Yaquis Deer Dance - Sheet Music for Native American Flute
I first heard this melody in 2002 at the Arizona State Museum in Tuscon. It is one of the songs that is used in the Yaquis culture with the Deer Dance. This excerpt from [ASM 2001], page 10, provides some background:
Yaquis [yah-kee] are a Uto-Aztecan speaking people whose homeland is the Yaqui
River valley of Southern Sonora. They call themselves Yoemem [yoh-em-mem], or People.
Their nearest neighbors are the Mayos, with whom they share many customs and beliefs.
For many Yaqui, the heart of their culture is the five enchanted worlds that mirror the land
in which they live. These mystical realms play a part in the everyday life of the Yaqui
One of the most important worlds is the Sea Ania or Flower World. The flowers of the
Sea Ania unite the people and connect them to their past. The deer dance is an important
ceremony that lets Yaqui people communicate with the Flower World. It is performed at
Easter, as well as other times of the year. It is an excellent example of how Yaquis combine
their own spiritualism with traditional Catholic rituals.
In the deer dance, Saila Maaso [see-lah mah-soh] little brother deer leaves the Flower
World to visit the Yaqui people. The dance was created a long time ago after a man saw the
deer having a party of their own in the woods. He practiced their dancing and was able to
do it himself. The deer songs that are now part of the ceremony were traditionally used for
hunting. For Yaquis, songs are bridges between the natural world and the enchanted
worlds. They are the language that unites people and animals. The participants in the
ceremony are: the Deer Dancer, Deer Singers, Musicians, and the Pahkola dancers who are
the ceremonial hosts and who often perform clownish antics.
Despite their visions of beautiful spiritual worlds, the history of theYaqui people is full
of harsh realities. Following Mexican independence in 1821, the Mexican government
stepped up attempts to control Yaqui farm lands. For ninety years, Yaqui guerrilla fighters
resisted attacks by the Mexican government. By 1880, Yaquis created a formal army of
4,000 troops; the fighting which took place after this time was known as the Yaqui Wars.
The Mexican army finally defeated the Yaqui troops at the battle of Buatachive in 1886.
Many Yoemem fled hundreds of miles to the United States to avoid deportation, or execution.
As a result of the years of fighting, the Yaqui population dropped from 20,000 to less
Today, Yaqui people live in small communities in southern Arizona as well as in their
Mexican homeland. In Tucson there are four Yaqui communities: New Pascua, Old Pascua,
Barrio Libre and Yoem pueblo in Marana. The Yaquis' vision of the enchanted worlds, like
the Flower World, along with their religious ceremonies, like the Deer Dance, bind them
together and help them endure as a people.
Transcription and Performance Notes
Two versions of the melody are transcribed below:
- The original melody as I heard it in Tuscon. This melody is in a minor mode and fits nicely on the Native American flute.
A variation of the original melody, converting it to a major key. This version requires some cross fingerings.
I often use this version of the melody in workshops to demonstrate the difference between melodies in minor and major keys.
Here are two recordings I made of the minor and major version of the song.
The first recording was made on October 22, 2006, complete with guitar, shakers and background flute harmony. The lead flute is a Little Horse A minor flute by Butch Hall.
The second recording of the major-keyed version was done on November 1, 2011, using those tracks from 2006 that could be salvaged. Since the guitar background was done for the minor tuning, that was dropped, as well as the flute harmony. This second version was played on an A minor flute by Jon Norris.
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Sheet Music - Standard Fingering - Six-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes
Yaquis Deer Dance - Standard Fingering - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning
Sheet Music - Simplified Fingering - Six-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes
Yaquis Deer Dance - Simplified Fingering - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning
Sheet Music - Five-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes
Yaquis Deer Dance - Five-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning
Sheet Music - Major Tuning Variation - Six-hole Pentatonic Minor Tuned Flutes
Yaquis Deer Dance - Major Tuning Variation - Six-Hole Flutes - Pentatonic Minor Tuning