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Late in life, Virgie Raven Hawk was given the gift of flute. Now the spiritual leader shares her gift with others seeking the power and comfort it brings. Photo by Phil Houseal

Virgie Raven Hawk will perform and have a booth at Bandera Days in August. For information: vravenhawk@yahoo.com, 210-341-5823, 210-722-3627

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The gift of flute

by Phil Houseal
June 18, 2008


Virgie Raven Hawk considers the music that sings from her flute as a gift from God. It was a gift she did not open until she turned 50.

That was around 1995, when she retired from the Army. She was at a powwow in Tennessee when she heard the sound of flute. Raven Hawk walked over to compliment the player, unexpectedly opening a new level of spirituality in her own life.

"That lady turned around and said, well ma'am, if you are really interested, you can buy one of my flutes and I'll give you 30 minutes of my time. If I can't get you to play, I'll give you back your money." She laughed. "It was a deal I couldn't refuse!"

Despite the fact that Raven Hawk had never had any musical training, after one-half hour she was playing.

"The spirit moves in mysterious ways," she said. "I was given the gift of flute."

It is a gift the spiritual woman does not carry lightly. Her heritage is Aztec and Wichita, a label that carried a stigma in the previous generation.

"You weren't allowed to speak of that heritage; it caused extreme shame," she said. "You were lower than dirt."

But her father had given her another gift - the gift of carving in wood and stone. That ability not only helped heal her, it helped maintain her heritage.

"My father would allow me to come into his workshop where he would tell stories of his people," she remembered. "We were never allowed to speak of it in the house... never."

After 23 years of active duty, a spinal injury ended her military career and left her paralyzed.

"I was angry with life, I had a broken back, and no use of my legs," she said. After surgery, she was able to walk again. "I said, well, Creator, I know you are calling me for something. My recovery was to stop being angry with God."

Raven Hawk started doing what her father had shown her earlier in life - she carved, showing her work at powwows. With her partner, Debbie Drum Hawk, she now does spiritual work, teaching the old ways, the ways of drumming circles, lodges, and spirit walks.

"When people have already lost themselves from God, we try to find them an easier way to seek creation."

But for Raven Hawk, the flute is her most powerful gift.

"I think it is more spiritual - it touches their hearts when they hear and see it and be next to it," she said. "When I hold a drumming circle and finish with flute, it sends them to another place. And it is their place, not mine... it is their place."

She picks up a flute and fingers it silently.

"I don't know where the music comes from," she said, gazing at the slender instrument. "I can sit here and you can ask me to play each and everyone of these flutes, and they will all be different and I don't know why. If you ask me to play something from my CD, I'll say I can't. But something comes forth."

Like her Wichita heritage, the playing has come full circle.

"People ask do I give lessons," she said. "I do. How much do you charge? I tell them I cannot charge for a gift that was free."

"When you are given a gift like this you have no choice but to turn around and offer it to others. If you keep it, it is just going to walk away from you."

And she begins to play.