February is often called the month of love – a time for Valentine’s Day and, the time to remember and emphasize the importance of love in our lives. In Native American culture the mind, the spirit, the love of one’s roots, the love of nature, and of others is ingrained culturally. Stories are one way of communicating the love of nature and of life and courting flutes are another way of expressing feelings of love and the appreciation of the beauty of nature.

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The Institute of American Indian Studies on 38 Curtis Road in Washington has organized a program on the magic of courting flutes that allows visitors to delve into traditional Native American Music. It is a wonderful way to top off Valentine’s Day week. On Saturday, February 15, beginning at 1:30 p.m. Ojibway artist, and musician Allan Madahbee will explain the cultural significance and the hauntingly beautiful sound of the Native American courting flute.

The legend of the courting flute will be told highlighting these beautifully made instruments that are deeply rooted in the traditions of Eastern Woodland indigenous peoples. Participants will see and hear a variety of courting flutes and will have the chance to examine them as they listen to their soothing sound. Courting flutes are available in our gift shop and there will be a limited selection of courting flutes available for purchase on the day of this event. If you already own a flute, feel free to bring it along!

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Today, makers of Native American Flutes like Ojibway artist and musician AllanMadahbee craft their personal style and sound into their creations. Madahbee began to research the Chippewa flute culture and was influenced and mentored by Joseph Firecrow of the Cheyenne Nation. “We became friends and he provided guidance and feedback and explained some of his methods of flute making. With his passing last year, we have all lost a great Native American flute maker and musician. I am proud to continue our flute making traditions.” The sound of the courting flute that is usually made of cedar has an uncommon scale for Western music and is entrancing.

Born on the shores of Lake Huron, Allan Madahbee is a member of the Ojibway (Chippewa) Nation that has pursued the traditional arts and crafts of his ancestors. He has been making Native American flutes for about ten years. “I had always thought they were a product of the Southwest Indian tribes, but a book that I found that was written during the 1800s about Chippewa culture, had a passage about the Chippewa flutes, along with pictures. This made me realize that they were indeed a part of my Chippewa culture. Knowing that my ancestors constructed these flutes for hundreds of years has inspired me to continue this tradition. Also, the haunting sound from these mystical instruments is a large part of my inspiration.”

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Along with constructing Woodland flutes, beaded moccasins, woodcarvings, Native American regalia, and rock sculptures, Madahbee always returns to his artistic roots in paintings and weavings. Mainly self-taught, Madahbee attended school with fellow Ojibway artists Blake Debassige and James Simon – two well known Anishnawbe artists that are respected and have their paintings displayed around the world.Space is limited and reservations are suggested. To make sure you get a spot call the Institute for American IndianStudies at (860) 868-0518 or email general@iaismuseum.org to reserve your spot. The program is included in the price of admission: $10 adults; $8 seniors; $6 children; IAIS Members free.

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