Dock Green Silverhawk once invited a few friends to his Plant City home for a backyard barbecue, and an afternoon of honoring a Native American tradition – a flute circle.
The annual music party soon outgrew Silverhawk’s backyard, and found a new home at Withlacoochee River Park in Dade City.
On Oct. 15 and Oct. 16, the 13th Annual Silverhawk Native American Flute Gathering opened with its traditional Native American prayer to the Creator, and a lyrical flute performance of “Amazing Grace.”
Kathleen “Cheyenne Hummingbird” Imhoff stood beside Silverhawk signing in English and Native American languages.
Silverhawk, whose heritage is Creek and Cherokee, embraces the park’s legacy.
“At one time, there was a Creek nation here,” he said. “This is historic right here.”
Though the venue for the flute gathering may have changed, the down-home flavor and passion for the flute is the same.
“It’s very spiritual. It’s a music event,” Silverhawk said.
Vendors displayed Native American crafts and products, including handcrafted flutes, dreamcatchers, packets of sage and sweet grass, and medicine wheels.
Grill on Wheels sold Indian tacos, buffalo burgers, Indian fry bread and Indian fry dogs.
Several vendors and volunteers were members of the Wolf Heart Lodge, in Pinellas County.
Kim “Turquoise Cloud” Cox sold cookies and pastries on behalf of the lodge to benefit homeless veterans. Her husband, Charlie “Sun Walker” Cox, played the flute.
Lodge members try to bring awareness about Native American culture and its traditions. “We try to teach how to make medicine bags and dream catchers and also teach what that means to Native Americans,” said Kim Cox.
Susan Piper sat on a bench as Silverhawk performed. As a Pasco County employee, Piper helped Silverhawk obtain a permit for the event.
She has known him for awhile, but this was her first time at the flute gathering.
“This man is so devoted,” she said. “I love to learn, and I respect him so much.”
Shelly “Night Wolf” Berry, and her son, Robert “Little Turtle” Weisenberger, go to as many pow wows and flute gatherings as they can. They drove from Holiday for the Dade City gathering.
Berry’s mother was a member of the Miami tribe, and at age 83, still went hunting and made her own clothes from animal fur.
“She lived the old way,” Berry said. “We learned through her to live the white (man’s) way and her way.”
Utah Farris is an Oklahoma native and went to school with Creek children for whom flutes were part of their culture. But, Farris said, “I wasn’t even vaguely interested in them (flutes).”
It wasn’t until he retired 15 years ago that he began learning to play the flute. He made his first flute after finding a drawing in an old book.
No flute player would reveal “trade secrets,” Farris said.
He owns Flight Feather Flutes in Lake Wales, and sells his own handcrafted flutes. He travels to about 15 Native American events each year, and shares flute-making skills.
“I think it should be passed on,” he said. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Girl Scouts from Troop 078 in Zephyrhills spotted the sign for “free flute lessons” at the Riverwind Flute Circle’s tent.
Tom Ransom obliged with an introductory lesson, offering encouragement to the flute novices.
“You don’t need to know a whole lot to play,” he said. “But, you can learn a lot from trying to play.”
Barbara Cool Breeze, owner of Cool Breeze Creations, goes only by her Native American name. She sold sage, dreamcatchers and medicine wheels at her display table. Her heritage is Creek and Cherokee.
“This is a spiritual thing,” she said. “It’s a therapy for me.”
Published October 26, 2016