Comanche artist and flute player Doc Tate Nevaquaya (1932-1996) played a crucial role in the rejuvenation of traditional Native American flute playing. When the original courting function of the Plains flute was no longer part of their everyday lives, this aspect of Native oral tradition was in danger of dying out. Doc Tate Nevaquaya recognized the need to resurrect the old songs, formerly handed down by example and imitation, before the flute players who knew the songs passed away. He dedicated himself to preserving traditional Plains flute music, giving lecture-recitals to both Native ]and non-native audiences. His seminal 1979 recording, Comanche Flute Music Played by Doc Tate Nevaquaya, has been re-released as a CD by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW CD 50403,.

Paula Conlon is writing Doc Tate Nevaquaya’s biography under contract with the University of Oklahoma Press. This research focuses on Doc Tate’s contributions from different people’s perspectives, based primarily on interviews with his family, friends and colleagues. It will examine the legacy that Doc Tate left behind, such as his teaching four of his sons to play and make flutes, all of whom now carry on their father’s mission by dedicating themselves to keeping the Native American flute tradition alive. The book also discusses the current transformation of the Native American flute from a private courtship ritual performed by young men to a more public expression of Native identity that no longer excludes female players.


Oklahoma Flute Circle, first Friday of each month at Jacobson House Native Art Center, 609 Chautauqua Avenue at corner of Boyd, Norman, Oklahoma, 7-9 PM; for further information please contact Paula Conlon (