Indigenous Flute Project Teaches Both Language and Music

Lakota dancer and song-carrier Kevin Locke has long hoped to promote the traditional sound of the Lakota flute as he learned it rather than the commercialized sound that became popular in the 1980s.  Last year Kevin met Richard Dubé, a Canadian flute-maker and respected music educator working with at-risk children in Canadian urban schools.  Locke saw children of all ethnicities making their own Native-style flutes using Dubé’s custom kits, and then in a very short time being able to play songs on the flutes. Locke and Dubé quickly established a collaboration that will supply Lakota classrooms with Dubé’s flute kits and a lesson book written by the two of them and published by the Lakota Language Consortium, a respected source of Lakota-language educational materials and educational events.
The flute kits and the lesson book were introduced at the 2013 Lakota Summer Institute at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, ND (Standing Rock Indian Reservation), to a class of eight Lakota language teachers and one Finnish linguist attending a Siouan-Caddoan language conference also happening at the College.  Richard Dubé came down from Saskatchewan to teach the week-long course along with Locke.  All of the participants made three flutes, to build their confidence in teaching their own students how to do so.
The class was supported by a generous grant from the Puffin Foundation West.
“Songs of the Spirit: How to Play the Lakota Flute the Traditional Way” has been re-titled  Šiyótȟaŋka Yažó Po! Play Lakota Flute! – A Traditional Indigenous Flute Curriculum and will be published by the Lakota Language Consortium in Spring 2014.  Fully-assembled flutes and do-it-yourself kits are molded from FDA-approved food-grade plastic for affordability; the design is based on a 100-year-old flute in Kevin Locke’s care. The flutes and kits are made by Dubé’s company, Northern Spirit Flutes.