Matthew Tooni

Matthew Tooni is a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. He has played an active part in the community as both a storyteller and flutist. Tooni is also part of the Medicine Lake Traditional Dancers, which branched from the original Ravenrock Dance group created by Elder Walker Calhoun. He recently produced an album of flute and storytelling entitled Through Their Eyes, featuring the voices of local storytellers, including his brother John as well as their parents, Carolyn and Larch Tooni.

Matthew and his brother were raised in the Qualla Boundary, the Cherokee territory of western North Carolina; they cite the church as the strongest cultural influence in their household growing up. After taking an interest in Cherokee culture as they became older, together Matthew and John have immersed themselves in Cherokee tradition, exploring their history and culture and passing their knowledge onto others through song, dance, and engaging, sometimes hilarious storytelling.

Both Matthew and John are both former cast members of Unto These Hills, the long-running outdoor drama depicting three centuries of Cherokee history, performing key lines in the Cherokee language and contributing flute to the production. “I have found an exceedingly great amount of inspiration from my culture,” Matthew says. “Everything that comes from our hearts is genuine inspiration.”

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