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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Bryan Akipa Among Master Artists To Be Honored In Washington, DC
by Carrie McDermott - Wahpeton Daily News

In addition to being honored by the NEA Bryan has been asked to perform at the White House

Wahpeton, ND – Sept. 6, 2016 – Dakota flute craftsman and player Bryan Akipa, Sisseton, South Dakota, will be honored later this month in Washington, D.C., as a 2016 National Endowment of the Arts National Heritage Fellow. The fellowships are the nation's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

He is one of nine artists chosen for the National Heritage Fellowship this year.

An awards ceremony will be held Sept. 28 with NEA Chairman Jane Chu, who recently visited Wahpeton, and members of Congress at the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C. Akipa will also perform and be interviewed on stage as part of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert on Friday, Sept. 30. The concert will be streamed live at and be hosted by cultural heritage advocate Dan Sheehy, recipient of the 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellowship.

Akipa grew up on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Lake Traveerse Reservation in South Dakota. He was inspired to learn how to create wooden flutes after seeing a mallard-head flute made by Lakota artist Richard Fool Bull. He spent many hours studying and drawing the instrument, to figure out how it was made.

He then reached out to tribal elders who knew the flute tradition and remembered the songs. Today he both makes flutes and performs on them and has won several Native American Music Awards and was nominated for a Grammy. Akipa is also a traditional dancer, visual artist and digital media artist.

"For me, the red cedar flute and its aria are my cultural tradition," he said in a bio on the NEA website, about the path that brought him to where he is today.

He has carried on the flute tradition by teaching his son, friends and relatives.

In addition to Akipa, the other 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellows are Joseph Pierre "Big Chief Monk" Boudreaux, a Mardi Gras Indian craftsman and musician from New Orleans; Billy McComiskey, an Irish Button accordionist from Baltimore; Artemio Posadas, a Master Huastecan Son (Mexican Musical Tradition) musician and advocate, from San Jose, California; Clarissa Rizal, a Tlingit Ceremonial Regalia maker from Juneau, Alaska; Theresa Secord, a Penobscot Nation ash/sweetgrass basketmaker from Waterville, Maine; Bounxeung Synanonh, a Loatian Khaen (free-reed mouth organ) player from Fresno, California; Michael Vlahovich, a master shipwright from Tacoma, Washington/St. Michaels, Maryland; and Leona Waddel, a white oak basketmaker from Cecilia, Kentucky.

Free tickets are available for the concert and can be reserved online at

The 2016 National Heritage Fellows will also be spotlighted in an episode of public radio's "American Routes" during Thanksgiving week. The episode will feature performances from the concert and interviews with the artists.

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National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through 2016. Go to to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse Facts & Figures, and check out the anniversary timeline.

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