Courting Flutes Program at IAIS

Ojibway artist and musician Allan Madahbee will explain the cultural significance and the hauntingly beautiful sound of the Native American courting flute at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, February 15, at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington.

WASHINGTON — The Institute of American Indian Studies, 38 Curtis Rd., will host a program on the magic of courting flutes at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, February 15. Ojibway artist and musician Allan Madahbee will explain the cultural significance 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 have the chance to examine them as they listen to their soothing sound.

Usually made of cedar, the courting flute has an uncommon scale for Western music. Its sound has been called entrancing.

In this research of the Chippewa flute culture, Mr. Madahbee 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,” said Mr. Madahbee. “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.”

Born on the shores of Lake Huron, Allan Madahbee is a member of the Ojibway (Chippewa) Nation. He has been making Native American flutes for about 10 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,” he said. “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.”

Along with constructing Woodland flutes, Mr. Madahbee creates beaded moccasins, woodcarvings, Native American regalia, rock sculptures, paintings and weavings.

Courting flutes are available in the IAIS gift shop and a limited selection will be available for purchase on the day of the event. 

The program is included in the price of admission. Space is limited and reservations are suggested.

Those wishing to reserve a spot may call the Institute for American Indian Studies at 860-868-0518 or email

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