Apache flute-maker crafts native flutes for God's glory

Rick Archuleta

When I received the promotional information for Anointed Flutes the scripture verse on the front of the notebook said it all: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13, New King James Version)

For Apache flute maker, Rick Archuleta, it's all about God's glory. "I can't shut up about my passions," he says. "They are Jesus Christ and flute making."

Anointed Flutes is the name of Rick Archuleta's handcrafted flute company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He began making flutes after experiencing the flute's place and influence in Native society.

"I was struck by the importance of flute music in Native culture. Music-flute and other types-is used in a variety of ways: prayer, courting, marriage, and death. Flute music is everywhere," he told me during a recent conversation.

"Growing up in Colorado I was exposed to several Native cultures: Plains, Pueblo, and Athabaskan (Navajo and Apache). All of them used music and flutes in some form or fashion. I became enamored by the flute."

"I then realised the importance of flute music in the Bible. I read Psalm 150: 4 where it states, 'Praise Him with tambourine and dance, praise Him with strings and flute.' It was kind of an 'a-ha' moment for me. I knew then and there that I needed to make Native flutes for God's glory."

So I asked him how he began making the flutes.

"Using my background as a carpenter and woodworker, I began to form and shape my first flute several years ago. I have since pushed myself to prove the flute's worth in quality, sound, and expression."

I then asked Rick about the types of wood he uses.

"I use different woods," he replied. "The hardwoods I use range from oak, mahogany, maple, and walnut. I also use softwoods such as pine, cedar, redwood, and poplar. I even use some unique woods such as ash, bamboo, and Purple Heart.

"What I've found is that each flute - and the wood it's made of - has a unique voice and tone. They are individual and distinctive."

Do you have ornamental aspects to your flutes, I ask. Such as turquoise or carvings?

"Yes. A little," he said. "I do work with turquoise, and I do carve head pieces - such as a bird - as well. But mostly I'm interested in tone. I want the best sounding flute I can get. So my flutes tend to look simple, but have a complex sound."

As an Apache flute maker, does the Apache culture have a history of flute making and use?

"Yes," he stated. "In Apache culture, flutes were primarily used for courting. It's a Kiowa love flute. The flute is made to the length of the human arm, to fit the unique nature of the person. The flute holes were symbolic of differing aspects of the person as well. Because of the beautiful sound they make, flutes represent love in a real way. In modern times Apache's use the flute in a variety of ways, as is the case with most Native cultures."

How does your Christian faith come into play with the flute, I ask.

"In all respects," said Rick. "I want the flute to exemplify quality craftsmanship, representing our Creator God. I'd also love for people to use the flute as a type of prayer, bringing praises to God. On a practical level, I've donated several of my flutes to different Christian charities. I enjoy seeing the flute bless people on many levels."