For generations the Kiowa Tribe has gathered cedar for ceremonies and prayed on Longhorn Mountain south of Gotebo, Oklahoma. These practices are now in serious jeopardy as efforts to mine gravel out of the mountain threaten to reduce the mountain to rubble.
“This is where we always come,” said tribal historian Phil Dupoint. “This is where our elders used to come. Maybe they were searching for some kind of power… They would go to Longhorn and different places in the area.”
The mountain being in jeopardy can be traced back to the creation of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Reservation through the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, which placed the tribes’ reservation in southwest Oklahoma, where Longhorn Mountain is. By 1901, the Jerome Agreement opened the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Reservation to non-Indian settelement, after the KCA familes were allotted 160 acres each.
Sections of the mountain were allotted to Kiowa families, but those lands were eventually sold to non-Indians—five non-Indian families currently own the Longhorn Mountain area. It is through what Dupoint refers to as a “gentleman’s agreement” that the Kiowa have entered the mountain on the east side to gather cedar.
Mining was scheduled to begin on the west side of the mountain this past summer but has been stalled. A blasting permit was issued by the Oklahoma Department of Mines to the Material Service Corporation, according to Amie Tah-Bone, the Kiowa Museum director. Rock crushing activities will then be under the supervision of Stewart Stone, based out of Cushing, Oklahoma. Calls placed to the Oklahoma Department of Mines and to Stone have not been returned.
“It’s a hard and complex situation,” said Tah-Bone. “We’re at a disadvantage. It’s not trust land. It’s not federal land. It’s privately owned land, and we don’t have a right to it. We thank the people on the eastern side for their generosity in letting us have access to it. They could throw us in jail for trespassing, but they don’t. We are working on it… and doing everything we can think of to stop it. It might take some time. We want people to know we’re doing the best that we can.”
Previous attempts to purchase the land have not been successful. For now, efforts to halt construction rest with those who hold the surface and mineral rights to the mountain—the landowners—and those who are spiritually connected to the mountain.
Tulsa, Oklahoma-based photographer Phillip Baily has now put his stamp on the fight for Longhorn Mountain. On September 27, he posted a documentary about the mountain possibly being mined for gravel on YouTube.
“The Kiowa are a proud people with some of the most beautiful traditions and honorable ceremonies in Oklahoma,” the documentary declares in the beginning. “These cultural traditions and ceremonies as well as Kiowa spiritual well-being in general are in jeopardy as the cedar, which is central to their ceremonies and provides spiritual uplift, is unique to this one location.”
That cedar grows on Longhorn Mountain and will be gone if the gravel mining is allowed to go forward.
According to the documentary, the mountain also holds a cave of important historical value. It is said to have Kiowa pictographs on its walls and the documentary details a unique practice where Kiowa men would lure eagle to the cave entrance with meat, then hide in the cave and wait. When the eagle would swoop down to eat the meat, the man would grab it by its feet, pluck whatever feathers they needed and release it.
The documentary features Baily’s photography of the area and interviews with local Kiowa people and farmers, none of which support the mining project.
Ronnie and Harriot Sloane are farmers in the area and neither of them want to see the mining either. Harriot has Kiowa ancestry and Ronnie doesn’t see the need for another crusher to come to Oklahoma.
“Wind mills over there, rock crushers over there, this is one of the few natural mountains we got left, they claim they got 100 years of rock left in that crusher over there… so I really don’t see the need for one here,” Ronnie says in the documentary.
He’s referring to Unap Mountain, which is only about one mile from Longhorn Mountain is currently being mined for limestone.
“I think the mountain would serve people better than the rock would,” Ronnie says.
There is still a petition on Change.org asking Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to stop the project. The petition has garnered more than 2,300 signatures to date. As reported online at StateImpact on September 16, no mining has yet started on Longhorn Mountain.
By ICTMN Staff
Longhorn Mountain, a documentary by Phillip Baily posted at YouTube by PhillipBPhotography
Longhorn is the most sacred of all places to the Kiowa people of Oklahoma and if plans to blow up and mine the mountain for limestone go forward it will soon be destroyed.
The Kiowa are a proud people with some of the most beautiful traditions and honorable ceremonies in Oklahoma. These cultural traditions and ceremonies as well as Kiowa spiritual well-being in general are in jeopardy as the cedar, which is central to their ceremonies and provides spiritual uplift, is unique to this one location.
The Kiowa say God led them to Longhorn Mountain and to use its cedar. They say it possesses a uniquely aromatic fragrance with exceptionally potent healing and purifying properties.
The loss of the mountain would be devastating to Kiowa culture and spirituality as Longhorn Mountain cedar is used in all aspects of Kiowa life. All Kiowa societies, such as the Black Leggings Warrior Society, Ohoma Lodge, and Gourd Dance Societies utilize the smoking of the cedar in their ceremonies. It also plays a prominent role in Kiowa Native American Church services and all night prayer gatherings. Traditional Kiowa households also have it on hand to attend to their daily needs as they have for generations.
The Kiowa have been going to Longhorn since the 1700’s. Generations of Kiowa medicine men have gone to Longhorn to pray, conduct vision quests, and gather medicine. Some without heirs to their healing powers are said to have also left their spiritual “medicine” to the mountain.
The local farmers around the mountain, many of which have lived there for generations since the early 1900’s, do not want the rock crushing to begin either as they fear for their livestock’s health as limestone dust adversely affects grass and wears down cattle’s teeth. The farmers also fear the negative health effects that breathing the dust will have upon them and their children and grandchildren.
None of them want to see the mountain’s beauty blighted by having it partially pulverized and hauled away. It is one of last natural mountains left in the area as all around are mountains with huge wind farms or mining operations. The farmers are not happy that it will also reduce their property value. Apparently, the only ones who want the mining or will benefit from it in the area are the ones leasing and mining the land.
The use of explosives on the mountain would also likely destroy a chambered cave with important historical value. The cave is said to have either ancient Kiowa pictographs or petroglyphs on its walls and said to be the place of a unique practice among the Kiowa where men would lure eagles to the cave entrance by placing meat there and then hiding in the cave would grab the eagle by its feet when it landed to get the meat. Thereupon they would pluck a couple tail feathers or so as they needed before releasing them.
Just about one mile to the west of Longhorn is another mountain called Unap, which is being mined for limestone as it has been for several decades now and which some estimate still has another hundred years worth of mining left. So is another limestone quarry really needed right next door on an irreplaceable mountain with supreme spiritual and cultural significance to the Kiowa?
The Stewart Stone Rock Crushing Company of Cushing is scheduled to start mining the western part of the mountain beginning in late summer or early autumn 2013. If this occurs the loss to Kiowa culture will be devastating, a valuable piece of Oklahoma history and beauty will be lost forever, and farmers in the area will be saddened as their health, and grazing land is adversely affected.
Those who would like to help may call the Kiowa Tribe Museum at (580) 654-2300 extension 366 or 370.
Kiowa Gourd Dance music courtesy of Indian House Music.
Background Music to interviews courtesy of Kevin MacLeod.
Track names listed at end of film.
Photography © Phillip Baily, All rights reserved.