Published on September 16, 2012 by Casey
Next to the drum, the most important Native American instrument was the flute. Ironically, because Native American flute construction was significantly different than the construction of African, Asian or European flutes, it is now next to impossible to find a flute that was carved by an actual American Indian person. The reason for this is “Native American flute” is now the accurate musical term for a wooden duct flute with a block whistle mechanism, so any such flutes, even if they were made in Korea, can technically be sold as Native American flutes– just like Spanish guitars that were made in Cleveland Ohio are still called “Spanish guitars.” You have to look for the “made in Spain” label to find a guitar that is authentically from Spain, and you have to find an unambiguous statement that a flute carver is a Native American artist to find a flute that is authentically Native American. (The IACA seal on the seller’s website is an effective guarantee that you’re buying a Native American flute from Native America, rather than a flute in the same style from someplace else.) Unfortunately, truly Native American flute carvers are few and far between. Most flutes in this style are made by white or Asian people. Unlike other artists, they are not legally barred from marketing their work as “Native American flute carving” even though they are non-native, so they have effectively taken over the market. Flute carving is a very good example of exactly why the Indian Arts and Crafts Act is so important–if not for this law, all Native American arts and crafts would be going this route, and you wouldn’t be able to find authentic Indian art anywhere off-reservation.
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