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Abenaki  

Article

Algonquian  

Article

Amerindian music  

Bruno Nettl and Elaine Keillor

revised by Victoria Lindsay Levine

In this article the term ‘Amerindian’ is used in a conventional sense to refer to the native peoples, also known as American Indians or Native Americans, who occupied the North American continent above Mexico before the arrival of the Europeans in the 15th century. (For a general discussion of Amerindians throughout North and South America see Americas and for the music of Amerindian cultures in Central and South America, see Latin America, §I and the relevant country articles.) The Amerindians are so called because of the belief prevalent at the time of Columbus that the Americas were part of the East Indies. The Amerindians appear to have come into the Western hemisphere from Asia in a series of migrations; from Alaska they spread east and south. Their common origin explains the physical characteristics that Amerindians have in common, while the several waves of migration are supposed to account for the many native linguistic families. There is evidence of the presence of Amerindians in the Americas for more than 15,000 years. In pre-Columbian times the Amerindian population of the area north of Mexico is estimated to have been between one and two million....

Article

Amerindian music, Canada  

Elaine Keillor

The value of dividing Amerindian North America into musical areas has been debated by scholars because it depends on static traits, artificial models and generalities. In reality, musical boundaries are fluid and permeable. Indigenous communities have a long history of musical interaction and exchange, often resulting in the adoption or adaptation of instruments, repertories or styles from neighbouring tribes. Since the time of Columbus, borrowing has included aspects of European music. While the area approach provides a helpful overview of Amerindian musics, the music of each individual tribe or community must be experienced more fully in its cultural and historic context.

See also Amerindian music

The indigenous peoples of the area now known as Canada have been and continue to be referred to by labels applied by outsiders to their particular culture, either by another indigenous group or by European settlers and their descendants. The following discussion, however, uses self-assigned terms of individual cultures wherever known and places commonly used labels from the past within brackets. In the oral history of these peoples, their origin is placed within North America, although travel to and from the Asian continent is acknowledged. Today their descendants speak some 55 different languages within several language families, including Inuit-Inupiaq, Algic (Algonquian, Ojibwayan), Nadene, Wakashan, Salishan, Tsimshianic, Plateau Penutian, Siouan-Catawba, Iroquoian plus several isolated languages....

Article

Amerindian music, Developments after European contact  

Bruno Nettl

revised by Victoria Lindsay Levine

Amerindian musics, like all other musical traditions, have continually changed, reflecting native concepts of history and underlying attitudes towards change itself. Many groups believe that history proceeds along a recursive spiralling path rather than a linear chronology. Therefore, Amerindians tend to adapt historic repertories to new social realities, blending older styles with fresh components and merging the genres of one community with those of another. Western influence has sometimes resulted in more abrupt musical change. Entire tribes were obliterated through disease and war brought by contact with Europeans. Conversion to Christianity and the Westernization of native social and economic patterns prompted the adoption of new repertories and the creation of new performance contexts. During the 20th century, tourism played a significant role in the development of Amerindian music and dance. Through adaptation, blending and merging, Amerindians have selected European musical values, styles and instruments to enrich and diversify their own traditions....

Article

Amerindian music, Introduction  

Bruno Nettl

revised by Victoria Lindsay Levine

See also Amerindian music

In certain respects, Amerindian culture appears homogeneous: its musical styles are broadly similar throughout the continent, as are its myths and religious practices, which show similarities to those of Central and South America. In other respects, however, the Amerindian cultures as they were before the forced moves to reservations may be divided into distinct areas, coinciding with the physical divisions of the continent (fig.1): the Eastern Woodlands (known as Eastern Sedentary in Canada and subdivided into north-east and south-east in the USA), the Plains, the Southwest and California, the Great Basin, the intermountain Plateau (largely in Nevada and Utah), the Northwest Coast and the far North (subdivided into Western Subarctic and Arctic). These areas appear to have developed more or less independently for several centuries: each area had its own political and economic system, largely shaped by the exigencies of the natural environment.

Scholars have identified approximately 1000 tribal units, almost as many languages, and about 60 independent language families in North America. But the boundaries of the language groups did not at all coincide with the boundaries of the cultural areas, which shows that the cultural areas became defined fairly late in Amerindian history. There is substantial evidence that Amerindian cultures were influenced by cultures outside the North American borders. Traits from the cultures of Mexico and Central America, for instance, are found among the Indians of the Southwest, the Southeast and the Northwest Coast; the Amerindians of the far North and the Inuit (Eskimo) share certain traditions with tribal groups of north-east Asia....

Article

Amerindian music, Musical instruments  

Bruno Nettl

revised by Victoria Lindsay Levine

Amerindians have a great variety of instruments, most of them confined to a percussive role. The main melodic instruments are flutes; other melody-producing instruments, now known only from descriptions in the ethnographic literature, appear to have served mainly as drones. In some cases, instruments are used purely for their tone-colour; sometimes they imitate sounds of nature (e.g. animal cries and birdcalls) or suggest the voices of supernatural beings. Instruments of indeterminate pitch are often associated with ceremony and ritual, often as a background to singing. An example is the bullroarer, whose non-melodic sonorities serve both to accompany singing and to mesmerize when they help to induce the shaman’s state of trance.

See also Amerindian music

The most widespread Amerindian instruments are those that vibrate when struck, shaken, rubbed or plucked. Among the simplest are those that are rhythmically struck with sticks: boxes and poles have been used for this purpose on the Northwest Coast and by the Salish tribes; bark idiophones are found among the tribes of the north-east; baskets have been used similarly by the Yuma and Apache tribes of the Southwest and in southern California; and turtle shells were once important rhythmic instruments in southern Mexico. Among the Plains Indians, a suspended piece of unmounted hide (technically a membranophone, not an idiophone) was beaten by several singers simultaneously; one might well regard this as an ancestor of the drum. Finally, the ‘foot drum’, a plank or log rhythmically stamped upon, was known in California, the extreme Southwest and possibly also on the Northwest Coast....

Article

Amerindian music, Research  

Elaine Keillor and Bruno Nettl

revised by Victoria Lindsay Levine

The music and musical culture of the Amerindians have been studied since the late 19th century, and extensive collections of recordings have been deposited at various archives – notably in the Library of Congress (Washington, DC), the Archives of Traditional Music, Indiana University (Bloomington), and the National Museum of Canada (Ottawa).

See also Amerindian music

Recording of indigenous music began with cylinders made by Franz Boas (of Plateau and Northwest Coast material) and Alexander Cringan (Iroquois) in the 1890s. At this time, a policy of assimilation was being pursued by the Canadian government which had banned the potlatch and religious rituals of Northwest Coast Amerindians in 1884 and the sun or thirst dances of the Plains area in 1895. These prohibitions remained in effect until 1951. Consequently there was an urgency with many projects undertaken in the 20th century to record songs that would be otherwise irrevocably lost. Hundreds of songs were recorded, but often without full exploration or documentation of context or informants, or a translation of the texts being obtained. Subsequently some of these recordings were released commercially without receiving clearance from the nation concerned or from the particular owners of the songs. In many cases some of these songs should only be heard traditionally by certain persons and in particular situations. As a result of this misuse of their musical heritage, many indigenous nations within Canada during the 1980s drew up guidelines on what may be recorded, released commercially and used for demonstration purposes by outsiders of the culture. Emphasis is being placed on preparing videos, making recordings and preparing courses of studies including traditional music to be used in schools, but these are normally restricted for use within the territory of the nation. This direction has encouraged indigenous elders and students to research and write about their own musical traditions. With the commencement of the new territory of Nunavut (official languages Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French) and the western territory (official languages North Slavey, South Slavey, Nehiyaw; (Cree), Chipewyan, Dogrib, Gwich’in, English, French and Inuvialuktun) of the former Northwest Territories beginning in ...

Article

Amerindian music, USA  

Bruno Nettl

revised by Victoria Lindsay Levine

The value of dividing Amerindian North America into musical areas has been debated by scholars because it depends on static traits, artificial models and generalities. In reality, musical boundaries are fluid and permeable. Indigenous communities have a long history of musical interaction and exchange, often resulting in the adoption or adaptation of instruments, repertories or styles from neighbouring tribes. Since the time of Columbus, borrowing has included aspects of European music. While the area approach provides a helpful overview of Amerindian musics, the music of each individual tribe or community must be experienced more fully in its cultural and historic context.

See also Amerindian music

Amerindian music in the area that now constitutes the USA consists of numerous individual styles, yet there are some common elements. In traditional repertories, the emphasis is on singing rather than instrumental performance. Most of the music is monophonic; singing in octaves by men and women is widespread. In some areas, such as the Eastern Woodlands, singing in antiphony or call-and-response is common; polyphonic singing occurs occasionally. The way in which the voice is used and the preferred tone-colour varies greatly by region. However, because of the immense popularity of powwow music, the most common vocal style is characterized by glottal tension, pulsations on longer notes and high-pitch or falsetto singing. Amerindian music has a wide variety of musical structures, including many strophic and sectional forms. Repetition is important in most Amerindian music; depending on the tribe and genre, repetition may be precise, or involve variation or elaboration. Most Amerindian melodies have a descending contour or undulate with a descending inflection. Phrase lengths are often asymmetrical, which may obscure patterns of repetition or other design elements. Scales are most frequently tetratonic, pentatonic or hexatonic, although other types are used. The most common intervals are major 2nds and minor 3rds and their near equivalents....

Article

Bee’ ídílzoołí  

Article

Béésh nasoolts’ iiłlgo  

David P. McAllester

Rattle consisting of small pieces of flint of ritually prescribed shapes and colours used by the Navajo people of the southwestern USA to accompany songs in the Flintway ceremony. The flints are cupped in both hands and shaken to produce a jingling sound. They symbolize the restoration of fractured or dislocated bones as well as the renewal of vitality in general....

Article

Blackfoot (ii)  

Article

Box drum  

J. Richard Haefer

Percussion idiophone widely known in the Americas. Examples include the kalukhaq of the Alaskan Inuit and Native Americans of the northwest coast of North America, the cajón of Cuba and Peru, and the Mexican cajón de tapeo, which supposedly developed as a substitute for the tarima (dance platform). Box drums are also played in the Trinidadian shango cult and on other Caribbean islands. The typical cajón is a rectangular wooden box with a soundhole on the back or side; the box is usually large enough for the player to sit on while striking the front (tapa) with the hands or with sticks. Modern innovations include a padded seat on the top, screws for adjusting the timbre, snares that vibrate against the wood, and a pedal-operated striker. In 2001 Peru declared the cajón part of the nation’s cultural patrimony.

A. Chamorro: Los instrumentos de percusión en México (Zamora, 1984)....

Article

C’osame  

J. Richard Haefer

Vessel rattle of the Flathead Indians of Montana, USA. It is made by cutting a piece of hide and sewing it into a spherical shape, 7 to 12 cm in diameter, with an extension about 10 cm long to wrap around a wooden handle. The hide is wetted and filled with wet sand, then moulded into shape and allowed to dry, and the sand emptied. Small pebbles are inserted as rattle elements, and the handle is secured to the base of the body. Normally the rattle is not decorated either with feathers or paint. When used for the ‘begging around camp’ ceremony it is called ...

Article

Cacalachtli  

J. Richard Haefer

Rattle of the Aztec (Nahua) people of pre-Contact Mexico. It was a three-legged clay vase with clay pellets inside the hollow legs. The name also refers to other clay vessels containing seeds, stones, or other pellets. According to Molina (Vocabulario en lengua mexicana, 1571), cacalachtli (‘to sound’) denotes any clay receptacle containing pellets and for ritual use. The ...

Article

Cahuilla  

Ernest H. Siva

revised by Kay Edwards

Native American tribe also known as Paui (people of the hot springs) that spoke a Uto-Aztecan language and lived in south-central California, south of the San Bernardino Mountains. They live in California, in Riverside and San Diego counties; many live on the Cahuilla or neighboring tribes’ reservations established in the 1870s. Cahuilla native music was typical of Indian musical style in southern California. Almost entirely vocal and highly functional, it consisted of songs sung to accompany the various rituals in Cahuilla life. Song was the basis of the oral tradition, providing a vehicle for the transfer of knowledge and traditional practice from one generation to another. Thus there were songs for rites of passage, such as birth and puberty, and for entrance into certain societies. There were songs for work, play, and gambling, shamanistic songs for healing and to invoke power (for love, competition, and rso on), and priestly songs for commemoration, prayer, and dedication, which were cosmological in nature....

Article

California Indians  

Article

Canadian First Peoples  

Paula J. Conlon

In the Canadian repatriated constitution in 1982, three indigenous groups were identified and recognized as Canada’s “Aboriginal” people: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. There are approximately one hundred First Nations groups, four Inuit groups, and Métis of mixed indigenous and (generally) European descent. The term “nation” is the norm in Canada in reference to its First Peoples, reflecting the long-term goal of parity of governments. In this article representative nations are designated using spellings chosen by the cultures in question, with common names used in the past in brackets.

Northwest Coast nations along coastal British Columbia include the Kwakwaka’wakw [Kwakiutl], whose dance societies were responsible for theatrical presentations at winter ceremonials (potlatches). Dancers were accompanied by chants and drumming on planks and logs, along with wooden whistles and rattles, often elaborately carved.

The Tłicho [Dogrib] of the Western Subarctic led a nomadic existence between Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes. Male singers played round, single-headed snare drums with unpadded sticks for hand games, where vigorous drumming accompanied songs aimed at distracting the person guessing the location of hidden object(s)....

Article

Canari  

J. Richard Haefer

Guitar-like plucked chordophone of the Huichol (Wixáritari or Wirr’ariki) people of west-central Mexico. It is slightly larger than a violin. Typically the soundbox, neck (with four to six frets), nut, and pegboard are carved from a single piece of wood, and a thin piece of cedar serves as a soundtable; the soundbox is only slightly waisted or even oval. A bridge is attached to the soundtable using glue from a local plant. The four or five strings can be of metal, monofilament nylon, or gut. It is played with the ...

Article

Cayuga