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Courting Flute

Date: 1880-1900


Description: This is a Native American courting flute, probably Sioux but the exact tribe is unknown. It is carved from wood and has a bird effigy carved into one end. Flutes like these were played by men in courting rituals, which were not the private affairs enjoyed by the Western world. Courtship and marriage was often conducted in front of the whole tribe, and flute playing was an important part of this ritual. It was a sign of love and affection, and the music played was said to convey these emotions better than words. Men would sit outside the woman’s home and play their courting song, and if she approved of his playing she would come out and sit with him, signaling to the tribe that the match was made. How love flutes came about is the subject of many different traditional stories, which differ depending on the tribe. In the late 1960s there was a revival of Native American flute making, and many flautists began creating new flutes in the traditional style as a way of preserving their heritage.


Donor: Joseph Celements


On display

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