The Native American flute is one of the oldest instruments in the world, preceeded only by drums and rattles. The earliest flutes appeared some sixty thousand years ago and were made from bone. Over time, designs changes and different materials were used, including river reeds, which may have influenced today’s “Plains” design of Native American flute. Traditionally, flutes were used for ceremonies and pow-wows, spirit calling and dancing, with exact use varying by tribe.
There is a legend about the origin of the Native American flute which tells of a young brave trying to attract the attention of the girl he loved. Despite his attempts to impress her, she never seemed to notice him. Dejected, he retreated to the forest, where before long, he heard a woodpecker tapping away on the tree he sat against. The woodpecker tapped along a hollow branch and eventually the branch snapped off and fell to the floor next to him. On inspecting the branch, the brave heard music coming from it and experiemented with creating his own tunes. He found that he could create music to match his heart. Presently, the young girl heard the music and followed it, finding the brave sitting on the floor of the forest. The music captured her heart and she fell in love with our young brave. They returned from the forest hand in hand and lived happily together.
It is thought that flutes became a popular courting tool for young men, amongst the other uses the tribe had for a flute.