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A Story of the First Flute

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 The First Flute 

by David Bouchard and Jan Michael Looking Wolf

Art - Keith Nolan

Native Flute - Jan Michael Looking Wolf

 

Protocol

 

There are several versions of this story. This is the way it was told by Standing Elk, the late uncle of Looking Wolf. To honour Standing Elk, please adhere to the correct protocol of story telling.

 

Find a quiet place. Do not allow distractions. This is a short telling. We should be able to share and dream it without disruptions.

 

If you can, sit on Mother Earth in the open under Father Sky. If this is not possible, sit on the floor. Being close to Mother Earth is always good and it is particularly good when sharing a story.

 

Sit in a circle. Life’s journey is a circle. We are born. We die. We grow taller. We become smaller. What goes up will come down. What you give away will always come back to you. A circle is best for sharing stories.

 

Finally, place both your hands on the earth or on the floor directly in front of you. Shut your eyes and listen for the sound of a distant raven. Not everyone will be able to hear my voice but you might.

 

Listen to me. With your hands open on Mother Earth, you hear, feel and sense that there is nothing between us. Mother Earth gives us everything we need – water, food and shelter. All things are born of her. All things return to her. Crawlers, flyers, swimmers, two and four leggeds…we are all her children. We are all related.

 

 

 

The First Flute

 

Names have power.

 

When a name is given to an older person, it is given based on who that person is.

 

When a name is given to a young child, it tells what kind of a person that child will become. For example, if a child is named She who is kind to Strangers, that child will live a life of kindness.

 

There was a boy whose name was Dancing Raven.

 

Dancing Raven lived on the plains - east of here.

 

There was nothing remarkable about where he lived…a shady village next to a rambling brook…a few hills framing the skyline.

 

 There was nothing remarkable about his village…scattered teepees…foraging dogs …tethered horses. 

 

 

 There was nothing remarkable about where he lived however there was something remarkable about Dancing Raven.

 

Dancing Raven was a dancer. He danced all the time. When other boys were off learning to hunt or trap, Dancing Raven would be found near the creek… dancing. When other boys were out on the plains playing lacrosse or wrestling, Dancing Raven would be found near the creek…dancing. When other young men began wooing the maidens of their hearts’ desires, Dancing Raven would be found near the creek…dancing. Though he was brave in battle and capable of leading the buffalo hunt, Dancing Raven preferred dancing. It was said that he was born with a hand drum for a heart and the song of Lark guiding his spirit.

  

In the season of falling leaves, when the time came for Dancing Raven to ask for the hand of the young maiden with whom he had fallen in love, he was denied.

 

“What can you offer my daughter?” her father asked. “What do you have that is of any value?  Dancing and singing will not feed my daughter or my grandchildren.”

 

 Dancing Raven was crushed. Struggling to conceal his tears, he snuck off to the comfort of the distant sacred dark hills. These hills were the home of Grandfather Cedar, the Forest Elder who had always been and who would always be.

 

Like Eagle, Grandfather Cedar saw everything. He knew what was true. And though Grandfather Cedar had been ravaged by lightning and bore mostly bare and brittle branches, he stood tall, strong and very much alive. Countless ceremonies had been held at his feet. Many important chiefs had made their final journeys from that sacred place.

 

Ambling through tall grass on his painted pony, Dancing Raven sang a prayer to Creator; “Help me be strong. Tell me why my love is wrong. Help me for I am weak and pitiful.”

 

 Dancing Raven’s song was interrupted by a loud Knock Knock Knock! Sensing this might have something to do with his prayer; he hurried in the direction from which the sound was coming.

 

Dear reader, you should understand that some sounds are born of one of the four sacred directions of the Medicine Wheel. Others birth from Father Sky, Mother Earth or the fires that burn within each of us. This knocking sound was coming from the Seven Sacred directions all at once: Knock Knock Knock…

 

The trees thickened and the path darkened as Dancing Raven heard the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. He pushed his way through a wall of thick branches into the clearing that was Grandfather Cedar’s home. And there, looking down at him from high on a dead branch was… Woodpecker.

 

That beautiful song seemed to be coming from Woodpecker…but it was clearly not Woodpecker’s! It was Grandfather Cedar’s - a warm lament that was created as a gentle breeze passed through the holes Woodpecker had made in his branch.

 

 Just then, the dark clouds overhead parted and a bolt of lightning was hurled toward the stately tree. The branch upon which Woodpecker had been perched shattered and fell to the earth directly in front of Dancing Raven.

 

 This one took tobacco from his bag and placed it gently next to the smoldering branch.  He picked up that branch, raised it to his lips and with his back resting on Grandfather Cedar, imitated the song he had just heard - Grandfather Cedar’s song.

 

With that song engraved in his heart, Dancing Raven raced back to the lodge of his love who, with her father and soon the entire village gathered around, listened.

 

Word of Grandfather Cedar’s gift quickly spread to all people across the plains. Never had a wedding attracted as many guests. Never had a couple received as many gifts. Dancing Raven became a wealthy man able to provide for his family and many others.

 

 As custom dictated, Dancing Raven honoured his guests by playing for them. He played that first song on that first flute.

 

This is that song and this is that flute.   

 

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Dancing Raven

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Northern Alberta Native American Flute Circle

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