Within Each Sunset by Cheryl Davis
I created “Within Each Sunset” to honor my dear Comanche friend and fellow artist, George “Woogie” Watchetaker. I wrote the following as a companion to the painting:
His path was not without struggle.
But his keen-eyed spirit always saw the better parts.
My friend is seeing a new dawn now.
He dances before the creator.
I catch glimpses of him in the brilliant colors of every sunset…
and in the midst of every grand scene of nature and life.
And I look to my own new dawn, when we will once again dance together.
Woogie was of the Comanche Tribe and was a Chief, not by election but by stature; he was a Spiritual Leader; he was a medicine man; rain maker; Indian flute maker and flute player; artist; a seven-time national champion and three-time world champion Fancy War Dancer; singer and a good friend to all who met or knew him.
Woogie had a very distinct style as a dancer. He once told me he didn’t go for all the modern “fancy feathers & frills” that a lot of young dancers wear. He said he liked to stay more traditional and that he danced “strong.” He flexed as he spoke. Woogie liked to impress the ladies. Many say to this day that Woogie was the best dancer they had ever seen. He was certainly the best I ever saw. He was so quick on his feet and danced with great power, but it was the way Woogie would glide around the dance arena that kept those who watched in awe. Woogie always encouraged the young Indian people to dance and practice their culture because the are the ones who will be called upon to carry the Indian culture on. Woogie was the first Native American to dance before Congress at the United States Capital in Washington, DC. He danced for two (2) United States Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. In 1970 Woogie, along with is friend and Comanche brother, Doc Tate Nevequaya, toured Europe. They gave a Royal Command Performance before the Queen of England. She was so impressed by them, that she knighted them.
In addition to dancing, Woogie was an artist. He began painting in the 1930′s. He never went to art school but was encouraged by other Native Americans and their art. Woogie painted the old two dimensional style with his paintings reflecting Comanche stories. Painting was Woogie’s way of leaving the Comanche history with us for years to come. He was one of the few traditional artists left and his style of painting has become a lost art today. His paintings hang in many galleries and private collections around the world.
Woogie was a man who respected Mother Earth and as a medicine man found his cures for everything from her. He used plants, roots and herbs to help the people who would come from long distances. There is an old saying that the farther you travel, the stronger the medicine. Woogie’s medicine was powerful but it had nothing to do with the distance you traveled. The power came from deep within him. He was a very spiritual man. Woogie loved the creatures of this earth as well. He had the rare ability to communicate with the creatures of the earth, which is and will remain a mystery to many.
In 1971 Woogie was called to Wichita Falls, Texas to bring rain to drought stricken areas and rain always came within minutes after his dance and tobacco ceremony. In the summer of 1982, one of the hottest, driest summers on record, he broke a drought in Pompano Beach, Florida where it had not rained for two months. The temperature had soared into the hundreds day after day. An eye-witness recalled:
We were all getting pretty edgy. The merchants at the Sher-Den Mall decided to seize the moment. They hired a rainmaker in Oklahoma to come down and do a rain dance. They publicized it in the newspaper and on TV: “come to Sher-Den Mall this Saturday morning at 11:00 o’clock and see Mr. Woogie Watchetaker perform an authentic Indian rain dance.” When the time came the parking lot was full! There was a carnival atmosphere in the air. Most doubted and did not believe the old Comanche Indian could make it rain. They laughed at the thought. Sure enough, at 11:00 o’clock Woogie Watchetaker made his way through the crowd. He was dressed to the nines, I guess you could say. He had more feathers and beads; and the finest pair of moccasins you could imagine. When he got to the center of the crowd, he stopped. The folks backed away to give him plenty of room.
He mumbled some sort of incantation, then started to dance. He sang as he danced, twisting and turning as he moved about in a circle. Every once in a while he looked up at the heavens and gestured but, for the most part, he kept his head bowed to the ground in reverence. His feet never stopped moving. I don’t know how long the dance lasted, as we were all mesmerized – maybe ten to fifteen minutes. We gave him a polite round of applause and went home. As far as we were concerned it was back to business as usual. Only continued drought conditions were forecast, with no rain in sight. And yet, that night we heard the sound of thunder. And it started to rain… and rain it did for three days.
In 1993 Woogie returned to South Florida to bless a Powwow. While there, it rained for four days which prompted the Seminoles to say that all Woogie had to do was raise his arms to the heavens because he was so close to the Great Spirit and the Great Spirit would make it rain. Charles Banks Wilson, a great artist who authored “In Search of the Pure Bloods” did a sketch of Woogie and called him “The Rain Maker.” He also sketched Eva, Woogie’s wife, and called her “The Woman Who Sings the Old Songs.” When Woogie would show up at Powwows and it would start raining, with tongue in cheek and a smile they would always say, “Woogie, GO HOME!”
Many people have said that Woogie was one who had a special connection to the Great Spirit; all he had to do was raise his arms to the heavens and the Spirit would listen. In his latter years he became the spiritual leader of the Comanche Tribe. With his Eagle Feathers and his Sacred Smoke he was called on from around the country to bless many activities and participators.
In 1993 Woogie passed on and five days later his bride, Eva Tooahimpah, joined him at his side.
Woogie’s name means “hide-real-good,” which his paternal great-grandmother earned when she hid from soldiers by staying beneath a buffalo robe to escape certain death.
The Watchetakers were members of what was knows as the wildest band of Comanches in the pre-reservation days, and the last band to surrender the Kwee-ha-ree-nee or “Antelope” band. However, Woogie’s mother was a member of what was the most numerous and northernmost band of Comanches, the Yamparika or “root-eaters.” They were the last group to break off from the parent Shoshone nation in Colorado.
The Comanches named their bands for their preferences in food. Woogie’s wife, Eva, was a member of the Penatakes or “Honey-Eaters.” They were in the cross timbers and upper Texas hill country, the closest Comanches to white settlement.
- George “Woogie” Watchetaker (March 1, 1916 – May 27, 1993)
- Eva (Tooahimpah) Watchetaker (December 15, 1905 – June 3, 1993)
Buried together at: Otipoby Cemetery, Fort Sill, Oklahoma