Between 1934 and 1943, the federal government commissioned more than 1,400 murals and sculptures for display in post offices across the country. Kiowa artist Stephen Mopope received a commission to decorate the newly-built post office at Anadarko, Oklahoma in 1936. He created sixteen extraordinary murals depicting traditional Kiowa lifeways. One of just a handful of New Deal-era murals painted by Indian artists, the Anadarko post office cycle is widely regarded as one of the earliest and best-preserved examples of modern American Indian art.
Kiowas Moving Camp, a painting from the west wall of the post office lobby, was reproduced on a postage stamp in 2019. It shows a family group moving south for the winter on horseback, following the bison herds. Mother and daughter drag their disassembled tepee behind them, while a young boy is in charge of additional lodgepoles. Plains Indian tepees were portable. When disassembled, two lodgepoles could be lashed together to form a kind of sled that would carry the bundle of animal skins that formed the outer fabric of the dwelling.
Seasonal migrations within a traditional homeland were a common feature of American Indian life. Cleared areas were preferred for farming season, while more heavily forested areas afforded opportunities for hunting and gathering firewood in winter. The timing of these migrations were often dictated by the patterns of the deer, elk, and bison who provided food and clothing. Rotating between two, three, or more settlement sites in a year was common.
One of Mopope’s other murals from this cycle is explored in the NPM online exhibition Indians at the Post Office here: Two Eagle Dancers
Mopope’s study for this mural is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum here: Kiowas Moving Camp
The Post Office Murals stamps were issued April 2, 2019 in Piggott, Arkansas.