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Check Out Katherine Dickerson’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katherine Dickerson.

Hi Katherine, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?

My name is Katherine (Kathy) Dickerson, Tahpomah is my Kiowa name. I am a member of the Kiowa Tribe, located in Oklahoma. Some of my lineages goes back to my great grandfather, Haungooah Silverhorn, who was famous for ledger drawings. I am also a descendant of Tongkeahma and Stumblingbear. Dohausan, Haungooah’s father was a principal chief of the Kiowa tribe.

My grandpa, James Silverhorn, was also a craftsman. Along with the artists Silverhorn and James Silverhorn, James’s brother, Dutch Silverhorn was a famous silversmith. my great uncle Max Silverhorn was noted for beading and feather work, which helped me become the artists I am today.

I was born in St. Louis and due to My mom’s need to be back among her family and Tribe, I was raised going between St. Louis and my tribal lands in Oklahoma. I have spent my entire life learning the crafts, culture, and history of the Kiowa tribe from family members, spending many hours in the backroom of museums. all this gave me the tools needed to become the talented artist, lecturer, Consultant, business owner and ON-AIR personality I am today. I brain my own hides, still, sew with sinew as they did in the past, it helps me keep much of my Arts and crafts as they were back in the 1800s and before.

My Radio Program is called Essence of the Tribes and airs every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm on KDHX 88.1fm St. Louis (or Livestream or archived on her show page). I go by KiowaKat on my radio show.

I am a lecturer/ demonstrator,
I use the hands-on approach most often. Letting all come up to see and feel the hides and items I use and make, my hides are made the way my ancestors did back in the 1800’s and before, meaning I still brain tan my hides, create my own rawhide, and sew with sinew. The bags, belts, beaded fans, beaded gourds, and footwear that I make are used in my presentations. I do enjoy keeping the Kiowa traditions alive, giving demonstrations and lectures in school and other gatherings ever since I attended grade school myself. My works have taken me to demonstrate on a few occasions for places such as the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indians, being a resident artist for the Eiteljorg Museum, shows at Southern Plains Museum and many other museums in the U.S., have also given lectures to all levels of school, from k- college Universities such as Washington University, Perdue and IUPUI, to name just a few.

At present, I have since taken my love of my culture, my artwork, and created my own Woman-owned/Minority business called Essence of the Plains. My company sells my and other Federally recognized American Indian Artists and craftsmen’s works. It seems to be a bit unique in being very much in support of the American Indian Artists. I am also back in Bacone college.

I have a loving and supporting husband of over 30 years Marvin Dickerson, 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I would have to say it has been as smooth as the Rocky Mountains. Spending most of my summers and quite a bit of the other season around my Kiowa family and other tribal members made me fully aware of my tribal blood, culture, religion, and art. This was a two-edged sword though. I fell in love with being Kiowa and all that this entails, My Grandfather James Silverhorn was a Roadman and an Artist. He lived and breathed Kiowa. My love of my grandfather, my Kiowa family, and my culture swept me up from my earliest days.

Being raised and Going to my first 8 years of school (Catholic) in a very proud Italian community in St. Louis, I was as aware of being different than everyone else as the kids and teachers around me were. The folks around me were mostly good-hearted though being different was always in the background. Some of my teachers like to use words that seared into my brain (savages and heathens to put a name to a couple) while trying to convert me from my “pagan“ beliefs and become a good catholic girl.

These things kept my childhood at a constant spin. It felt very much like I was being pulled apart in my mind. My love of my Kiowa family helped me through some very trying times. My high school years we not much different though spent at a different Catholic high school than most of my grade school classmates. I entered my first craft contest when I was seventeen. It was run by a group of non-Indian hobbyists who decided my work was so good that my adopted father must have done the work for me, basically calling me a fraud, then disqualified my entry. I was shocked as I went on, to find myself always up against non-Indians who made claims to a distant ancestor. Surprised to find people claiming to be American Indian just for profit hurt me deeply.

I knew a great many Indian artists that were excellent yet starving as they were fairly pushed aside as the much louder non-Indians hawked their wares with fake claims to being citizens of one tribe or another. It became obvious that we, the first people, were being overlooked, unimportant, even a burden. In places with little or no American Indian communities near them, we had already died off. When I read The Indian Arts and Crafts Act (Act) of 1990, I found my voice. I started standing up against Cultural Appropriation, truth in advertising. I found a great deal of anger from many of those that claimed to be American Indian without any proof of such.

My eyes were further opened when I found there to be quite a few American Indians that made their money using these cultural appropriators. Knowing why I started using my voice, I took the criticisms and the name-calling in stride. To this day, I stand for the rights of the American Indians to be heard and not forgotten regardless of those that would like to silence me.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My decision to become a full-time artist has led me down many paths. First and foremost, I am a Kiowa Artists, known for my Brain tanned hides, my 1800’s style arts and crafts, mainly my boots, leggings, moccasins, along with my beadwork.

This and my knowledge of culture have opened doors such as Lecturer, Demonstrator, Organizer, Radio programmer and on-air personality, Company owner, Activist, and Advocate. I am most proud of carrying on our traditions, feeling that I have added my voice to the unheard so maybe someday we will no longer be overlooked.

While what I do does seem to set me apart from others, there are many more like me out there, without maybe the support and drive to push forward as hard as it takes. Whatever the reason, I can only hope those of us with any voice will help pave the way for the rest.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
No matter what culture or race you come from, learn as much as you can from your elders. Learn the stories, the folklore, the language of your ancestors if you can, your family history. this gives you plenty of tools to use no matter what road you decide to take for your future. And once you sure of what direction you want, be determined and don’t let things take your eyes off the prize.


  • Prices vary on the ever-changing artwork I carry, $5.00 to quite a bit more than $5.00

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1 Comment

  1. Jeffery Williams

    March 8, 2023 at 11:55 pm

    Essence of the plants. Smudge sprite and one like blue want buy both

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