Ernie Harrell has had a love for woodworking for as long as he can remember. From the very first time he was given a piece of wood as a child growing up on the Salish Sea (Puget Sound) his creativity was sparked. As Michael Angelo once said, "I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." It wasn't long before whittling had become a favorite pastime.
In his youth Ernie worked several jobs from picking oysters to working at a local winery. After graduating high school he was employed by a pulp mill as an off bearer cutting large timber. He then started working at Western Electric as an installer of phone equipment before being hired by Boeing (Seattle) working electrical systems in the Aerospace Group. In 1966 he worked on the 1st Lunar orbiter which took pictures of the Moon while in space and also worked on Minuteman missiles including trainer and test - set ups through out the U.S.
In 1973 Ernie transferred to Boeing's Construction and Devisions building, set up and cal ration of asphalt plants in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Some of the plants were located in Peru,, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Italy as well as Canada. He then became the director of customer support until Boeing transferred the equipment division to an outside company called B.M.G. (Beta Machinery Grouping) that Ernie became a part of along with others from Boeing Construction and Equipment. In 1997 B.M.G. transferred to Pleasanton, CA. He left B.M.G. as the Vice President in sales and service and joined on with a company named Asphalt Equipment run by an old friend of his for another two years before retiring in 1999.
After retiring Ernie and his wife Martha built a home on the lower
Puget Sound in Washington state on family property. Retiring gave Ernie more time to devote to woodworking and it wasn't long before he built a shop and purchased a lathe. He became quite busy making wood gifts which included salt and pepper shakers, bowls, cups, plates and vases to name a few.
In 2008 Ernie met Vince Redhouse when his daughter Diane brought Vince whom she was dating home to meet her family. During this visit Vince asked Ernie he had ever thought of building a wooden Native style flute.
Ernie told him no, but his interest was peaked and asked if Vince could leave a flute for him to look at. Ernie then went through the difficult process of making his first wood flute. The next year Vince and Diane would marry and in 2009 they would start WindPeople Music teaching Native flute to Native youth on Reservations across the U.S. Vince as the music instructor traveled and taught representing this endeavor, while Diane did all of the Photography, video, website work and held down the home office. Ernie made the flutes.
in 2012 WindPeople music was asked to perform at the Canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be sainted by the Catholic Church. Vince, Diane and three students of Windpeople Music flew to Rome, Italy and performed as the Pope celebrated the occasion in front of the one million in attendance.
Ernie's flutes have since been used by Grammy Nominated artist and on Grammy nominated CD's.They have also been used to perform the National Anthem for sporting events, graduations, Earth Day celebrations, honor society ceremonies, studio recordings, trial events, and much more.
He continues to make flutes for the students of WindPeople Music classes and in 2017 will have made close to 1000. Each flute is crafted from wood
mostly cedar and comes adored with handcrafted fetishes. Ernie's flutes have touched the hearts of many. Students are often inspired to thank him with cards of appreciation. To Ernie it has always brought great joy to share the gifts of his woodworking and to give back. At the end of each Native flute class Ernie's flutes are forever gifted to each student.