Then, out of the blue, Dan got the call he never imagined he’d receive. It was a call from Bro. Harden saying that one of Dan’s flutes was presented to the Pope and now is in the Vatican archives.
“As far as we know, it’s the only Native American flute in the Vatican archives,” Dan said.
Bro. Harden also played one of the eight flutes for a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pope the day after the canonization. This also was the first Native American Flute ever played at a mass in St. Peter’s. Also during his visit, Bro. Harden played Dan’s flutes at several smaller masses at different churches in Italy.
“He’s sure, because these type of flutes were not around back then, that it is the first time a Native American Flute has ever been played in those types of services,” Dan said.
Dan’s flute making has actually become a project that he and his wife have done together. Dan does all of the carving and Jean dresses all of the flutes with leather work and beading.
“When I retired, I didn’t think I was going to turn into a flute builder. I knew I would be doing something with wood,” Dan said.
Dan, who retired a year ago last May as a National Trainer for the U.S. Postal Service at NCED, and Jean, who is retired from Norman High School, also sell their flutes through dealers in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., and in Santa Fe, N.M.
“Retirement is not for wimps,” Jean said.
The couple, who have formed Journey of Life Flutes, feels they were given an opportunity very few individuals are presented with during their lifetime.
“The opportunity to use our God given talent to make something of significance that would be kept in the Vatican in perpetuity. When we were commissioned to make these flutes, we knew that they would be taken to Rome and gifted to individuals attending the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha. We had hopes that one might be given to the Pope, but that was, in our minds, a long shot,” Dan said. “Getting the phone call from Bro. Isadore and finding out that our deepest hopes had come true was a knock us off our feet experience. It is humbling to know that something we made will be in a place where it will be valued, protected and cared for long after our deaths. Playing a small part in such a rare and great occasion as a canonization of anyone, let alone the first Native American, is hard for us to comprehend. We feel proud and humbled by this experience.”
For more information on Journey of Life Flutes, visit jolflutes.com.