Kwahadi Museum of the
The museum exhibits gives visitors a
glimpse into the cultures of the people of the Pueblos and
Plains. The museum displays fine paintings, bronzes, fine old
beadwork and material culture items.
The Kwahadi Kiva Indian Museum
features the works of the late artist and author, Thomas E.
Mails. As a child, his grandfather in Colorado would draw stick
figures of his memories of the Indian people of Colorado. From
this early beginning, Tom developed his passion as an artist and
his abiding interest in the old ways of the American Indian.
Mr. Mails served as a Coast Guard
officer during WWII, became an architect, and later attended
seminary to become a Lutheran pastor. Throughout those times,
he continued to collect old medicine items and artifacts from
various pawn shops and stores during a time when there was
little interest in native ways. He became very interested in
the various societies of the Plains people.
He 1970, a major book publisher
happened across Tom in a pawn shop, was intrigued by his
drawings and knowledge, and suggested Tom put his work into a
book. This resulted in the first of Tom’s 14 books on Native
Americans, Mystic Warriors of the Plains. The book was
first published in 1972 and is a magnificent book profusely
illustrated by Tom. Kevin Costner used the book as source
material for his movie, Dances with Wolves. Mystic
Warriors and most of Tom’s books are still in print in
various languages around the world.
Tom was a natural artist with a keen
eye for detail and a disciplined mind for research. Native
people perceived his understanding and deep respect for their
ways, and his book was well-received by Native people. The
phone soon began to ring as elders of other tribes asked him to
tell their stories. Their own young people were not interested
in the old ways, and they wanted Tom to help them record their
knowledge. This began a thirty year journey for Tom that would
consume the rest of his life. He spent extensive time with
those who wanted him to write for them, added his own extensive
research, and beautifully illustrated books on the Apache,
Cherokee, and Pueblo people. He became good friends with Frank
Fools Crow, a Sioux elder and healer. Tom was amazed by his
times with Frank and told his story in
Sundancing on the
Rosebud, Fools Crow, and Sacred Native American Pathways.
Tom befriended the Kwahadi
program in 1986 during a seminar in Amarillo hosted by Clara
Webb of Webb Galleries of Amarillo and Santa Fe. His interest
in the Kwahadi program for youth ultimately led to his gifting
of a hundred of his fine paintings, many artifacts, 3000 books,
5000 photographs from his journeys with Native folk, and all of
his original manuscripts, research notes, and prime sources.
This core of his life’s work is preserved at the Kwahadi
museum. His beautiful and insightful paintings, many used for
illustrations in his books, are on display along with numerous
related cultural items.
The museum also features an extensive
collection of the bronze castings of Tom Knapp. Tom was a
Disney artist who became a master at capturing the spirit,
dress, and style of Native Americans. Mr. Walter Raleigh, a
former gallery owner and bronze caster from Ruidoso, New Mexico
cast the bronze works for Tom Knapp and kept one of each for his
fee. His valuable collection is on display at the Kiva.
Individual pieces are available for sale, a unique opportunity
for discriminating collectors.