Remembering the Songs

A Presentation of Film, Story, and Songs in Celebration of American Indian Cultural Heritage


Story and song. Both are gifts that all people have enjoyed from time immemorial. Through story we make meaning of the world and our place in it. With song we celebrate, entreat, and embrace the sacred dimension of it.

This continent is an old tribal world that was filled with the story and song traditions of American Indian Tribes. Some of these stories and songs have been lost, but many have persisted. Through the care of culture bearers and song keepers, irreplaceable cultural knowledge remains alive with individuals, families, and communities.


Program Description

“Remembering The Songs” is a music and lecture performance based around the same-titled documentary film and musical album. The project provides a unique look at the musical traditions from Zuni, Navajo and Salish communities and the importance of songs to these people through the stories of three song keepers and music makers from native communities. Many songs have been lost, but this program shares some of the songs that remain.

This program includes the screening of a 30-minute documentary in addition to a live performance of storytelling and music by Gary Stroutsos, one of the artists featured in the recorded project. "Remembering the Songs" is most appropriate for small concerts, museums, and libraries. The program comes with an extensive study guide (see "Resources"), making it a powerful teaching tool for college and university level history or humanities courses.


Presentation Format

30-minute documentary that shares a glimpse of three American Indian communities and the importance of music in their communities. (AV system required to show the film in a professional setting).

30-minute solo flute performance of traditional songs and personal stories about the origins of the songs, performed by Gary Stroutsos on his one-of-a-kind, hand-made, traditional American Indian cedar wood flutes. Scroll down to "About the Artist" to listen to several sample tracks.

30-minute Q&A to spark a conversation about the presentation, followed by a viewing of the flute collection.


About the Artist - GARY STROUTSOS

Originally trained as a Jazz flutist (studying with Jazz master flutist and composer James Newton, and Afro-Cuban flute master Danilo Lozano), Gary Stroutsos has become perhaps best known for his haunting work on the Native American Flute, and is acknowledged to have made a significant contribution to the preservation of American Indian music and culture. Himself a Greek-Italian-American, Stroutsos has had the rare opportunity to journey into the indigenous cultures and communities of North America, where he learned how to play the Native American Flute. During this time, Lakota, Mandan-Hidatsa, Navajo and Salish Kootenai Elders asked him to set their songs to his flute, which has undoubtedly been invaluable in the development of insight and the character of authenticity that his numerous recordings of native flute music embody.

In 2011, Gary worked with Julie Cajune at the Heart Lines Center for American Indian Policy and Applied Research - Salish Kootenai College with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to produce Remembering the Songs. This project reflects time spent with friend and mentor Paul Thompson, Navajo flute maker – Fernando Cecillion, Zuni song keeper – and Lucy Vandenburg, daughter of Jerome Vandenburg, one of the last Salish men who made and played traditional flutes.





“To express a culture not your own, has always been viewed as risky, unless that culture has been accepted and better understood, then things become natural.

This guidance has led Gary to visit, meet, and find the circle he’s part of. The inspirations of this circle have given Gary direction to return the respects of a people, through his musical gifts.

-Cedric Goodhouse Hunkpapa, Lakota


Read more testimonials about Gary's work


“Gary has a unique quality in his interactions with people whether they are young school children or elders in the community…..At a concert performance for elders at The People’s Center, an elder was brought to tears as Gary played the flute…She told us when she was young her uncles often played the flute and Gary’s music brought back memories….Gary and Oshanee developed a sincere friendship. Gary visits Oshanee each time he returns here and wrote a song for her that is on his last CD.  Too often people do not recognize or acknowledge the treasure they have in their elders.  Gary was quick to appreciate this with the people in our community and he has a special place with many of us here…Stroutsos is committed to the integrity of the music, instrument and history he is sharing. Gary is faithful to honor the songs and their origins.

-Julie Cajune. Curriculum Coordinator, Tribal Education Department, The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation


Gary Stroutsos - Artistic Statement

From time beyond memory, American Indian people have sought to know the winds and for many generations these musicians have captured its beauty through haunting and plaintiff flute songs. The flute is the true sound of the wind or the enlightening breath of the woodpeckers and meadowlarks as they sing their songs for the first time in the spring. The flute gives voice to the beauty of the land.

“Remembering The Songs “ is the celebration and culmination of my over 20-years of direct work with American Indian music.
I have an obligation to the people who shared these songs and stories with me to keep the stories and music going in a good way. This is a great honor yet it also comes with responsibility to the cultures that shared the music of which I am now a part.

My passion has always been to advance many world flute music cultures, but my work with the American Indian has been the most rewarding. I have many "personal memories" tied around these stories and songs that it is an honor for me to share in this presentation. The advancement and stewardship of these songs is what keeps me going.

I have a strong commitment to present “Remembering The Songs.” The respect and dignity that goes with this presentation is of the up most importance to me. My gift to the world is to play the songs—nothing more. I see myself as not the focus, but rather the messenger, of the music.