Music of the First Nations
Tradition and Innovation in Native North America
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Music in American Life
Introduction: Studying First Nations and Inuit Music
In countless ways, the study of North American indigenous musical cultures by Westerners has been a crucial element in establishing ethnomusicology as a discipline distinct from historical musicology. Early ethnologists such as Alice Fletcher, Francis Densmore, James Mooney, and Jesse Walker Fewkes laid the foundations for studying music in its cultural context...
1. Iglulik Inuit Drum-Dance Songs
This article discusses the traditional musical style that dominates the Inuit from the Arctic East to West: the drum-dance song, or pisiq (plural pisiit).1 The syllabic a-ya-ya, which appears in the text of drum-dance songs from Alaska to Greenland, is used today to designate the whole of the song as well...
2. Musical Expressions of the Dene: Dogrib Love and Land Songs
The respected Sahtú Dene elder George Blondin concludes his book of stories by stating, “The important values of Dene—respect for the land and respect for one another—will endure, both here in Denendeh and all over the world” (1990: 246). Those primary values are reinforced within Dene society by means of certain songs that can be called in English “land songs” and “love...
3. The Story of Dirty Face: Power and Song in Western Washington Coast Salish Myth Narratives
Stories and songs have been part of the rich cultural life of Pacific Northwest indigenous communities for many generations. Storytellers in traditional and contemporary contexts entertain and instruct both children and adults by evoking a lively world of characters, places, and events. Their narratives...
4. Drum, Songs, Vibrations: Conversations with a Passamaquoddy Traditional Singer
The Passamaquoddy (Peskotomuhkati) and Maliseet (Wolastoqiyik) are closely related but politically independent peoples who share very similar languages. They are historically part of the Wabanaki Alliance together with the Abenaki, Penobscot, and Mi’kmaq nations. These tribal nations straddle the national...
5. Identity, Retention, and Survival: Contexts for the Performance of Ntaive Choctaw Music
As the current revival of interest in American Indian music expands our knowledge about expressive behavior in contemporary Native American societies, music is being recognized by more and more researchers as a viable part of tribal cultures. Because of this increase in scholarly attention, brought...
6. "This Is Our Dance": The Fire Dance of the Fort Sill Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache
The Fort Sill Chiricahua Warm Springs Apache are their Fire Dance. That is to say, the dance represents them as a collective people because it bears the marks of their culture, history, and identity. The Fire Dance expresses their religious outlook while simultaneously celebrating their exuberance....
7. The Creative Power and Style of Ghost Dance Songs
The 1890 Ghost Dance, a religious movement originating among the Northern Paiute in Nevada, quickly spread eastward to many tribes on the northern and southern plains. It is easy to imagine the appeal of the religion and...
8. An Acoustic Geography of Intertribal Pow-wow Songs
At modern-day intertribal pow-wows, there are two distinctive regional singing styles commonly referred to by participants and observers as “Northern” and “Southern.” Of the two, Southern singing, the conventional style of Oklahoma, is the most similar to the traditional performance practices...
9. Singing Indian Country
In the song “Indian Cowboy,” Midnite Ethelbah, lead singer of the band Apache Spirit, delivers one of the more famous lines in contemporary Native American country music: “I don’t know how it happened, but I’m feeling kind of glad / I’m an Indian cowboy, and being both can’t be so bad.”1 The rhythm...
List of Contributors