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"Giving Your Spirit A Voice"

Traditionally the Native American flute was used by many different tribes and cultures and played only by the men of the tribe. It was considered to be a primary skill of a young warrior to play the flute well. It was as important as his hunting or his riding skills. The flutes were made of wood, usually a straight branch that was split and then hollowed out inside. The inside was then sanded using small, smooth river stones. Traditionally 5 or 6 holes were drilled with an awl and a small carved bird was attached to give the flute a beautiful “voice”. The flute was decorated with fur, beads, feathers and strips of leather. A well made flute with a beautiful sound was a prized possession passed down through the generations.

As there was no written music at the time, each young man spent time alone out in Nature listening to the wind, water running over rocks, the sounds of animals and birds. He was expected to compose his own melodies. The more time he spent, the more beautiful were his songs. To further embellish a tune, he might over blow certain notes to produce quarter tones or add a plaintive throat vibrato. It was a vital and important part of becoming a young warrior and also in the courting of his future bride-to-be. The better a young man could play the flute the more likely he was to capture the heart of the young woman he fancied. According to the Lakota, if a well-made flute is played skillfully, its pure melodies would attract even the most indifferent maiden. Some young men, however, had their flutes blessed by a holy man just to help ensure their success.

Before any marriage could happen, there had to be a courtship. When parents considered a young woman ready for marriage, her father would casually let it be known that suitors might begin to approach his daughter. Interested young men would visit the family to make formal overtures to the girl. The parents would pretend to be politely indifferent or they might rebuff a young man not considered appropriate for their daughter. If the family didn't rebuff him, a suitor would conceal himself at night near the girl's tipi. He would then begin to serenade her with beautiful the songs he had composed. If a young man's music met with the young woman's favor, he proceeded to the next stage of the traditional courtship.

And this stage of courtship was definitely not the private affair that western culture takes for granted. Most courting was very formal, and took place in full view of the rest of the tribe. When a young man courted a woman he was dressed in his finest clothing. He carried a special, colorful blanket, woven by the female members of his family. On a particular evening, he would approach the girl and there, standing together under the watchful eyes of the tribe, he would invite the woman to share his blanket to ward off the evening chill. They could stand or walk about the camp talking together. This was the only "privacy" that was given them. A young woman who was sought after because of her personality, skills or beauty might have a row of young men waiting for her, each carrying his own special courting blanket. The serenading and courting could continue for quite some time until one young man was chosen.

As the courtship progressed, the young man, his father and the father of the maiden would meet to agree on an exchange of gifts to be given to the girl’s father. At that time or at a later date,the marriage ceremony would be performed. After marriage, some men would continue to play the flute as a sign of love for their wives.
In other tribal cultures, the flute was used as a form of meditation. It would be taken to a peaceful place out in nature and one would just sit and play to quiet oneself, to relax, to connect with Nature or to the Great Spirit or simply for one's own pleasure. Today, both men and women, young and old play the Native American flute just simply because of the pleasure it brings to both the player and the listener. The Native American flute has a beautiful and haunting quality about it. This is because it naturally has a pentatonic scale which makes it sound different from instruments that have their roots in the European culture. The courting flutes normally have a range of about one chromatic octave and is played much like a recorder. It is not an instrument that has to be learned. You don't have to be able to read music or know about keys to be able to play your own music and find your own song. This is true of all Native American flutes.

They are considered to be the way to give your Spirit a voice.
To all my young friends who are learning to play the recorder in school, you can play the recorder much as the Native Americans play their courting flutes. Go outside and find a quiet spot that you like. Then just sit and be quiet for a few moments before you begin to play whatever comes into your mind. Don’t judge if it is good or bad or if it is too soft or too loud. Just sit and play for awhile. Do this on many different days and soon your Spirit will have a voice and you will have your very own song.

This story came from a great friend "WindWalker" an Elder who I enjoy so much in listening to his a great stories