|Native American Stories and Songs
John Kionut / Caddo from Fort Cobb, Oklahoma
John Kionut sits in a wheelchair in what was once his father’s home outside of Fort Cobb, Oklahoma. The wheelchair is a result of an injury he received in WWII. Although the injury restricts his movement, it certainly doesn’t stop him. John was born in 1924 and is in his seventies. He is an active, intelligent member of his Caddo community. In his home, sitting on the head of a large drum, is a picture of his father who is reported to have lived into his 120th year.
During the recording session John sings with his wife, Martha, who is a university student and photographer. Together they are very involved in the Native American Church and hold services on their land.
John Kionut is the last Caddo alive to speak all four dialects of the original Caddo language. He also speaks 14 other languages fluently, although he says he is beginning to lose some of them because there is no one left to talk to.
As early as 1947, John fought the US government for rights to health care. He has many times since stood publicly in Washington, DC, to preserve and protect the religious and other rights of Native Americans. When the Spanish first met the Caddo people as early as the mid 1500’s, they found a highly civilized and organized nation of people that were friendly and lived well. They farmed the lands and lived in permanent cities. These cities included cone-shaped dwellings that were thatched with grass over poles. The houses sometimes stood as high as 40 feet.
The homes surrounded large mounds that were temple mounds. Their society, like many others, was matrilineal, with the lineage traced through the mothers. Originally, the Caddo people occupied parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas along the Red River. The creation stories and oral traditions report that the first Caddo man and woman rose from the ground near the Red River. The man carried a pipe and the woman had seeds of corn. The name Caddo comes from the term Kado-hadacho that means “real chiefs.”
Sample currently unavailable
This is a memorial to John's father. Beautiful drum.