Maker: Sioux

Date: 19th century

Geography: Northern Great Plains

Culture: Native American (Sioux)

Medium: Wood, grass, hide, tin, porcupine quill

Dimensions: 26 5/8 × 2 1/8 × 1 5/8 in. (67.6 × 5.4 × 4.1 cm)

Classification: Aerophone-Whistle Flute-whistle

Credit Line: The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889

Accession Number: 89.4.2058


This whistle has no finger holes, creating a limited tonal range and making it ideal for signaling. Today, the whistle's use varies with each community, but in the past a leader used it to direct Grass Dance singers to resume or cease their songs. Some dancers held these symbolic crane-headed whistles as they flattened the grass during their dance.
The sole opening in the shaft of the whistle is a duct window. Carved and hollowed from a single piece of wood and wrapped in red-dyed strips of reeds, this whistle features two braided lengths of sweetgrass lashed to its underside. Sweetgrass is considered sacred and used as a means of purification in many tribes. A collar of red-dyed, quilled spokeswith small rolled-metal cones and dyed down feathers surround the crane's beak. Two elongated tethers with feather adornment are attached at the collar's base.