Many people throughout Indian country are highly skilled on the drum, with the flute or with the blues guitar. Thomas Mauchahty-Ware, 66, was gifted in all of these genres, and left this world on November 3, 2015.
Ware, Kiowa and Comanche, was born March 21, 1949 to Wilson and Pearl Pewo Ware. He began to dance at the same time as he could walk, and he was a lifelong member of the ceremonial organization O-Ho-Mah Lodge. He was also a lifetime member of Ware’s Chapel United Methodist Church.
From O-Ho-Mah Lodge elders, he learned the Kiowa war dance songs that belong to individual members and their extended families. Maxine Whitehorse Komah, Kiowa, remembers Ware being on the drum with her father, the O-Ho-Mah Lodge leader Mac Whitehorse.
“He was just a few years older than me,” Komah said. “They had singings all the time, everywhere, almost every week. We would go to different houses, and he always sat at the drum and learned with my dad. He learned those songs. He’s always been a part of O-Ho-Mah, ever since I could remember.”
For Komah, one of her fondest memories of Ware is when he sang as part of a dance program in Oklahoma City. Komah said that Ware saw her in the crowd, and he sang an O-Ho-Mah Lodge song that belongs to one of her sons.
“When you hear your loved one’s song like that, you want to thank the person,” Komah said.
At the age of 13, Ware received a guitar as a gift. It was an instrument that would take him into another direction—that of a blues guitarist and singer. In 1990, Ware formed Blues Nation, a group consisting of other Native blues artists. Terry Tsotigh, Kiowa, is a member of Blues Nation, playing both harmonica and drums. Like Ware, Tsotigh is also a straight dancer and plays flute.
“He was a blessed and talented individual,” Tsotigh said about Ware’s diverse musical abilities. “We all grew up—Natives around [Southwest Oklahoma]—around the powwows, around our elders that taught us. We listened, and we take it to heart… As young people, we grow up and we’re interested in other types of things like music, sports or whatever it is. We take that up too, along with our cultural upbringing.”
Ware found a common ground between cultures, especially among African Americans and Native people. Tsotigh said that one of Blues Nation’s songs showed this shared sense of struggle—“My People Have a Right to Sing the Blues.” Tsotigh explained Ware’s song by stating, “We all feel like that at times.” Their performances included venues in Germany, the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
In the 1970s, Ware recorded with Indian House Records of Taos, New Mexico. The earlier recordings were as part of O-Ho-Mah Lodge Singers—War Dance Songs of the Kiowa Volume 1 and 2, in 1975. In 1978, he recorded a solo project, Flute Songs of the Kiowa and Comanche. With this recording, Ware not only played traditional courting songs, but he also played instrumental flute versions of the Kiowa Flag Song and Comanche gospel hymns. Tony Isaacs, the owner of Indian House Records, respected how Ware remained true to his traditional and Western music interests, not blending the two together.
“For someone to have a blues band and, at the same time, follow his traditions, I thought was pretty cool,” Isaacs said. “A lot of Indian musicians who are in the modern field try to modernize the traditional. He didn’t do that. He would keep his Kiowa singing Kiowa, and the blues singing was a whole different ball game. He kept them separate. He didn’t try to bring one thing into the other.”
Ware was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Truman and Bill, his sister Tatoe and a granddaughter, Hannah Ziegenfuss. He is survived by his son Thomas Mauchahty-Ware III and his wife Wansey; daughters Laura Bryson, Magpie Casper, Jocelyn Clarene Ware and her companion Apache Jim Wetselline; sisters Francella Ware, Marie Ware and Clarissa Ware Shaw; 16 grandchildren and many nephews and nieces.
The Library of Congress features a video of him performing, which can be seen here.
Ware can be seen playing the flute during youth camp at the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma in 2009 below: