselves to folklore from around the world, and they are often symbolized as creatures that bring death. To understand how this may relate to the Kiowa people, you must understand how death is interpreted—as change and transcendence—as old thoughts and perspectives can “die,” they give way to new life and new beliefs.
Such as other cultural beliefs, traditional Native American people believe that death is not permanence, and change is embraced. Crows will often be represented as the animal which can fly between two worlds: the present one and the one beyond.
Crow has special significance when it makes an appearance in the creation myth of the Kiowa people. Crow as spirit messenger informs the people about the powers of the sun. A sacred bundle, which can be comprised of objects, herbs, and earth elements, was created to honor the importance of Crow’s teachings of the sun.
The teachings and the bundle evolved into a sacred ceremony, known as the “Sun Dance.” The Sun Dance is the most powerful ritual of the tribes from the plains, including Kiowa. This ritual, though thought to have been outlawed and banned more than one hundred years ago, is still practiced among tribes today on an annual basis and can last several days. The Sun Dance is performed for a variety of reasons: to honor the ancestors, to ask the Creator for guidance, to restore community, to be of service, and to create needed change.
In addition, the Crow nation people are closely tied to the Kiowa nation, which might explain an added significance or the symbolism of Crow and “crow medicine.” As the story goes, in the 1700s, an Arapaho man married into the Kiowa tribe and had been previously been given a talisman from the Crow called “Tai-me.” The Arapaho man subsequently made two other effigies, though through feuding and wars with neighboring Utes and Osages, two were stolen. The last remaining Tai-me was recorded to be kept by a Kiowa woman in the late 1800s. The keeper of Tai-me would officiate the ritual at the beginning of the Sun Dance.
Crow nation and Crow "medicine" are important to the Kiowa, both literally and symbolically.