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Native American Music: About

Native American Music

Link to Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk by Sasha taqwšeblu LaPointe in the catalog
Link to Music and Modernity Among First Peoples of North America by Lindsay Levine, Victoria Levine & Dylan Robinson in Freading
Link to Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band by Christian Staebler in the Catalog
Link to Spirit Drumming by Gabriel Horn in Freading
Link to Run as One: My Story by Errol Ranville in Freading
Link to Where the Tall Grass Grows by Bobby Bridger in Freading
Link to Native American Dance Steps by Bessie Evans & May G. Evans in Hoopla
Link to Medicine Drum: Powwow Songs by Sunshine Records in Hoopla
Link to Native Dreams: A Native American Musical Tapestry by David Arkenstone in Hoopla
Link to TRAPLINE by Snotty Nose Rez Kids in Hoopla
Link to Native Chill by David Arkenstone in Hoopla
Link to Native American Flute Songs From The Northern Plains by Gary Stroutsos in Hoopla

Watch Contemporary Artists

Music History of the Native Americans

The early history of American Indian musics may be gleaned from native methods of recounting history, traditional narratives, archaeology, iconography, and linguistics. Methods of recounting history existed among peoples such as the Inca and the Aztec. The Inca had a genre of historical songs, while the Aztec carved symbolic pictures onto some instruments indicating how, when, where, and by whom they were played. Traditional narratives as well as linguistics reveal that Native Americans have extensive histories of regional interaction; over time, this has enriched and broadened their musical lives. Reciprocal participation in collective ceremonies has been a part of life among peoples of the Eastern Woodlands for centuries, with the result that a complex network of musical exchange has developed, extending from Florida to Ontario, Canada. Archaeology reveals extensive information about the history of musical instruments, and the study of ancient sculpture, paintings, and other visual materials suggests something about instrumental performance techniques and ceremonial contexts. The archaeological record indicates, for example, that the teponaztli and huéhuetl have been played in Central Mexico since the pre-Columbian era. Continue reading from Encyclopedia Britannica

Music Plays an Integral Part in Native American Culture

Music lies at the heart of Indian culture. From birth to death, all occasions, sacred and secular, personal and tribal, in the life of the Plains Indian are inextricably intertwined with musical performances.

Music serves numerous functions in traditional Indian culture, including religious ceremonies, healing ceremonies, work songs, game songs, courtship, storytelling, songs to bring success in hunting, agriculture, and war, and social songs and dances. As traditional culture has been influenced through contact with non-Indian cultures, the purposes and functions of music have been adapted so that music retains its meaningful role in cultural identity.

The music of the Plains is the most familiar Native American music to non-Indian peoples, due in large part to its use in television and motion pictures (including the Academy Award–winning Dances with Wolves, which featured performances by the Porcupine Singers, a well-known Lakota musical group). The high, tense vocal style, the descending melodic pattern, the vocables (meaningful syllables without a direct English translation), and the rhythmic drumming of the Plains are immediately identifiable as "Indian music" throughout the world. Because of its familiarity, it is often erroneously used in entertainment venues to represent the musical practices of all Indians, regardless of tribal or cultural identity. A recent renaissance of interest in Native cultures has, in large part, corrected this misconception. Continue reading from The University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Native American Music in the Contemporary Age

Contemporary Native American music is unique in regards to its wide-ranging bandwidth: some contemporary artists choose to remain completely traditional, and others choose to fuse components of traditional Native American music with more modern genres. These modern genres include—but are not limited to—country, blues, rock, and hip hop. Not only does contemporary Native American music vary in this regard, but it also differs based on the degree of incorporation of the more modern genres. Some artists choose a more traditional sound with sprinkles of more modern genres such as pop, while others do the opposite in fabricating modern music with hints of traditional Native American influence. Through the application of priming, music by a Native American will almost always contain hints of the musician's past in some form. In other words, our past always influences our future actions. This key feature contributes to a central beauty regarding contemporary Native American music. Even as Native American culture is stifled, it still holds firm through its widely-encompassing music scene.

There are so many outstanding musicians in the Contemporary Native American music scene. Many of the rising and established artists in this unique genre can be found in the Spotify playlist above. To really showcase how diverse the Native American music scene is, the playlist is ordered from pieces that are highly mixed with other genres, all the way to pieces that are solely traditional in nature. On this premise, let’s start with one prominent figure: Martha Redbone. Last November, Redbone actually visited UT Austin's Briscoe Center for an event entitled "A Conversation about American Roots." It was here that I witnessed what would later inspire this writing as the soul singer gave a powerful lecture on her journey as a musician. What makes her perspective so extraordinarily unique, however, is her cultural background: she is both half Native American and half African American. She explained that while the musical segments of both cultural backgrounds tend to contrast quite a bit, anything is possible through a "brilliant collision of cultures." The "ethnically blended" influence in her music, as she calls it, came from the gospel singing of her African American father and the resilient spirit of her mother's Cherokee, Shawnee, and Choctaw culture. Continue reading from KVRX

Learn More About the History, Culture and Current Social Concerns of Native Peoples

Link to Celebrate Native American Culture Resource Guide
Link to Indigenous Medicine resource guide
Link to Native American Arts & Crafts resource guide
Link to Indian Child Welfare Act resource guide
Link to Indigenous American Mythologies Resource Guide
Link to Local Indigenous Peoples resource guide
Link to The Trail of Tears Resource Guide
Link to Native American Music Resource Guide
Link to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Resource Guide
Link to Indigenous American Cuisine Resource Guide
Link to The True Story of Pocahontas Resource Guide
Link to Navajo Code Talkers resource guide
Link to The Lost Children of the Residential School System Resource Guide
Link to The Pequot War Resource Guide
Link to Native American Heritage Month resource guide
Link to Native American Activism Resource Guide
Link to The Wounded Knee Massacre Resource Guide
Link to Pipelines on Tribal Land Resource Guide

Link to Indigenous American Heritage Resource Guide Series Homepage