And it was the poles of Sally's tipi that formed Charles' first visual memory.
Charles and his siblings lived their early days in Sally's tipi where she taught them the intricacies of traditional Warm Springs and Wasco culture. They learned reverence for all living things. Many times, wild black bears would come to their camp where Sally treated them as friends. She spoke to them in her native language, never with any fear. The bears ate the mountain huckleberries around her camp and trusted in her completely. She allowed them to eat what was theirs, then shooed them away when she was ready to retire for the evenings.
Sally loved Charles with all her heart. He spent more time with his great-great grandmother than with any other family member. Charles spent hours of his young life sitting with his grandma Sally under her apple tree while she sang spiritual Indian songs. These were the greatest times of Charles' childhood, memories he will always cherish. He remembers some of these songs which have significantly influenced his music style, in the beauty of what it is today.
Sally passed away when Charles was still very young. Indians know, often better than others, that death is not the end to life, but rather a great part of life; a new beginning. Still, to his young mind, existence was only the here and now. Charles had difficulties with comprehending his great-great grandmothers' passing. He felt that Sally had simply vanished.
As Charles grew older, he would always look toward that apple tree and feel a sense of peace and love. During his transition growing up into a young adult, he began to understand the meaning of her absence, which led to his awareness of her spiritual presence guiding him throughout the rest of his life.
As Littleleaf grew to adulthood, he sought the peace and solitude of nature and traditional lore. Increasingly, he was drawn to the mountains where he spent time traveling on horseback hunting for deer and elk to help feed his relatives. But these days eventually came to a temporary standstill. Littleleaf moved to Portland, Oregon, because he became curious about life off the reservation... to live in the city. Once relocated, he worked as a designing engineer at a prestigious transportation corporation in Portland, while indulging himself in the makings of traditional crafts off hours.
Though he prospered in his work over the years, he found that his emotional and spiritual life slightly suffered. He was a man caught between two cultures. Life off the reservation bore little resemblance to the traditional ways he had once been taught. In an effort to form a meaningful link to his culture, in his spare time he began to visit schools, telling stories of his growth as an American Indian born and raised on a reservation, thus teaching traditional lore, and eventually became recognized as an advisor in Native Spirituality.
Once discovering another way to feel and express, Littleleaf took up the Native American flute and had found, through this instrument, an emotional release of healing qualities and something else he could share with all people and, especially, with people in need. He, first, began making excursions at Warm Springs to play his music there at the home of his ancestor, in this beautiful and familiar place. Thus, the first samples of Littleleafs' spiritual and heartfelt music developed.
In 1992, Littleleaf received a flute from well-known Native American flutist, R.Carlos Nakai. Nakai's gift was intended to encourage Littleleaf to play. Later, Nakai held one of the first Native American flute workshops at Feathered Pipe Ranch in Helena, Montana. The workshop lasted two weeks and, it was here amidst players much more technically versed in music, that Littleleaf learned one of the best lessons of the traditional flute ... that playing from the heart and spirit, as well as trusting in his inner-self, is what worked well for him and for his listeners..
It has been several years now since Littleleaf received his first flute. What began as a personal spiritual journey has blossomed into a spiritual journey of a greater scope. Today, in sharing his music and instruments with the world, this award-winning artist shares the healing power of what music can bring to the spirit. Like his great great grandmother, Sally, Charles is a healer through music. He chooses not to heal with roots and herbs but with his living, cleansing music. He feels great compassion and oneness with all living things and, through his music and art, he promotes this belief around the globe.
Charles Littleleaf is a professional flutist and creator of traditional Native American flutes. As an enrolled tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, Charles is also an Honorary Member of the Pagan Blackfeet Band Reserve in Brocket, Alberta, Canada, and son of the late Chief Jack Littleleaf.
Charles' collectible beauties are found in museums, galleries, and in the homes of many American Indian fine art collectors around the world. His instruments are never mass produced and are intricately designed with precision, care and love. His Native American flutes are being played and enjoyed by folks in nearly every country on earth.
Mother Earth is Charles' guide. His art is a living testament to this, dedicating his life to the spiritual enlightenment of others through his wisdom, his music and through his beautiful Native American flute creations.
One thousand square miles of echoing canyons, mountains, and rivers, swift and deep... This is where Charles Littleleaf was born. Surrounded by nature so enchanting, and land untouched, that wild horses ran free through the desert. Charles could not help but absorb this beauty as he grew up, becoming part of it in his dreams and then, ultimately, through his life-long conscious thinking.
"We are gifted from our Creator only a small number of heartbeats in this lifetime.
If they can beat in happiness, then we are truly living."
(C. Littleleaf quote from Cowboys & Indians Magazine)
Water has always been an integral part of life on the Warm Springs Reservation. There are the springs bubbling up out of the earth, and rivers; the Deschutes, Shetike, and the Warm Springs River all flowing through. It seems right that Charles owes his beginning to water.
During salmon season, Charles' father, Jack Littleleaf of the Piegan Blackfeet Band, left Brocket, Alberta Canada traveled south to the ancient fishing grounds at Celilo Falls, Oregon. It was here when this champion traditional dancer and expert horseman met and wooed Charles's mother, Lolita Greeley; enrolled tribal member and resident of the Warm Springs Tribes. Their marriage resulted in two children. But Charles never knew his father until nineteen years later when he would visit Canada. Prior to Charles' 2nd birthday, Jack Littleleaf moved back to his Canadian homeland to prepare becoming chief to his people. Charles, his mother and his brother stayed behind in Warm Springs, Oregon.
If Charles had not lived on the reservation, he might have greatly missed the presence of his father, but reservation life was rich in family. Everyone had many grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins. Charles grew up surrounded by family, by elders and traditional people rich in knowledge, wisdom and culture. He listened, watched and learned from them all. But there was one relative in particular who influenced Charles, one who loved, guided and nurtured him, and who he developed a deep and lasting bond with.
His great great grandmother, Sally Ike, was a medicine woman - a powerful force, who is remembered even today as one of the founders of the Seven Drum religion. Sally plied her healing across the three tribes of the Warm Springs nation, and further north into Canada. Up to her old age she spent weeks at a time in the mountains gathering berries, roots and herbs. At the time of Charles' birth, she lived in a tipi along the banks of Shetike Creek with a community of other tipi people.
Tribal Member of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation Central Oregon, USA
LITTLELEAF NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTES, WARM SPRINGS, OREGON. IMAGES, MUSIC, CONTENT COPYRIGHT PROTECTED.
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