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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Kiowa beadwork artist Vanessa Paukeigope Santos was born on October 5, 1952, in Tempe, Arizona, to Clifford Santos, of the Gila River Pima tribe, and LaQuinta Mopope, a Kiowa. Mopope worked as a nurse for the Indian Health Service. She had little time to care for her daughter after her husband was disabled in a rodeo accident. Vanessa Santos was the oldest granddaughter of Stephen Mopope, one of the Kiowa Five artists. When she was young, her maternal grandmother Jeanette Berry Mopope took her to live near Anadarko, Oklahoma. At a young age her grandmother taught her beadwork and other Kiowa traditional arts.

Santos attended Lawton High School. As a teenager she won awards for her handmade traditional clothing that she wore at powwows and intertribal festivals. In 1970 Vanessa Santos married Robert E. Morgan in Lawton. They had three children, including two sons, Gabriel Pokeitay Morgan and Seth Mopope Morgan, who produce traditional crafts as ledger artists and pipe makers. After the Morgan marriage dissolved, she married Carl Garland Jennings in 1995.

Vanessa Jennings is nationally and internationally recognized for her clothing designs and beadwork used in making headdresses, leggings, moccasins, and cradleboards. She is considered one of the last active makers of Kiowa cradle boards. Her works have been widely exhibited. In Oklahoma her beadwork and cradleboards have been displayed at the Red Earth Center in Oklahoma City, the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, the Western History and Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman, and the Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton. Her works are exhibited at the National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington, D.C., the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, and the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. She has received international attention with some of her dresses on display in England and Scotland.

She has received numerous awards and honors. In 1989 she was recognized as a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. At that time she was the third Oklahoman to win that award. In May 1993 she received the Red Earth Festival’s President’s Award. Eleven years later she received the highest accolade of “Honored One” at the Red Earth Festival. She has garnered various awards at the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Indian Market in 1997, 2003, 2010, and 2016.

In the twenty-first century Vanessa Jennings continued to live on land allotted to her family in the nineteenth century. She offered free instruction to anyone who wanted to learn the craft of Kiowa cradleboards. Jennings remained active as a public speaker on topics relating to the Kiowa culture.

Linda D. Wilson


Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings, interview by Julie Pearson-Little Thunder, 14 April 2016, Spotlighting Oklahoma Oral History Project, Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings, “Why I Make Cradles,” in Gifts of Pride and Love: Kiowa and Comanche Cradles, ed. Barbara A. Hail (Bristol, R.I: Brown University, 2000).

“Vanessa Paukeigope Morgan,” in Kristin G. Congdon and Kara Kelley Hallmark, eds., American Folk Art: A Regional Reference, Vol. 2 (Santa Barabara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2012).

Michael Sherfy, “Jennings, Vanessa,” in Gretchen M. Bataille and Laurie Lisa, Morgan, eds., Native American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Routledge, 2001).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “Jennings, Vanessa Paukeigope Santos Morgan,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=JE012.

Published October 16, 2023

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