Native American Tales

The Legend of the Flute

The Legend of the FluteThe Legend of the Flute

Brule Sioux

There wasn’t a lot of time for a young man to be with a woman he liked, or a place for that matter. The family tipi was always crowded. You couldn’t walk off outside of the village because there were enemies and wild animals. To top all of that, most Indians are shy. A young warrior may like a woman, but may not have the courage to approach her. The only time to see her was when she was out getting water in the morning and then stand there grinning goofily. She may take a little bit longer getting her water if she noticed you, but that was about it.

Flutes were used to do much of the courting. A young man would play his flute out in the night. The flutes were always made of cedar wood and had a bird head at one end.

Before there were flutes, people had drums and rattles. A young man was out hunting an elk. He wandered off far into the woods and didn’t know where he was. The moon was dark. He figured he might as well sleep. He rolled himself into his robe and tried to sleep, but he heard a strange noise, one that was completely new to him. He dreamed that a woodpecker told him to follow him. When he woke up, he saw a wood pecker and followed it. The woodpecker led him to a cedar tree, where it began pecking. A branch broke off of the tree and the wind had whistled through it making a noise. The young man took it home, despite not getting any game, but he could not make a sound out of it when he got home.

He purified himself for four days and asked for a vision on how to make the flute work. The woodpecker came to him again. It turned into a man and showed him what to do. The young man got a piece of cedar. He carved it into a flute with a woodpecker head on the end.

In this same village, the chief had a daughter who was proud and haughty. She thought that no young man was good enough for her. The young man thought that this was the woman for him. He thought up a song just for her and played it outside of the girl’s tipi. She just couldn’t stay inside. Her feet took her to the young man, even though her head said no. She got to the young man and they slept together under the same blanket. She told him to send a gift to his father, any gift, and it would be accepted. The proud girl married the warrior and he became a chief. From this point on the flute made girl’s feet go when their minds said no.


I’ve heard of the idea of courting by flute before, but I don’t know a whole lot about it. You do have to think about the fact that there really was nowhere to spend alone time with a potential spouse. Family was always around. In society, it’s been that way a lot. A young woman was fairly close-knit with her family. There weren’t many times she was alone. Someone was with her, be it her mother, her siblings, a governess, or whatever–someone was always there. Women didn’t go off to hunt like young men did. They were at home learning how to cook and do handiwork.

Modern-day, things aren’t quite this bad, but there are still societies where it’s pretty close. Thinking of places like Japan where the housing is smaller and there just isn’t a way to be alone most of the time, it’s a similar situation, but we have the internet now and text messaging.


I think I would have to say that the idea of romance can make us do things we wouldn’t normally do, or we think we normally wouldn’t do. People sometimes say love is blind and it’s definitely kind of true. We get swept up in the whole idea of being adored that we look over a lot of things. The young woman in this story was so swept up in the romance of it all that she overlooked the fact that the young man was poor. He turned out ok in the end, but I’m sure there were some rough times in their marriage at the beginning.

It also goes to show you that a little romance can go a long way. You don’t necessarily need a fancy car or lots of money to impress a girl, but if you do, those girls are called gold diggers.


It isn’t “Whisky makes her clothes fall off,” it’s, “the flute makes her clothes fall off.”

Weigh In

Don’t you think it would be kind of weird if some guy was playing a flute outside of your house because he liked you?

Would you make a flute to woo a potential mate?


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