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QUANAH – The blazing summer sun didn’t stop thousands from traveling to Hardeman County on June 11 for the Quanah Parker Medicine Mounds Gathering that featured a mural dedication honoring Quanah Parker, the last Chief of the Commanches.

The project, administered by the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture, was commissioned by The Quanah Economic Development Corporation (QEDC) as part of ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown area and attract new investment to the city. The mural is located at 305 S. Main in downtown Quanah.

Renowned Comanche Artist Quanah Parker Burgess designed the mural. Burgess is the great-great-grandson of Chief Parker and a 4th generation artist. The Alliance’s Art in Public Places Project Manager Ferdine LeBlanc assisted with the installation.

Saturday’s dedication began with Don Parker, great-grandson of Quanah Parker, wafting sweet-smelling cedar smoke from a smudge pot as a blessing. He then performed the song “Quanah Parker.”

“We want to bless this work,” Don Parker said. “My nephew can carry on this legacy in a good way and share the thoughts and feelings of how our people lived.”

Stories passed down from the Comanche chief have been shared throughout the years by Lance Tahmahkera, Parker’s great-great-grandson. Tahmahkera travels across the country sharing various stories of the origins of the tribe, life on the plains and reservation, Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker, and tribal children’s stories, many of which are not found in books.

At the dedication ceremony, Tahmahkera described the importance of eagle feathers to the Comanche people.

“When I think Quanah, I think of him as the eagle of the Comanches,” Tahmahkera said. “People ask what’s so special about the eagle? The way it was explained to me was very simple. The eagle is the one creature that flies closest to our heavens.”

Lance Tahkahmera presents an eagle feather to artist Quanah Parker Burgess and his son, Tha-Tsi-Koah. Photo courtesy: Ismael Duran

Tahkahmera said eagle feathers are a symbol of power and must be earned. They are presented to individuals to acknowledge or commemorate a significant accomplishment. In a surprise and emotional exchange, Tahmahkera presented eagle feathers to Quanah Parker Burgess and his son, Tha-Tsi-Koah Burgess.

“The feather itself, you have the stem that runs up the center that represents the life of a Comanche,” Tahmahkera said. “That’s our lifetime. The individual barbs that make up the key veins on either side of the feather represent the different events in our lives that make us a Comanche.”

“This is a special place. Where we stand, the ground that we stand on is special. It’s even more special today because [this mural] makes sure our legacy and our Comanche heritage is not going to be lost.”

Lance Tahmahkera, great-great-grandson of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker

Burgess’ family attended In addition to his son, Burgess’ daughters attended the ceremony, along with his parents. His father, Ronald “Tachaco” Burgess, Ph.D., is also an artist, who created the Comanche Tribal Seal. His mother LaNora Parker has dedicated her life to counseling and working with native youth.

Burgess thanked the City of Quanah and its residents for their hospitality during the creation of the mural.

“When we were working on this for eight days, people that were driving by would stop to check on us,” he said. “That goes a long way so I gotta put my best foot forward. I learned from the best so when this is done, you guys will have something to be proud of.”

“In initial discussions about the mural, the QEDC knew that the mural must connect to Quanah, Texas’ history and legacy,” said Shane Lance, Board Secretary of The Quanah Economic Development Corporation Board. “Not only is our amazing town named after Quanah Parker, his band of Comanches, the Quahadis, were often in our area and frequently visited the sacred Medicine Mounds for their healing plants, fresh water, and spiritual renewal. We also knew that what we placed on this wall had to be more than a mural. It had to be a work of art.”

Currently, 9% of all day travelers in Texas partake in Texas history tourism, and 13% of all overnight travelers participate in Texas history tourism. Lance said that based on this study performed by the Texas Historical Commission, the QEDC wanted to capitalize on this segment of economic development. 

Having Quanah Parker Burgess, a renowned Comanche artist and great great grandson of Quanah Parker, paint the mural, could not have been more perfect. Quanah Parker Burgess was able to take the QEDC’s vision and perfectly bring it to life to honor Quanah, Texas’ namesake. 

Shane Lance, Board Secretary of The Quanah Economic Development Corporation Board

Previously the Alliance has worked with towns in the region to commission murals and other public art projects. In 2020, the City of Vernon unveiled murals in honor of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist and Vernon native Roy Orbison and local legend and longtime business owner Harvey Dean, who was known as “The Tamale King.”

“Murals, or as I like to say community fingerprints, are spaces that make people feel represented, ” said Mary Ferguson, Board President of the Alliance. “They foster community ties and give residents a sense of ownership and belonging in their community.”