The bark has been left on this unsplit, solid bore Cottonwood (Populus fremontii) branch flute, measuring 20 1/4" in length, with a 7/8" diameter sound chamber. She is clearly and soulfully voiced to a Mode 1&4 Gm pentatonic scale, playing three upper register notes. A few small knot holes have been inlaid with crushed Malachite. Deer leather lacing with Malachite and Brass beads secures the bird to its nest. To help prevent wet-out, the bird has been fitted with a Cedar shoe, and a drain hole, covered by the lacing, has been drilled into the bottom of the air chamber. The branch for this flute was gathered with respect and gratitude from a downed Cottonwood branch that fell from a tree growing in the San Marcos Creek watershed of California.
Black Elk relates why the Cottonwood tree is sacred to the Lakota:
”Long ago it was the cottonwood who taught us how to make our tipis, for the leaf of the tree is an exact pattern of the tipi, and this was learned when some of our old men were watching little children making play houses from the leaves. This too is a good example of how much grown men may learn from very little children, for the hearts of the children are pure, and therefore the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss. Another reason why we choose the cottonwood tree to be at the center of our lodge is that the Great Spirit has shown to us that, if you cut an upper limb of this tree crosswise,there you will see in the grain a perfect five pointed star which, to us, represents the presence of the Great Spirit. Also perhaps you have noticed that even in the very slightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in different ways.” ~ Black Elk