At a gathering in the Kiowa country between the Washita River and Fort Sill, almost half-a-century ago, a presentation was made.
It was made by Belo Cozad, Kiowa keeper of the sacred flute, to Woodrow Crumbo, a young Potawatomi artist.
Belo Cozad had studied at Carlisle at a time when Indian people were
being stringly urged not to be Indian – to reject their heritage.
Yet he strongly believed in keeping the old ceremonial ways. He
often spoke out to young men, urging them to preserve the Kiowa
traditions and honor their heritage. But not many of them did.
Crumbo, though Potawatomi, had many Kiowa friends, among them Scott
Tonemah, grandson of Stumbling Bear. The young Potawatomi
artist’s works were in the old tradition, and he was intensely
interested in keeping the old ways, preserving the ancient ceremonies.
Belo Cozad was so drawn to him that he presented to him the sacred,
cedar, Kiowa flute, with its strong power for good. The flute was
made in the ceremonial way, its four upper holes symbolizing the four
wind directions. Near its tip, a carved bird represents the
message which comes from the innermost being of the flute player as he
sends forth his song, through the flute, to the world.
After receiving the flute, recognition began to come to Woodrow
Crumbo. He, and Scott Tonemah, were invited to Wichita University
to perform ceremonial dances for Dr. Thurlow Lieurance. Dr.
Lieurance, internationally prominent musician and composer, had
immersed himself in Indian music. One of his most famous songs,
By the Waters of Minnetonka, comes from a Kiowa O-ho-ma song.
Over the years Woodrow Crumbo has become one of our nation’s
outstanding Indian artists (see his “Nighthawk Rider,” and “Peyote
Ceremony” in the Summer ’58 issue of Oklahoma Today). His
paintings are widely known and celebrated.
During the Kiowa Veteran’s Ceremonial at Anadarko this year, Woodrow
Crumbo returned the highly regarded flute, with the strong blessings it
implies, to the Kiowa people. Having now cared for the flute for
forty-four years, Crumbo presented it to young Kiowa Tommy Ware.
Present at the ceremony was Scott Tonemah, who witnessed the first
presentation forty-four years ago. The only other living witness
of that first ceremony is David Apekaum. He was ill this year,
and could not attend. Present to represent the O-ho-ma Society,
Mac Whitehorse: to represent the Gourd Clan, Taft Hainte:
Gus Palmer represented the Kiowa Veterans and the Tonkongo
Society: with Presley Ware, chairman, representing the Kiowa
We add our hope that the flute will be as meaningful in the life of
Tommy Ware as it has been for Woody Crumbo, and that its spirit will
help to keep our Kiowa people cohesive and strong.
Burchardt, Bill, The Kiowa Sacred Flute, Ilahoma Today, Spring: 5, 977