The rising temperatures remind us that summer is coming, and so is the annual Native American arts festival on the (cooler) mountaintop in Idyllwild.
Every July, aspiring flute-makers explore the creative and inspirational Native American flute workshop at Idyllwild Arts with Marvin Yazzie (Navajo) and his wife, Jonette, and Ernest Siva, president and founder of Dorothy Ramon Learning Center.
The Yazzies teach how to make a beautiful wooden flute in the Plains style.
Ernest Siva (Cahuilla/Serrano) then teaches the basics of flute-playing. He shares stories and songs from Southern California's Native American nations.
But much more happens.
A community forms. People make lasting friendships, discover their inner flute player, and share discoveries and the wonder of our region's Native American music.
Our Voices of the Flute book and CD, our first publication from Ushkana Press, got its start on that mountaintop.
Each year, Ernest Siva shared a handmade, hand-written, photocopied, stapled-together work with the students that this Indian elder had entitled as a spoof, "Ten Little Indian Songs and More."
Much, Much More
Ernest Siva had written western music notations for this centuries-old music. It was the first time anyone had done this. He also wrote down the words in Indian for the songs. In some cases, Ernest Siva was the lone, known remaining Native American singer who was singing these ancient songs. Sharing them with the flute workshop was a way of saving them.
Saving and Sharing
When Dorothy Ramon Learning Center formed to save and share Southern California's Native American cultures, languages, history, and music and other traditional arts, publishing this work seemed not just a natural, but instead, a responsibility. Ushkana Press, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit's publishing arm, took on the project.
But the title?
June Siva, Ernest's wife, simply said: "Voices of the Flute."
Subtitle: "Songs of Three Southern California Indian Nations."
In the Chumash stories that have been passed down to us from J.P. Harrington, there is a Lizard who plays a flute.
He plays his flute to listen to the Voice of the World.
Each of these songs is the voice of a culture, a people.
Each time we listen, we can discover something new from something that is very old.