A battle tepee that figures prominently in the long-lost silent film The Daughter of Dawn was itself thought to be long gone, but it turns out it was never missing at all.
In the film, it's the tepee belonging to the family of Dawn, played by Esther LeBarre, according to Matt Reed, curator of the American Indian Collections at the Oklahoma Historical Society.
"What's interesting about it is it's a traditional design that had been with the Kiowas since 1840-43," Reed said.
The design was first given to Dohausen by the Cheyenne chief whose daughter he married. Dohausen was chief of the Kiowas from the 1830s to his death in 1866, and this was apparently the only time in their history that the Kiowas had an actual chief.
For as long as he lived, Dohausen had a new tepee made every year with this design, which belonged exclusively to him. At his death, the design passed to his son. As the buffalo died out and times got tough, the son was able to have new tepees made only periodically, and they had to be made from canvas instead of buffalo hide.
The Kiowa name for this type of tepee is fo-gya-goot, literally "dwelling with marks or paintings that tell a story" but translated by anthropologists as "tepee with battle pictures," Reed said.
James Mooney, an anthropologist knowledgeable in pictographs, helped the younger Dohausen build some models for the Smithsonian. This awakened interest among the nephews, who decided to make one last tepee with the old design.