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Checklist of Musical Instruments
of the Indigenous Peoples
of North America

Note:  This checklist represents only a portion of the NMM's instruments from this area of the world.

Specific Instrument Types Represented

Ceremony Drums
Courting Flutes
Dance Rattles
Drum Beaters
Fiddle
Shaman's Rattles
Whistles


Specific Makers Represented

Lyle Dion, Sr.
Wilson Freemont
Ken Kidder
Jerry Lieb, Jr. ("Silvaluaq")
John Saul ("Wanyeya")
Raymond Shot with Two Arrows
Carl Winters


Indian Nations Represented

Apache Nation (Southwestern U.S.) NMM 4044
Chickasaw Nation (Kentucky) NMM 5188, 5189, 5190
Iroquois Nation (Northeastern North America) NMM 11540
Mescalero Apache (Arizona) NMM 871, 875
Mescalero Apache (New Mexico) NMM 875
Plains Indians (Northern Plains Region) NMM 868, 869, 870, 873, 4050, 4051, 4052
Pueblo Nation (New Mexico) NMM 872, 876, 877, 879, 4042, 4043, 4047, 4606
Sioux Nation (Minnesota) NMM 2583
Sioux Nation (New Mexico) NMM 5282, 5598
Sioux Nation (South Dakota) NMM 6123, 9948, 10828, 10872, 10873, PA-060, PA-061, PA-062
Tlingit (Pacific Northwest Coast) NMM 10905
Yupik/Inupiaq Eskimo (Alaska) NMM 10438

Maps

Looking for a map? Link to the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas at Austin for an excellent collection of historic and current worldwide maps. Click here for their selection of maps of the Americas.


Checklist

Ceremony Drums

NMM 868.  Ceremony drum, Plains Indians, Northern Plains Region, 19th century. Split-wood, bent frame drum with two striking heads, red cloth wrapping, some black striations. Centrally located red circle with yellow border and four rays, symbolic of the four directions. Four attached feathers with plastic bead embellishments. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 870.  Ceremony drum, Plains Indians, Northern Plains Region, 19th century. Split-wood, bent frame drum with centrally located four-point star and border of bear paws and triangles, entirety of head dyed yellow. Head attached to frame using individual rawhide ties around circumference of drum, ties passed through holes cut into wooden frame and drumhead. Typically, this type of drum was made for for personal use in prayer and meditation. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 879.  Ceremony drum, Pueblo Nation, Arizona, 19th/early 20th century. Cut-and-hollowed section of tree trunk, bent to form smaller frame drum, two striking heads. Shows a combination of two drum frame construction methods. Heads laced together using rawhide strips passing through slits cuts near edge of hide, forming cross-hatching pattern around circumference of drum. Outer wall painted in three bands of yellow, silver and black. Both heads have painted central red circle on blue background with cloud motif, similarly designed, but not identical. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 4052.  Ceremony drum, Plains Indians, Mitchell, South Dakota, ca. 1929. Split-wood, bent frame drum with thunderbird in brown, white, and yellow watercolors. Bordered by bear paw and bison hoof prints. Drumhead secured with nine, hand-carved, wooden pegs, and, later, metal tacks. Rawhide strips attached to back and lashed together in center act as handle. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 869.  Ceremony drum, Plains Indians, Northern Plains Region, ca. 1930. Cut-and-hollowed section of cottonwood trunk, with two striking heads; representative of the traditional method of making drums prior to the introduction of split-wood, bent frame drums. Extant bark on outer wall, though cut away from edges where drumheads touch frame. Rawhide lacings, reinforced later with twine. Profile painting of American Indian with border of alternating bear paws and arrows-in-flight, four of each symbolic of the four directions. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 10828.  Ceremony drum by John Saul, "Wanyeya," Yanktonai, Fort Thompson, South Dakota, July 1960. Frame drum of bent shell construction with single calfskin head, laced with sinew. Watercolor painting on head depicts an abstract geometric insect in red, green, blue and yellow on a white background; the long-life symbol in green and red; and, a thunderbird in brown, white and black with a breastplate of red and blue, with a yellow halo. Associated beater. John Saul is a well-known watercolor artist, published in Yanktonai Sioux Water Colors:  Cultural Remembrances of John Saul, 1993. Transfer from University Art Galleries, University of South Dakota (USD), 2005.


NMM 5282.  Ceremony drum by Carl Winters, Standing Rock Sioux, Taos, New Mexico, 1991. Frame drum composed of nine fitted arches, each a third of the total circumference. Three layers, each with three arches, glued, nailed and pressed, forming shell wall. Entire surface, except the very edge, augmented with white paint or dye prior to stretching, creating scallop-shaped edge on back of drum. Turtle outlined in white with blue and red accents. Transfer from University Art Galleries, USD, 1992.


NMM 10872.  Ceremony drum by Wilson Freemont, Flandreau, South Dakota, ca. 2000. Frame drum of mitered shell construction with single bison-hide head, laced with strips of rawhide. Mottled extant hair on head surface. Made by mitering small blocks of wood and assembling them with glue and press. Has associated drum beater made by splitting a bison’s tail. Gift of Lakeport Emporium L.L.C., Yankton, South Dakota, 2005.


NMM 10873.  Ceremony drum by Wilson Freemont, Flandreau, South Dakota, ca. 2000. Frame drum of mitered shell construction with single bison-hide head, laced with strips of rawhide. Mottled extant hair on head surface. Made by mitering small blocks of wood and assembling them with glue and press. Gift of Lakeport Emporium L.L.C., Yankton, South Dakota, 2005.


NMM 10438.  Ceremony drum by Jerry Lieb, Jr., "Silvaluaq," Yupik, Bethel, Alaska, 2002. Frame drum of pressed birch strips, steamed and bent. Drumhead of ceconite, a synthetic polyester fiber used in small aircraft construction, known for precision shrinkage, an important factor in frame drum construction. Three-pronged caribou antler as handle. Painting on drumhead depicts the mating dance of the cranes native to southwestern Alaska. Gift of André P. Larson, Vermillion, South Dakota, 2003.


Courting Flutes

NMM 871.  Courting flute, Mescalero Apache, Arizona, late 19th century. End-blown, external duct flute with stylized wooden bird saddle. Branch split, hollowed and assembled using resin to fill gaps. Shallow groove carved into underside of saddle allowing limited amount of air to pass from upper to lower air holes. End of flute carved as duck head with beak, nostrils and eyes in black accents. Line-drawn butterfly below mouthpiece and near flute end, outlined in black with red accents on wings and antennae. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 872.  Courting flute, Pueblo Nation, New Mexico, late 19th century. End-blown, external duct flute with serpent effigy. Branch split, hollowed and assembled using twine wrappings, resin fills gaps. Two metal chamfers, one copper and one lead, held in place by stylized serpent saddle, allowing limited amount of air to pass from upper to lower air holes. Hand-carved wooden serpent, painted green, wraps six-and-a-half times around length of flute shaft; finger holes carved in between coils of serpent. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 873.  Courting flute, Plains Indians, Northern Plains Region, late 19th century. End-blown, external duct flute, stained dark brown. Branch split, hollowed and assembled using resin to fill gaps. Single metal chamfer, held in place by unadorned wooden block saddle, allowing limited amount of air to pass from upper to lower air holes. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 4044.  Courting flute, Apache Nation, Southwestern United States, 19th/early 20th century. End-blown, notched flute of vegetal stalk, perhaps the bloom stalk of an agave, a yucca variety, covered in thinly-processed leather. Geometric designs cover leather surface. Cut cowrie shells and colored beads are suspended from leather tassels. Attached leather straps for carrying and storing. Played by covering all but the notch with the mouth and directing the air stream to split over edge of wood. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 4050.  Courting flute, Plains Indians, Northern Plains Region, 19th/early 20th century. End-blown, external duct flute with duck’s head effigy. Branch split, hollowed and assembled using five wire rings and resin to fill gap. Copper chamfer allows limited amount of air to pass from upper to lower air holes. Bullet casing hammered and fit into end of flute as mouthpiece. Brass tack duck eyes. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 2583.  Courting flute, Sioux Nation, Pipestone, Minnesota, early 20th century. End-blown, duct flute of Catlinite pipestone, with geometric lead inlay. Saddle carved as stylized dog. Catlinite pipestone, named after the famed nineteenth century American painter, George Catlin, also known for his work preserving Native American tradition and culture, is found in southwestern Minnesota, in a quarry known historically to be of significance to the indigenous people of the area. Gift of the Bessie Pettigrew (1881-1978) Estate, Flandreau, South Dakota, 1979.


NMM 4051.  Courting flute, Plains Indians, Northern Plains Region, early 20th century. End-blown, external duct flute with stylized wooden rabbit saddle. Leather-bound wooden saddle not only holds stone chamfer in place, but also prevents air leakage. Bent copper tubing fitted to end of flute as mouthpiece. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 6123.  Courting flute by Raymond Shot with Two Arrows, Sioux Nation, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, 1998. End-blown, external duct flute of cedar with double, geometric, post saddle. Length of cedar split, hollowed and glued and pressed together, stained and varnished. Shallow groove carved into underside of saddle allows limited amount of air to pass from upper to lower air holes. Four glass beads, two red and two blue, placed on loose ends of binding thong. Quillwork adornment with alternating red, green and blue sections tied between mouthpiece and saddle. Board of Trustees, 1998.


NMM 9948.  Courting flute by Raymond Shot with Two Arrows, Sioux Nation, Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, 1998. End-blown, external duct flute of cedar with saddle carved as stylized turtle on pedestal. Length of cedar split, hollowed and glued and pressed together, stained dark brown. Unfinished. Board of Trustees, 1998.


Dance Rattles

NMM 11540.  Turtle shell dance rattle, Iroquois Nation, Northeastern North America, late 19th century. Snapping turtle resonator with deer tibia handle. Small vertebrae lashed to shell sound along with contents of rattle, typically corn or small stones. In the Iroquois tradition, the turtle is a symbol of creation and life. According to oral tradition, the turtle came from a place below the present earth. On its journey to the surface, animals sprang from the mud and clung to the turtle’s back. Rattles like this are played in Iroquois longhouses by beating them on the edge of wooden benches. Paul and Jean Christian Collection, St. Paul, 2006.


NMM 4043.  Dance rattle, Pueblo Nation, New Mexico, early 20th century. Elongated rectangular section of rawhide, rolled, stitched, and attached to handle, forming an open-centered circular rattle. Hand-carved, wooden handle with articulated end knob and suede leather strap. Red, black and blue painted embellishments, remnants of two feathers attached to top of rattle. Typically, rattles such as this contain pebbles, though dried seeds or pieces of animal bones could also be included. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 10905.  Raven dance rattle by Ken Kidder, Poulsbo, Washington, ca. 2005. Two-piece construction; split down length of handle and rattle body, forming deep, spoon-shaped lower portion and shallow, lid-like upper portion; secured with 4 wooden spikes and vegetal twine. Rattle contains copper BBs. Kidder is among the finest artists of Tlingit woodcarving, a style found on the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. Gift of André P. Larson, Vermillion, 2005.


Drum Beaters

PA-060.  Drum beater by Wilson Freemont, Flandreau, South Dakota, ca. 2000. Bison tail beater, made by splitting the tail. Wide end of beater used to strike drum. Gift of Lakeport Emporium L.L.C., Yankton, South Dakota, 2005.


PA-061.  Drum beater by Lyle Dion, Sr., Sioux Nation, South Dakota, ca. 2000. Sun Dance style beater with two stuffed wool heads. Wrapped red, gold, black and white woven cording adorns handle between heads. Gift of Lakeport Emporium L.L.C., Yankton, South Dakota, August 2005.


PA-062.  Drum beater by Lyle Dion, Sr., Sioux Nation, South Dakota, ca. 2000. Sun Dance style beater with two stuffed wool heads. Wrapped red, gold, black and white woven cording adorns handle between heads. Gift of Lakeport Emporium L.L.C., Yankton, South Dakota, August 2005.


Fiddle

NMM 875.  Fiddle, Mescalero Apache, New Mexico or Arizona, 19th century. In the native tongue, tsii" edo'a'tl, or "wood singing," is made from a hollowed vegetal stalk, agave, indigenous to deserts of the Southwestern United States. Carved into three articulated sections, the one-stringed fiddle is held together with sinew wrappings and metal spikes. Rhomboid sound holes and green pigmented bands adorn surface. Pigmented bands may have served as grooves for sinew wrappings. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


Shaman's Rattles*

* Due to the culturally sensitive nature of the following instruments, images are not available online.

* Images
May Be
Available
Upon Request

NMM 876.  Shaman’s rattle, Pueblo Nation, New Mexico, 19th/early 20th century. Pear-shaped, rawhide vessel with stylized red and blue floral motif. Extant hair attached to rawhide forms handle. Hand-carved wooden insert to fortify handle. Leather waist wrapping with strand of alternating green and lavender Czech beads. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


* Images
May Be
Available
Upon Request

NMM 877.  Shaman’s rattle, Pueblo Nation, New Mexico, 19th/early 20th century. Pear-shaped, rawhide vessel with portrait and profile of figure in bluish-green paint. Extant hair attached to rawhide forms handle. Leather waist wrapping with strand of alternating blue and white Czech beads. Beads of this sort were popular trade items during the second half of the nineteenth century. As supplies ran low, as a result of wars in Europe, beads were removed from older items to ensure the highest quality for contemporary craft projects. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


* Images
May Be
Available
Upon Request

NMM 4042.  Shaman’s rattle, Pueblo Nation, New Mexico, early 20th century. Oval-shaped, rawhide vessel with red and blue abstract geometric designs and red painted seam. Handle carved to rest into fitted hole in rattle body, protruding beyond upper wall. Secured by small hand-carved wooden peg. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


* Images
May Be
Available
Upon Request

NMM 4047.  Shaman’s rattle, Pueblo Nation, New Mexico, early 20th century. Teardrop-shaped, rawhide vessel, painted yellow with pencil line drawings and accents of red. Cream-colored hair extant attached to rawhide forms handle. Leather waist wrapping with strand of multi-colored Venetian beads, produced through the cottage industry of cutting long tubes of colored glass and finishing the beads by hand. This process yielded beads of irregular shapes and sizes. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


* Images
May Be
Available
Upon Request

NMM 4606.  Shaman’s rattle, Pueblo Nation, New Mexico, early 20th century. Bulbous, pear-shaped, rawhide vessel with mottled yellow surface paint, two-piece construction. Extant hair attached to rawhide forms handle. Leather waist wrapping with strand of multi-colored Venetian beads. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


Whistles*

* Due to the culturally sensitive nature of the following instrument, images are not available online.

* Images
May Be
Available
Upon Request

NMM 5598.  Pair of whistles, attributed to Sioux Nation, New Mexico, 19th century. Golden eagle wing bone whistles with carved duct hole, added resin forms air stop. Dyed yellow thread lashes braided yellow cording to each whistle, cording ties whistle together. Traditionally used during the Lakota Sun Dance, one of the seven Sacred Rites of Native American spirituality, whistles such as this would be played in conjunction with drumming and singing. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.


NMM 5188.  Whistle attributed to Chickasaw Nation, Graves County, Kentucky, 20th century. End-blown, internal duct whistle with bird effigy. Dark clay whistle, closed globular resonator. Hand-sculpted, stylized bird applied to whistle body. Gift of Frederick B. Crane, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, 1991.


NMM 5189.  Whistle attributed to Chickasaw Nation, Graves County, Kentucky, 20th century. End-blown, internal duct whistle with turtle effigy. Dark clay whistle, open tubular resonator. Hand-sculpted, stylized turtle applied to whistle body. Gift of Frederick B. Crane, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, 1991.


NMM 5190.  Whistle attributed to Chickasaw Nation, Graves County, Kentucky, 20th century. End-blown, internal duct whistle with frog effigy. Dark clay whistle, open tubular resonator. Hand-sculpted, stylized frog applied to whistle body. Gift of Frederick B. Crane, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, 1991.

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Most recent update: November 17, 2009

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