“Redwing” Tune for the Dulcimer

What do you do with all the Christmas and Hanukah cards after the holiday season is over? I set mine aside with resolution to “deal with it later.” With a rigorous work schedule, the cards stacked up over the years. This year, I got them out and what a treasure. It was a chance to reminisce about what had happened to cousins and friends as I re-read letters. Plus, I found cash, several gift cards and these two gold dollar coins tucked in some of the cards. I was especially interested in the coins which were sent by my mother-in-law. The coin on the right bears the face of Sacagawea, a young Indian maiden. That made me think of dulcimer tunes about young Indian maidens. I could recall only one tune, “Redwing.”

About the Sacagawea “gold” dollar coin

The Sacagawea dollar coin was minted from 2000 to 2008. It gets it’s golden color because it was minted with manganese brass. Shucks, it’s not real gold! In early 2000, about 5,500 coins were placed into Cheerios boxes as a promotion to gain familiarity with the new coin. About 10 million Cheerios boxes were included in the promotion. If you manage to own one of these RARE coins, it might quite valuable as the eagle’s tail feathers on the reverse side were altered. The value of Sacagawea coins ranges from one dollar to uncirculated coins reaching a value of $43,000. (I think that my coin is worth one dollar.)

Who was Sacagawea? She was the young Lemhi Shoshone woman who served as guide and interpreter on the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806). When Sacagawea was age 12 years, she was taken captive from her Idaho tribe by another Indian tribe. She was sold to a Quebecois trapper, Toussiant Charbonneau, at age 13-years becoming one of the trapper’s two wives. At the time of the expedition, Sacagawea had a newborn baby and she was 16-years-old. She traveled thousands of miles with the expedition, with baby in tow.  Over the years, Sacagawea has become a celebrated figure, especially representing women’s independence and value to society. In the late 1800’s, she was promoted as a symbol by National American Woman Suffrage Association which greatly lead to our knowledge of Sacagawea.


“Redwing” is a song about a totally different Indian maiden. Unfortunately, I don’t know any songs about Sacagawea. Redwing is a fictional song about a young Indian woman who longs for her brave to return from battle. As all the other braves have returned from battle and the “moon shines bright”, Red Wing learns, sadly, that her sweetheart has died in battle.

The song was written in 1907 with music by F.A. Mills and lyrics by Thurland Chattaway. The melody was inspired by German composer, Robert Schumann’s piano composition, “The Happy Farmer, Returning From Work” from his 1848 Album for the Young, Opus 68. The tune became very popular during the early 1900’s and Tin Pan Alley years. It was was subtitled “An Indian Fable” or “An Indian Intermezzo” and was part of a fad of Native-American life and culture. The tune became a popular square dance song, entering fiddlers’ repertoire, being played from Wisconsin to New England and Canada. “Red Wing” has been recorded by many artists including John Wayne and Woody Guthrie.

Playing “Redwing” on the dulcimer

The tune is a great one to play on the mountain dulcimer. Although the lyrics are sad, the tune is lively, upbeat and quick. I arranged the tune for a DAD dulcimer tuning in the Key of D. The tune does contain chords, so strum across all the strings on this one. Start out slow, gradually picking up speed as you learn the song.

Hanukah Card

My lovely and thoughtful mother-in-law included a very sentimental note along with the two coins taped to the card. This is one card which I will save! Plus, I discovered all our family’s Christmas letters from past years. They have become an interesting and valuable timeline, with lots of trivia — such as the year our puppy joined our family. Good to know!

Here are the PDF files to download and play. Enjoy!


      1. That is unfortunate. I look forward to this each Spring. I’m sure most of us do. Perhaps online like everything else which may be better than nothing could be considered.


      2. These festivals take alot of planning in advance and we can’t predict what Covid will be like in future months. But, since things seem to be getting better, we may reconsider and have an in-person one-day workshop or something similar this summer. Keep posted. (Our club members don’t seem to be enamored with online festivals — there are several excellent ones already on the books. We like the real in person fetes down here.)


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