Here is a thread regarding women and flutes that flute enthusiasts will find interesting...

Posted by Nancy on August 04, 1998 at 06:10:37: 

I would like to know if there is any flute players in South Florida. I've been playing the flute for 3 years and would like to start a flute circle in my area. Thank you 

Posted by Tsa'ne Do'se on August 06, 1998 at 17:51:42: 
In Reply to: Flute players? posted by Nancy on August 04, 1998 at 06:10:37: 
(Note; Tsa'ne Do'se is a respected native flute player of the Saponi/Tuscarora People)

Flute Circle?? Unbelievable?? First thing: Women don't play a flute, it is made to be played for them, not by them, unless they are trying court another woman. This is tradition. 

Posted by Nancy on August 07, 1998 at 16:37:07: 
In Reply to: Re: Flute players? posted by Tsa'ne Do'se on August 06, 1998 at 17:51:42: 

     I respect that its your tradition that only men play the flute, but even in the 1990's? Do all tribes feel this way about women playing the flute today? How about Mary Youngblood? I play the flute for myself because its a beautiful sound. I have a very stressful job and I need some kind of outlet to release my stress. The flute does that for me, and I also like to make music. 
     My question is this: Should it be forbidden for women to play the flute today,when used for other reasons, not for courting? I'm not trying to argue the fact of who's right or wrong. We all have opinions and difference and I respect that. I like to know from other tribes about this topic. Nancy 

Posted by Arlie Neskahi on August 09, 1998 at 23:09:33: 
In Reply to: Re: Flute players? posted by Nancy on August 07, 1998 at 16:37:07: 

     The fact is, that there are Native women who play the flute today. Some of the first were daughters of well-known flute players, like Howard Ranier. I personally have chosen not to include Mary Youngblood in my catalog until I hear more from the Native Music community, especially her elders, about this. If Mary has elders from her people who support her, then she will probably be just fine. 
     And yes, even in the 90's(sigh), there are many tribes with intact ceremonial lives that forbid women to play flutes and touch other instruments that are of the "male" spirit. Just like in my Dine' tradition, there are things that we men cannot touch either that are of the "female" spirit. We don't argue or whine, that's just the way we believe, and there are many good purposes behind these teachings. 
     Here is an excerpt from an answer I gave to a similar question on my Response to Maggie page, I suggest you read it if you haven't already at this link; 

Response to Maggie... 

Maggie, asks,
     You also said that the Flute is a male instrument as well but I was unclear as to whether it was still OK for women to play. Is it OK for me, as a white female, to play this instrument? 

Arlie replies,
     This is a difficult question for me to answer. If you were a Native woman asking my advice, I would say go to your elders and ask them what to do. Originally, this instrument was used mainly by the males. But starting in the mid-eighties, several Native women came forward to play. Some were daughters of noted flute players, others from tribes with strong flute ties. But the final outcome is that, there are Native female flute players who play today. That being said, there are many tribes that prohibit females from playing this instrument. When I teach voice or flute, I ask my female students to check with their elders regarding the appropiateness of their learning. In this regard, a mentor should provide guidance. 

     So, basically you are going out on a limb if you don't have a Native mentor to guide you regarding this. It is different from tribe to tribe. There are over 500 tribes still recognized by the federal government today. Each has their own teaching. There are many tribes with longstanding flute traditions who would tell you outright that a woman should not play the instrument. If you are of a colonizing mind you will say that your ideas supercede all of these... and you have the right to do whatever you want... 
     That is why I write these pages to let people know that our traditions are alive and active. When you play that flute as a female you are going against the traditions of many tribes to which that instrument belongs. Are you honoring Native culture and spirituality by doing that? Probably not, unless you have an elder to guide you or a Native mentor. 
     That is one of the strong differences in this genre that many people don't understand. The vast majority of musicians who call their music Native do so in light of their elders. We feel our elders are watching us as we play, and it guides our actions. Where it is my experience that much of Western music, especially pop music, RESENTS adult or elder interference, and much of what is composed and played is about going against them! You might be looking at this from the wrong cultural perspective to fully understand. 
     So, until you can tell the story of what your Mentor told you in this regard... you will probably not be seen by the larger Native community as being respectful of our ways. But many, many non-natives are doing just that today, so you won't be alone. It doesn't seem to matter at all to them, just do what you please regardless of what the Native people believe... 
     Who knows? Maybe these new women flute players will change the traditions, but most likely this will have to be done by the Native women and elders themselves, (sorry no Tarzan complexes allowed here) and not by non-native women. We will see in Time... Arlie 

Posted by Nancy on August 11, 1998 at 19:24:07: 
In Reply to: Re: Flute players? posted by Arlie Neskahi on August 09, 1998 at 23:09:33: 

     Thank you for the information. Where can I find more info on this topic? 

Posted by Bob West on August 07, 1998 at 13:08:00: 
In Reply to: Re: Flute players? posted by Tsa'ne Do'se on August 06, 1998 at 17:51:42: 

It is my understanding that my Cherokee ancestors played the flute for meditation. Is this true? If so, then is there any problem with women playing the flute for meditation? Are there still men who play the flute for courting? Thank you, Bob West 

Posted by Arlie Neskahi on August 09, 1998 at 23:22:35: 
In Reply to: Re: Flute players? posted by Bob West on August 07, 1998 at 13:08:00: 

Ok Bob, 
     I appreciate that you are asking this question in this forum, but be very careful of something. You seem to be trying to use a single tribal perspective, that of the Cherokee using the flute for meditation as you say... to apply for all women. That is very dangerous and we as Native people think this is very folly. 
     Western minds like to look for the exception to the rule so that they can do what they want. Where we as Native people are USED to the exceptions to the RULE as being necessary. When you have over 500 Native Nations in the contiguous US and many hundreds more in Canada and let's not forget Mexico... we understand that what is right for one Tribe may not be right for another. We accepted that eons ago. Only thing that makes sense!!! 
     We don't use the exception to the rule to tear down, but as the FOUNDATION for RESPECT. 
     To answer your second question, I have used both my flute and singing to court women, both my own and for friends at their request... Pretty cute, even did it over the phone for a good friend... 


Dear Arlie, 

     Thanks for answering my question, and sorry for taking so long to get back to you. Yes, you are right in that each tribal group may have different uses for the flute, as well as differing attitudes regarding who may or may not play flutes. Perhaps I should address my question more specifically to Cherokees. Yes, I play one of my woodland flutes for my wife nearly every night after dinner. She looks forward to it and reminds me if I forget! So, I guess I'm courting her with the flute. It's pretty nice for me too! It's a way of speaking my heart to her in a good way. You have a very pleasant web-site; keep up the good work. 

Peace, Bob West 

Peace, Bob,