Loading Spinner

American Indian Musical Instruments

For many American Indian tribes, music weaves its way through the entirety of their cultural history. Alongside the complex vocal arrangements of American Indian song was the development of instruments, essential for the song but also striking in decorative details. Music was a popular communal activity, but its purpose among American Indian tribes went well beyond pure enjoyment.

Many tribes used their music as means of charting their oral history, putting into song the details we today would more commonly write down. Added to these songs were the use of instruments, such as drums, flutes, and rattles, which became integral to the tales these songs intended to relay. These instruments subsequently became a vehicle for artistic expression themselves. The stretched hide of drums, for instance, soon featured small motifs or figural representations. The result was a body of instruments as artistically elegant as the music they created, a beauty that persists today.


Quick Facts

  • American Indian flutes are among the oldest documented instruments in the world. Typically conjured from hollowed bone, these flutes have been discovered dating back several thousands of years
  • Drums, which have accompanied American Indian music for millennia, were considered by these cultures to allude to a heartbeat, both that of the body and of the earth
  • The courting flute gets its name from its supposed origins. Used by young suitors, the flute was intended as a means to attract and court eligible maidens

Recommended Items at Auction

See all items

rattle, beaded handle and horse hair top
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
rattle, beaded handle and horse hair top
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$201 Bid
Iroquois Rattle w/ beads
Mar 16, 10:00 AM EDT
Iroquois Rattle w/ beads
by Old Barn Auction
Est: $40- $1,000
$200 Bids
Sioux Style Leather Rattle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
Mar 03, 1:00 PM CST
Sioux Style Leather Rattle Indian Artifact Arrowhead
by Mike Nichols Auctions
Est: $1,000- $20,000
$100 Bids
Group of Native American Indian items, to include
Feb 28, 9:00 AM EST
Group of Native American Indian items, to include
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $60- $80
$300 Bids

Sellers Who Sell American Indian Musical Instruments