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Native Flutes of North America

 
  Plains Flute  
  Anasazi Flute   Hopewellian Panpipes Woodlands Flute  
 
Cahokia  

Cahokia, located in Illinois. This mound covers a stepped Pyramid building, of the type common to Mesoamerica. Many Americans are surprised to learn of such northerly pyramids, but Cahokia is only one of them.

Putting North American Flutes in Context

From the swamps of the southeastern woodlands to the mesas of the southwestern deserts, the song of the flute has been heard on the North American Continent for millennia. Archaeological findings and ancient petroglyphs attest to a rich musical history and the use of very diverse flutes in different regions. Much later, first contact Europeans wrote down their encounters with coastal Indigenous flute players and pioneer artists captured the flute on canvas while painting Native Americans in the interior of the United States. By the 19th century, the urge to create new forms of musical instruments was still thriving amongst the continent's first inhabitants, and the forerunners of the woodwinds most commonly sold today as Native American Flutes came into being in the Eastern Woodlands and on the Great Plains.

Can you picture the America that was? You must put into place the great northern pyramids of modern-day Louisiana and Illinois. Add to these the apartment-like complexes built into the cliffs of Mesa Verde in Colorado and the great round kiva cities of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Pencil in 100 roads fanning out from Chaco Canyon, comprising some 600 total miles, along which chocolate and brightly-plumed macaws were brought up from Mesoamerica, perhaps further. Copper poured down by the ton from the mines by the Great Lakes, shells from ocean beaches changed hands for warm-climate crops. Between the big buildings, the big centers of organization, the Earth was alive with bison, with antelope and deer; crocodiles in tea-colored rivers, and billions of birds in spotless skies. At night, nothing dimmed the lights of the stars and moon, and the millions of vibrant people sat by their cooking fires, speaking in their 2000 different languages, and singing, and playing their instruments.

Native Americans historically used their flutes for widely-varied purposes. Accounts are told of flutes being used as part of the hunt, and there are many stories of woodwinds as instruments of tender courting. Some flutes were so important that their owners chose to be buried with them, suggesting ritual and religious significance. And in normal daily life, these ancestral people must have played music, as do all musicians now, for the pure, personal satisfaction of it.

 

From the ancient, simple notes of the clay ocarina, to the breathy melody of the panflute, to the haunting call of the Anasazi/Pueblo flute and the mellow, reflective music of the Woodlands flute and Plains flute, this continent's song has always been beautiful and worth listening to.

NativeFlutesWalking.com would like to introduce you to some of the most important Native American flutes. Here, you can see photos of Native Flutes, watch and listen to them as they are played, read important facts about them, and follow links for further information about each special instrument.


Anasazi Flute Ancestral Pueblo/Anasazi Flute
Modern Indigenous flutemakers of the Southwest would like this flute to be widely known as the Ancestral Pueblo flute, and with good reason. Oral tradition has kept record of Puebloan flutemaking history and archaeology attests to the presence of these hauntingly beautiful woodwinds since at least the 7th century AD. Local petroglyphs, often of the fluteplayer who has become internationally famous by the name Kokopelli, corroborate the antiquity of Southwestern flutes, but many people have come to know this magnificent instrument as the Anasazi Flute, named for the ancestral peoples who inhabited the Four Corners Region of the United States. Once you hear the sound of an Ancient Puebloan, or, Anasazi Flute, you will never forget it. Read Full Anasazi Flute Article.

See and Hear this Flute Played:

Jemez Pueblo Flutemaker, Aluaki, Playing For Ancestors


Plains Flute Plains Flute
The Plains flute is justly described as the most-widely-recognized and manufactured Native Flute in the United States today. It is prized by beginning flute players for its ease of playing. You can expect to make a beautiful tone with this special flute the first time you blow into it, and practice can lead to a wonderful repertoire of songs that are deeply expressive. Hailing from the Great Plains region, home of some of greatest figures of Native History including Sitting Bull, Black Elk, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse and Chief Bigfoot, the sound of this woodwind uniquely captures a feeling of the open Plains, and many people are surprised to learn that the history of the instrument we now call the Plains Flute dates only as far back as the early 1800s. Read Full Plains Flute Article.

See and Hear this Flute Played:

Ronald Roybal playing a Sunrise Song on the Plains Flute


Hopewellian Panpipes Hopewellian Panpipes
Centered in the Ohio River Valley, the Hopewell Tradition or Culture is a term applied by researchers to a diverse set of Peoples who inhabited the region between 200 BC - 500 AD. This is the portion of the country which contains the American Continents' most northerly pyramids, some of which remain as mounds but others which have been tragically destroyed in the name of 'progress'. During the Hopewell period, a vast and complex system of trade spanned the area. Archaeological digs have yielded numerous sets of simple, 3-4 tube panpipes, typically made of cane and copper, and researchers will quickly note that the occurrence of Hopewellian Panpipes fits into a very ancient distribution of panflutes originating in South America and so far understood to date back to 4200 BC - likely, further. Read Full Panpipes Article.

See and Hear a Panflute Played:

Exceptional documentary on ancient Andean instruments


Woodlands Flute Woodlands Flute
Closely related to the Plains Flute, the Woodlands Flute is likewise a two-chambered-duct-flute, a term which refers to the unique interior construction of this boldly-toned woodwind. Flutist treasure the Woodlands Flute for the volume of sound it produces, as well as it's clarity of tone. Typically made of cedar, bamboo or native rivercane, the Woodlands Flute derives its name from the Eastern Woodlands region of North America which stretches from Southern Canada to the Southern U.S. and includes a tremendous variety of Indigenous Peoples. While flutes have a truly ancient history in the Americas, the Woodlands Flute, like the Plains Flute, dates back only to the 1800s. Read Full Woodlands Flute Article.

See and Hear this Flute Played:

Demonstration of scale on Woodland Flute

This page is growing. Come back soon for more North American Flute stories.

 
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Native Flutes Walking wishes you joy through music, and a good journey along the Native flute path.