[This article is presented for educational purposes]

THE KIOWA SACRED FLUTE
Bill Burchardt



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 Tribal Council.

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.

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Burchardt, Bill, The Kiowa Sacred Flute, Ilahoma Today, Spring:  5, 977

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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