Dakota flutist earns nation's highest folk honor
Dakota flutist earns nation's highest folk honor Bryan Akipa in Washington, DC, for the 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellowship events. (Tom Pich/National Endowment for the Arts)
Dakota flutist earns nation's highest folk honor
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There was a time when Bryan Akipa knew nothing of flutes. But that was long ago. It was before the budding artist stumbled across a wooden mallard-head flute in the studio of his mentor. It sparked a fascination that led to a career in both making and playing the distinctive Dakota flutes.
 
Akipa is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe. Now he is a recipient of the nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. It is the National Heritage Fellowship. It is awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Akipa was recognized during a ceremony in Washington. He told The Associated Press that he had to read up about the award when he got the call notifying him he had earned it.
 
"On Facebook, my daughter put it on her page. And I think she got the most likes. I put it on mine, but I got a few likes," Akipa said. "Everyone congratulating me is really special. Especially since it's for the traditional flute."
 
Akipa is 59 years old. He carved his first flute in 1975 from red cedar. He used a pocketknife. It would lead to a career in music. After taking a break to serve in the Army and to finish college, Akipa became a teacher. He began playing the flute for his students. He would also play in different venues during the summer. It was a way to supplement his income. He produced his first CD in 1993. Since then, Akipa has earned a Grammy nomination. He has also won several Native American Music Awards.
 
Akipa stressed that every flute he sells is made entirely by hand. He said sometimes he even travels from his northeastern South Dakota community of Sisseton to northern Minnesota in search of wood.
 
"I've never mass-produced them," said Akipa. He hasn't tracked the number of flutes he has carved. "There are flute-makers that could make 2,000 flutes a year. They have laser technology (and) computers. They don't even touch the wood."
 
Russell Eagle Bear is an historic preservation officer for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He said the flutes were traditionally used in courting and social gatherings. He said the art of flute-making was kept alive by only a few people for several years. It has had a comeback over the past three decades, he said.
 
Akipa has taught flute-making classes in an effort to keep the tradition alive. He said he plans to use the $25,000 that comes with the fellowship to boost his career. He has had to put it on pause to care for relatives. He wants to buy recording software and a new microphone to release a couple more albums.
 
South Dakota's U.S. Sen. John Thune broke the good news to Akipa. The senator said the artist's talent and dedication to his work, as well as the historical and cultural significance it represents, "gives South Dakotans, especially members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, a lot for which we can be proud."

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/junior/dakota-flutist-earns-nations-highest-folk-honor/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does Bryan make his flutes from wood instead of metal, like most flutes?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (29)
  • austins2-san
    11/03/2016 - 12:02 p.m.

    I've never had this article before and I like this article and it is so fun to read the article and I like to read the article and I like.

  • arelyd-san
    11/03/2016 - 12:03 p.m.

    Bryan Akipa made his flutes from wood instead of metal because he thought that it sparked a fascination. And I think that because it says in paragraph one that There was a time when Brayan Akipa knew nothing of flutes. But that was a long time ago. It was before buddying artist stumbled.

  • marianav-san
    11/03/2016 - 12:04 p.m.

    Akipa is 59 year. She didn't know about the flutes but it was a long time ago. They did the flute with woods. And after that she played with them. She buy lots of flutes and she was really good at the flute

  • lizbethgu-san
    11/03/2016 - 12:05 p.m.

    Bryan didn't knew about flutes becuase that a long ago and Akipa has tuaght flute making classes in an effort to keep tradition he said plans to use to $25,000 that is fellowship.he wanted to buy recording software and to a new microphone and to release a couple.in south datokas us.sen John thane broke the news of Bryan that he was working for flutes

  • diegos1-san
    11/03/2016 - 12:05 p.m.

    His daughter post a photo on facebook and he posted and he didn't get a lot of likes and his daughter.he was also going to raise his career 25,000. He also taught kid so lessons to keep it alive. He mad his first flutes in 1957

  • michellem-san
    11/03/2016 - 12:05 p.m.

    I think becuase he earned lots of money and because he could make almost 2,000 flutes a year. I also think sh makes them by hand he said that he travels from the South Dakota community of sisseton to northern Minnesota in search of wood. He has also won the several native Americans music awards. He said that the flutes were traditionally used in courting and social gathers. The senator said the artis talent and declined his work

  • brittanym-san
    11/03/2016 - 12:06 p.m.

    I wonder why did he want to make flutes. It is a little weird that his daughter would get the most like on facbook. He would not get the most likes on facebook for what he did. How did he travel to places just to play his flute. He was really famous and really cool he made his own flute.

  • anahir-san
    11/03/2016 - 12:18 p.m.

    Bryan makes his flutes from wood because he is trying to keep the tradition for his family.He also makes them out of wood because he wants to try to make it out of the wood material.He also is thinking of using $25,000 that comes with the fellowship to boost his career.He also wanted to know that flutes can be made from wood.Also flutes are not always make from metal.

  • amayah-san
    11/04/2016 - 12:10 p.m.

    He used wood to carve his flute because he found something he's good at and wants to start playing in a unique way for his career to stay afloat.

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