Joseph Firecrow remembers growing up on the reservation and listening to the elders play the flute. He started learning the instrument when he was 18 and says a true Cheyenne flute player hasn’t mastered the craft until he can both play and make a flute.
“The elders are always watching you to make sure you do this right,” Firecrow says. “And when this is your passion, they know that you’re going to be carrying it, and they want to make sure that you are going to be there for the people and not make it all about yourself. The retribution of the elders is so, so important. They’ve been keeping this around for all their lives, and they want to make sure it’s around for the next generation, so when they realize that someone has a good heart, they will give them the fullness of this whole tradition.”
During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Firecrow about his music, his culture and the origin story of the flute.
Firecrow will be performing Thursday, November 5 at Iowa State University.