Doc was such a nice man. A pleasure to be around and always had many wonderful stories to share. Doc would play his flute during quiet moments at calendar signings or shows. It is “without question” the most beautiful flute music I have ever heard. I can close my eyes and still hear him playing.
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Oklahoma Historical Society’s
Encyclopedia of History and Culture
JOYCE LEE “DOC” TATE NEVAQUAYA
A noted Comanche artist and American Indian flute player Doc Tate Nevaquaya was born to Lean and Victoria Tate Nevaquaya July 3, 1932, in Apache, Oklahoma. Orphaned at fourteen, he resided at the Fort Sill Indian School in Lawton, receiving a high school diploma in 1951. In 1951 and 1952 he attended Haskell Indian Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. A self-taught artist, flutist, composer, dancer, lecturer, and Methodist lay minister, Nevaquaya gave numerous flute and art workshops throughout the United States, including classes at Brigham Young University (1972) and Georgetown University (1974). He made more than twenty-five television appearances, on shows televised nationally and by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Nevaquaya’s skills in the traditional arts were often featured in national and state observances. The Smithsonian Institution commissioned him to participate in the Comanche Tu-Wee Dance in Washington, D.C. (1970), play the flute on a Goodwill Tour of England (1970), design and paint a Comanche shield to honor the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery (1973), play the flute at the National Folk Festival (1973), and record Comanche Flute Music for Folkways Records (1979). He was commissioned by the Oklahoma Diamond Jubilee to design two coins (1982), and by the Oklahoma Arts Council to compose and perform Flight of the Spirit at Oklahoma State Capitol (1991). He played flute at the Night of the First Americans, held at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. (1982), at the United Nations Mission, New York (1985), at the Codetalkers Decoration Ceremony, Oklahoma State Capitol (1989), and at Carnegie Hall in New York (1990).
Nevaquaya held many memberships. He was a founding member of the American Indian Arts Association, the American Indian Cultural Society, the Oklahoma Indian Mission Arts and Crafts Organization, and Southwestern Indian Arts and Crafts, Inc. He was also a member of the Oklahoma Indian Art League and the University of Oklahoma Board of Visitors (1994).
Among numerous recognitions that came to him were six Grand Awards and the Outstanding Indian Artists Award from Southwestern State College in Weatherford (1969); Indian of the Year award from Oscar Rose Junior College, Midwest City (1975); Outstanding Citizen of Diamond Jubilee Heritage Week from the Apache Chamber of Commerce (1982); the LaDonna Harris Award from Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity (1986); and a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1986); and the Artist of the West Award at the American Indian and Cowboy Artists National Western Art Exhibition in San Dimas, California (1994). The Governor’s Arts Award named him an Oklahoma Treasure in 1995.
Nevaquaya married Charlotte Jereaux Foraker, and they had nine children. A Methodist and Democrat, he lived on his family’s land allotment near Apache until his death from a heart attack on March 5, 1996, in Lawton. His sons have carried on his legacy as artists, flute players, and/or dancers.
SEE ALSO: FOLK MUSIC, FOLKLIFE, MUSIC–AMERICAN INDIAN, TRADITIONAL ARTS–AMERICAN INDIAN.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Paula Conlon, “Doc Tate Nevaquaya: Master Comanche Artist and Flute Player” [Manuscript], 2002. Patrick D. Lester, The Biographical Directory of Native American Painters (Tulsa: SIR Publications, 1995). Doc Tate Nevaquaya: In the Realm of the Thirteen Feathers (Oklahoma City: Red Earth, Inc., 2001). Doc Tate Nevaquaya: Portrait of an Oklahoma Treasure (Norman: University of Oklahoma School of Music, Center for Music Television, 2002).
© Oklahoma Historical Society
Finer quality gouache painting on artist’s board by Doc Tate Nevaquaya (Comanche, 1932-1996). Doc Tate’s works are usually single figures against an open ground without the landscape detail this piece has. A flautist himself, Tate painted this piece sometime in the 1970’s.
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DOC TATE NEVAQUAYA
FUNERAL SERVICES HELD
Funeral services for Doc Tate Nevaquaya, 63, of Apache, were conducted Thursday, March 7, 1996, at 1:00 p.m. at the Ft. Sill Indian School Gymnasium, Lawton, with the Rev. Ronnie Simmons, officiating. A prayer service was held at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at the United Methodist Church of Apache with the Rev. Andy Kamphuis and the Rev. George Montanan, officiating.
Nevaquaya died Tuesday, March 5, 1996, at a Lawton hospital, after suffering a massive heart attack Monday. A full-blooded Comanche, Doc was born July 3, 1932 in Apache, Oklahoma. His parents died eight months apart when he was 13 and he spent his teenage years living with his grandparents, listening to the stories of the tribal elders.
His oldest brother, who was working, assumed the role of a motivating parent. He brought home crayons and a tablet for Doc and encouraged him to draw the nearby Wichita Mountains — something his teachers didn’t approve of. Ironically, at Fort Sill Indian School where Doc was a student, government policies forbidding portrayals of Indian culture was “pagan” had been reversed. Traditional Indian art was then a part of the curriculum, and students were discouraged from pursuing other areas like landscape painting. So Doc avoided taking art classes in school. He wanted to be free from that, to paint what he felt within. Whenever he got a chance, he would sketch the rugged Slick Hills by the farm, complete with rocks and cedars and horses which, for him, were a part of the landscape. At that same time, Doc went out of his way to view all the traditional art that he could, and contributed his own artwork to posters and the school yearbook.
After graduating from high school, he began sketching at home. Doc exhibited and sold his first work at Indian City in Anadarko.
During the 1950s he began to concentrate on painting. After that he became an accomplished painter, winning numerous awards for his work. Art critic Ralph Oliver said his works were “characterized by amazing technical control, exquisite color and a mastery of detail:’
It was also during the 1950s that Doe first became interested in Indian flutes. In the 1960s he began researching the Indian flute in earnest. Because none of the Indian music is written, much of it is lost. Doc researched the flute construction and playing techniques at the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution collections and had copies of recordings made in the late 1800s by elders of various tribes. He often listened to them while he painted and based his music on the recordings.
Doc Tate Nevaquaya brought national honor to the state of Oklahoma in 1986, by becoming the first Oklahoman to win the National Heritage Fellowship Award. Given by the National Endowment for the Arts, the award honored Doc as a “flutist and master of traditional arts.” He was equally well-known for his paintings.
The following are credits or accomplishments:
1995— Was named National Living Treasure, and received award by Gov. Keating; Honorary Cultural Director of the American Indian Cultural Society, Inc., Norman; served on the Board of Directors for the Fine Ants Department at the University of Oklahoma, Norman.
1994 — Elected to the College of Fine Arts Board of Visitors, University of Oklahoma, Norman; The Doe Tate Nevaquaya Scholarship Fund in the College of Fine Arts was established by American Indian Cultural Society, Inc. through the University of Oklahoma Foundation, Inc. to be available to deserving American Indian students; selected “1994 Artist of the West” by The 18th Annual National Western Art Exhibition and Sale, San Dimas, California.
1993 — Named “The Honored One” and Parade Marshall for the Red Earth Festival, OKC.
1992 — Ambassador and Parade Marshall for 61st Annual American Indian Exposition, Anadarko; Juried, The Trail of Tears an All Indian Art Competition, Tahlequah; Juried, The Seminole Nation Art Competition, Orlando, Florida; “700 Club”, spoke on behalf of American Indian people.
1991 — Commissioned by the Oklahoma State Arts Council to compose the song “Flight of the Spirit” in honor of the five Native American Ballerinas at the dedication ceremony, Historic Mural Great Rotunda, Oklahoma State Capitol, OKC; Board of Director and founding member of the American Indian Cultural Society, Inc., Norman; Performed at Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada.
1990— Doe was named “A Living Legend” along with six other Indian Artists; performed at Carnegie Hall, New York City, N.Y.
1989 — Doe opened the archery competition of the U.S. Olympic Festival in Norman, with a flute song.
1988— Performed at United Nations Mission, New York City.
1987 — Doc’s art was listed as Best Investments for 1987.
1986 — The Comanche Tribe of 3klahoma proclaimed the second Friday in October as “Doe Tate Nevaquaya” Day; received the National Endowment Heritage Award for his contribution to the Native American Art forms; received special recognition from Oklahoma State Art Council; Gov. George Nigh; Senator David Boren and a letter from President Ronald Reagan; Master’s Artist Award, Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma; Grand Award Winner, Trail of Tears All Indian Art Competition in Tahlequah.
1982— Performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for Night of the First Americans;, with Loretta Lynn, Wayne Newton and Sammy Davis Jr; Listed in the Renowned Artist in the U.S.; Listed in Who’s Who Among American Indians.
1979— Production of an Album of Flute Music, Folklore Music Co., New York City.
1975 — Selected as a famous Oklahoman and name included in the honor list displayed in the Fidelity Bank, OKC; selected by Governor Boren as Artist of the Month, State of Oklahoma; selected by Governor Boren to direct an All Indian Art Show to celebrate Governor’s inauguration; performed with Freddy Fender, Mel Tillis and Roy Clark at the Roy Clark Ranch, Tulsa; Diamond Jubilee Heritage Week Outstanding Citizen, Apache Chamber of Commerce; recipient of the key to the city of Weatherford, along with Astronaut Allen Shepard; artist of a book cover “Komantica” by Harold Keith; lectured in Indian Boarding Schools and Public Schools of Oklahoma.
1970— “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” interviewed for TV Documentary; he was included in a program on British Television and at Expo ‘70 in Japan.
1968-69-70 — Winner of the Grand Award for three consecutive years at the American Indian Exposition, Anadarko.
Nevaquaya’s works are included in the personal collections of Queen Elizabeth II of England and the late actor Vincent Price.
Survivors include his wife, Charlotte, of the home; five sons, Lean of Ft. Worth, Edmond, Timothy, Joseph and Calvert, all of Apache; four daughters, Jereaux Nevaquaya of Apache, Amanda Sue Bordeaux of Rosebud, S.D., Ioycetta Harris of Stroud, and Sonya Reyes of Apache; 17 grandchildren; one great-grandchild; one brother, Bernard Tate Nevaquaya of Indiahoma and one sister, Greta Logan of Shawnee. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lean and Victoria Nevaquaya and two brothers, Malcolm Nevaquaya and Edward Parker.
Burial was in Cache Creek Indian Cemetery under the direction of Crews Funeral Home.