Keith Bear

Native American Flute Traditions


Age range: Good for 9 to 12 year olds

Estimated Time: Give yourself some time! This interactive takes about 30 minutes to complete.

Key Technology: Teachers can choose to stream this video on a computer and project it onto a screen or whiteboard with speakers or to let students watch individually on computers with headphones.

This interactive explores Native American music and traditions as explained by Keith Bear.


Think About

Viewing Strategy: As you view the video clips, stay focused on your purpose for viewing. Find out how Bear learned to play the flute and what role the flute plays in Native American traditions.

Before you get started, think of what you already know about Native American culture and traditions. Keep this in mind as you watch Keith Bear’s performance.

As you watch, compare and contrast the ways in which Native American music and rituals are similar to or different from those with which you are familiar.


  • What does Bear say the two barrel flute is like?
  • What does Bear say the three barrel flute is like?

Critical Thinking

  • In what ways is music a “spiritual expression of yourself?”
  • Why does Bear think it’s important to make flutes from wood rather than from plastic?
  • Why does Bear compare people to spiders?


Quiz Yourself!

  • How many different flutes does Keith Bear have?
  • Who uses five hole flutes, six hole flutes and seven hole flutes?
  • What are some of the Native American traditions Bear talks about?

Learn More

Dig Deeper!

Learn more about Keith Bear, his music, stories and traditions at his web site, http://www.keithbear.net/

Learn more about the art of Native American flute making at http://www.native-american-flutes.com

Find out more about the Mandan people at http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/mandan/mandanhist.htm

For the Educator

  • Social Studies teachers may choose to have students research the different musical traditions of different Native American tribes. This information could be presented orally in a report, visually on a map or poster or electronically in a power point presentation. More general information about Native American culture is available here.
  • Social Studies teachers may also choose to focus specifically on the Northern Great Plains Indians.
  • Music teachers may choose to have students play various flutes and recorders to compare and contrast their sounds and inner workings. Sheet music is available here.

Keith Bear (O’Mashi! Ryu Ta - “Northern Lights”), a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes in Fort Berthold, North Dakota, is a musician, storyteller and flutemaker. Bear sheds light on the art and tradition of making flutes in the Native American tradition in this series of video clips.

Instructional Strategies

  • This interactive lends itself to large-group or individual listening as well as to both individual and group research..
  • Students can research the different kinds of Native American flutes, the musical traditions of various tribes, the different kinds of sounds made by various flutes and the ceremonies in which these instruments are used.
  • There are many aspects of Native American culture. Consider having a Native American festival in which the music, art and dance of various tribes are highlighted.
  • Read the story of the Native American Love Flute and learn more about the history of the Native American flute.
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