Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Documentary film features Chickasaw flute-makers


February 11, 2021

Wendell and Jack Pettigrew at the 2019 Southeastern Art Show and Market.

NORMAN, Okla. – A documentary film featuring internally renowned Chickasaw flute-makers Wendell and Jack Pettigrew will air virtually Friday at 6:30 p.m. due to COVID-19.

"Spirit Flute: Healing the Heart" is narrated by famed Cherokee actor Wes Studi. National and internationally celebrated First American flutist and recording artist Carlos Nakia provides insight into the importance of carrying on the art, tradition and heritage of flute-making and performing.

Tickets to join the event are available at a special rate for First Americans by using the code SpiritFlute101. Visit to purchase tickets. You may watch the documentary's trailer by visiting and click on the documentary tab.

The film was two years in the making.

Marial Martyn, executive director of Norman Cultural Connections, embarked on the project at the behest of former Seminole Nation Chief and Oklahoma Senator Enoch Kelly Haney. Haney's father, Woodrow, was a famed flutist.

Haney is an artist who sculpted the "Chickasaw Warrior" and also "Piominko" protecting the historic Chickasaw National Capitol in Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

Also featured in the documentary is Chickasaw and Comanche painter and flutist Tim Nevaquaya. He learned to play from his father, Doc Nevaquaya, one of the most famous First American flutists in the 1960s and '70s.

The Pettigrew brothers have been making First American flutes since they were children in the 1950s.

They have participated in many open and juried shows and festivals over the years, including local, regional and national exhibitions. They are award-winning artists and have taught art classes, conducted demonstration seminars and exhibited in various galleries. Patrons of their work are public and private collectors from the U.S., Japan, Germany and France.

"We make what we call 'fancy flutes,'" Wendell said recently. "We do carvings; Jack does sculpture work on them and all kinds of different designs. I do paintings on them. We give you something that can become a family heirloom."

Jack said the team is "adding to the culture and not letting it die out. We let people know who we are, what we stand for, and we leave something behind so they will know who we were. When you build a flute, there is a lot of yourself that goes into that process. It has meaning to us. We feel a total kinship in making flutes because we played music so many years. Treating something that can make music as a piece of art, you have the best of both worlds right there."

"I still get chills when I finish a flute because it came from my head and out of my heart," Wendell explained. "Music is about what is inside you. It is a love that you put into it and it is love you get out of it, too. When I make a flute, it becomes a part of me and my heritage," he shares in the documentary.


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