Published on May 31, 2014 by Amy
James Auchiah (1906–1974) was a Kiowa painter and one of the Kiowa Five from Oklahoma.
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James Auchiah was born on 17 November 1906 in Oklahoma Territory, near present day Meers and Medicine Park, Oklahoma. His Kiowa name was Tsekoyate, meaning “Big Bow”. His father was Mark Auchiah, and his grandfathers were Chief Satanta and Red Tipi, a medicine man, bundle keeper and ledger artist, respectively.
Auchiah first studied art at St. Patrick’s Indian Mission School in Anadarko, Oklahoma, under Sister Olivia Taylor, a Choctaw nun. His love for art was such that in elementary school, he was caught painting in class. As a punishment, the teacher made him finish his painting instead of eating dinner. The young Auchiah said that was fine with him, as he told his teacher, “I would rather paint than eat.”
The field matron for the Kiowa agency, Susan Peters arranged for Mrs. Willie Baze Lane, an artist from Chickasha, Oklahoma to provide further art instruction for the young Indians, including Auchiah. Recognizing the talent of some of the young artists, Peters convinced Swedish-American artist, Oscar Jacobson, director of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Art to accept the Kiowa students into a special program at the school.
The Kiowa Five, now increasingly known as the Kiowa Six, included six artists: Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Smoky and Monroe Tsatoke. James Auchiah was the last to join the group at OU in 1926.
The Kiowa Five’s first major breakthrough into international fine art world was the 1928 First International Art Exposition in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Dr. Jacobson arranged for their work to be shown in several other countries and for Kiowa Art, a portfolio of pochoir prints and artists’ paintings, to be published in France.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Auchiah painted murals at the Oklahoma Historical Society, St. Patrick’s Mission School, and the United States Department of the Interior.
As his art progressed, he incorporated more imagery from the Native American Church, of which he was a leader. His work became more stylized, symbolic, and visionary.
He joined the US Coast Guard during World War II. Later he taught art and was an illustrator for the US Department of the Interior. Auchiah also worked at the US Army Artillery and Missile Center Museum in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was a curator there.