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Article

Victoria Lindsay Levine

Vessel rattle of the Cherokee people of the southern USA. Cherokee singers make their own handheld rattles. A hollow gourd, coconut shell, or terrapin carapace is partially filled with round pebbles and drilled with small soundholes; a wooden handle about 30 cm long is inserted lengthwise through the container. The rattles may be decorated with feather pendants. Song leaders play them to support the song’s pulse and to signal changes in direction or choreography during communal dances performed at ceremonial grounds. The male song leader holds the rattle in his right hand and shakes it while singing and dancing at the head of the line of dancers. He plays a tremolo to indicate the start and end of individual songs within a longer series; during a song, he plays steady, evenly spaced beats. Similar rattles are used to accompany communal dances among the Chickasaw, Delaware, Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, Shawnee, and Yuchi (Euchee), and in the 18th century were used by the Choctaw. Each tribe has its own word for such rattles; for example, Creek, ...

Article

J. Bryan Burton

[Goyaałé, Goyathlay, Goyahkla ]

(b New Mexico, 1829; d Fort Sill, OK, Feb 17, 1909). Native American instrument maker, singer, medicine man, prophet, and military leader. He is better known in Western history for his military leadership of Western Apache resistance to reservation life during the 1880s. Goyaałé (“One who yawns”) was given the name Geronimo after an attack on a Mexican village on St. Jerome’s day when terrified Mexican soldiers cried out “Jeronimo” appealing for help from St. Jerome. After his surrender he was held as a prisoner of war, first in St. Augustine, Florida, then in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, until his death. His celebrity was such that he often made public appearances, including at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, rode in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1904, and wrote an autobiography with S.M. Barrett, the Oklahoma superintendent of education.

As a medicine man (Apache: diyan), Goyaałé performed Apache sacred ceremonies and rituals that required the knowledge of a vast repertoire of traditional songs sung during the ceremonies. A number of the songs he created were collected for Natalie Curtis’s ...

Article

Victoria Lindsay Levine

Double-headed snare drum of the Choctaw people of Mississippi, USA. Presumably modelled after a European instrument given to or captured by the Choctaw during the 1700s, such drums are made from black gum, cyprus, hard pine, poplar, or sweet gum wood and are about 31 cm tall by 25 cm in diameter, although sizes vary. The heads are made of goatskin, sheepskin, or deerskin and are attached to the body by hoops made of hickory wood. The hoops are laced together with strips of deer hide in a V pattern. Two additional strips rest on the unplayed lower head, acting as snares. The male drummer uses a pair of hickory drumsticks about 30 cm long. The drum is played to accompany processions such as dance troupes entering or leaving an arena or ballplayers taking or exiting the field. The Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), and Yuchi (Euchee) had similar snare drums in the past....

Article

Hirukis  

J. Richard Haefer

[hirukiam]

Rasp or scraper of the Yoeme Yaqui Indians of Arizona and Northern Mexico. A hardwood stick about 4 cm wide by 50 to 60 cm long has a series of small grooves cut into the bottom two-thirds. The unnotched part of the stick serves as a handle when the distal end is placed on top of half a gourd about 20 cm diameter, inverted in a pail of water which acts as a resonator. The rasp is scraped by a second stick in time with the singing of the ...

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[u’us hikiat, hiokat]

Scraper of the Tohono O’odham (Papago) Indians of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. Two types are used by the O’odham. The hiwculdakuḍ (‘thing with which one rubs’) is made from a stick of hard wood (u:pad [catclaw, Acacia Greggii] or ho’idkam [ironwood, Olneya tesota]) about 50 to 60 cm long and 3 to 5 cm diameter, with 10 to 12 deep notches cut widely apart along the length. The distal end is placed on an inverted basket on the ground that serves as a resonator, and the notches are rubbed with a short stick of the same material, producing a sound like blowing wind and rain. It is used to accompany curing and other ritual songs.

The u’us hikiat (‘jagged wood’, Densmore’s hiokat) is made from segoi (greasewood, Sarcobatus vermiculatus) or kui (mesquite, Prosopis velutina), softer woods yielding a lighter sound. The thin stick has shallow cuts spaced closely together. Though it can be played without a resonator, most performers nowdays use a basket resonator. It is used to accompany ...

Article

Hoa  

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[tamoa]

Idiophone scraper and drum of the Tohono O’odham (Papago) Indians of southern Arizona and northern Mexico. A common household woven basket about 25 to 45 cm in diameter and 10 to 15 cm deep is inverted and held in the crook of the left arm. It is scraped with a stick across the basket’s ribs during the first part of a song and beaten with the stick in the second part. Older baskets woven from willow branches are preferred over the modern baskets woven from yucca fibre over a bear grass foundation. Densmore indicates that the basket was inverted on the ground and played by several singers simultaneously. Nowadays it is usually played by one person. Russell wrote that among the Akimel O’odham (Pimans) the hoa made from willow branches could be beaten softly with the hand at the beginning of songs instead of being scraped. The Pimas sometimes substitute a cardboard box if a basket is not available....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Cylindrical drum of the Aztec (Nahua) people of pre-Contact Mexico. The body was open at the bottom and had a single head of jaguar skin or deerskin pegged to it and beaten with bare hands to accompany songs, the player either sitting beside the drum or on top of it. Along with the teponaztli (wooden slit drum), it was one of the most important instruments of Aztec culture, frequently inscribed with symbolic carvings. The name huehuetl is derived from the name of the tree ahuehuete (Pinus sabiniana), which supplied the wood from which the instrument was made, though examples of oak and walnut exist (earlier ones might have been made of precious metal or clay). It was tuned by heating the interior with live coals to dry and tauten the head. High and low pitches were produced by striking near the rim and centre of the head, respectively. Drum patterns were apparently learned by reciting the syllables ...

Article

John M. Schechter

revised by J. Richard Haefer

In modern Nahutl, a generic term for an Aztec flute. Traditionally it was a ceramic globular vessel flute. Stanford equates it with the flute çoçoloctli. Clay huilacapitztli have been found up to 20 cm in diameter and with five to eight tone holes. More developed examples are found throughout Central America. It was played together with the tlapitzalli by ‘Adonis’ (the Aztec sacrificial young man) as he ascended the steps of the pyramid for sacrifice.

The tlapitzalli is an Aztec end-blown flute, usually made of clay but sometimes of wood or bone. It is found in various shapes (straight, curved, Y-shape) and sizes from 15 to 35 cm long. The proximal end has a duct mouthpiece and the distal end is often flared. It can have up to four bores which can be blown together or separately. The body might be painted with images of Aztec dieties or decorated with three-dimensional figures. Traditionally it was blown by priests at solemn ceremonies, and Montezuma is said to have been entertained by one while eating. Adonis played the ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

(Apache: ísal, ‘pot’ or ‘bucket’; ‘bucket bound around’)

Water drum of the Apache people of Arizona and New Mexico. A large iron pot or kettle with the handle removed is partially filled with water and sacred materials (corn pollen and ash). A buckskin head (or nowadays sometimes rubber from a truck tire inner tube) is lashed tightly over the opening with buckskin thongs or strips of cloth or inner-tube rubber, with the excess skin or rubber draped around the pot. Historically a large pottery vessel was used; there is no evidence for use of a wooden vessel. The drumstick, of pine, is wrapped in buckskin at the distal end.

The drum accompanies singing, secular and religious (na-i-es, girl’s puberty ceremony; edotal, diagnostic; gojital, curing). It is usually played in groups of four with the performers standing and holding the drums under the left elbow, but in the curing rites it is held in the lap of a seated player. The earliest representation of the drum is a painting by George Catlin of ...

Article

Richard Keeling

Strung rattle of the Hupa and other native peoples of California. The Maidu call it temsisili. It is a cluster of deer hooves or dew claws tied to a wooden or bone handle 30 to 45 cm long. When shaken, the hooves create a sharp clicking sound. Among tribes of northern California and the San Joaquin Valley, it is used in the girls’ puberty ceremony. Luiseño hunters shook the rattle for luck before setting out for deer. Other southern California tribes such as the Chumash, Fernandeños, and Gabrielinos used it in mourning ceremonies....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

[ka’wásta’] (Seneca: ‘stick’)

Stamping sticks of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederation peoples of northeastern North America. The sticks, used in pairs, are hickory wood poles from 1.5 to 1.8 m long and about 5 cm in diameter. They are held vertically by two women of the towisas (society of women planters) and are used to beat time to the songs of the women’s rite, performed at the Green Corn and Midwinter ceremonies. According to Seneca belief, the stamping is said to represent thunder, wind, and rain....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

[ká:ˀke:taˀ] (Seneca: ‘whistle’)

Vertical whistle of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederation people of north-eastern North America. It is made of cane, about 45 cm long with an external duct, like the courting flute, but no fingerholes. Only two notes are produced, the fundamental and its overblown octave. It is used only during the ceremony of the Little Water Medicine Society and in the Eagle Dance, a curing ritual....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[kana’tsio:wi] (Seneca: ‘covered keg’ or ‘bucket’)

Water drum of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy peoples of northeastern North America. It is called gana’atso [gä no jo’ o] in Cayugan. The drum is a small wooden vessel covered with a soft-tanned hide which is held taut by a cloth-wound wooden hoop. Water is kept in it at all times and before being played it is inverted to soak the skin, which is then tightened until a characteristic high ‘pinging’ tone is heard when it is tapped lightly with a wooden beater. The body can be carved from a solid block of wood, in which case a binding ring is wrapped around it to prevent it from splitting, or it can be made from a staved wooden nail keg. The drums are usually 13 to 15 cm in diameter and 11 to 13 cm deep. A bung hole about halfway up the side allows water to be added without removing the head; if allowed to dry, solid-bodied drums tend to split and staved drums loosen and could collapse. The drumstick (...

Article

Beverley Diamond

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[kalluraq, kalluak, kaylukuk, kotlookuk]

Ceremonial box drum associated with the Messenger Feast of the Iñupiaq-speaking people of Alaska. It is a rectangular wooden case (usually made of poplar), 45 to 90 cm tall by 18 to 30 cm long and wide. A fur-padded rail, attached along one side with a strip of black whale baleen, is struck with a thick, short stick while the drum is suspended from the ceiling of the ceremonial house. The drum is played by a seated drummer (usually male) wearing the tuutlik, a loon-skin headdress. A soundhole can be cut in the bottom of the drum and a handhold attached to one side. The drum is decorated with a zigzag pattern on the top edge and with eagle feathers. In the native cosmology that explains the origin of the feast, the drum is said to represent an eagle’s heartbeat.

The Tlingit people call the box drum lákt gaaw. Such instruments are often decorated in red and black stylized raven patterns....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[ka:nóˀskä:ˀ]

Rasp, or scraper, of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederation peoples of northeastern North America. It is called gaksaga:nye (‘chipmunk sticks’) in Cayugan. It is a pair of flat hickory sticks, each about 30 to 35 cm long, 1 to 3 cm wide, and 2 cm thick. One stick is notched along two-thirds of its length and the other is smooth with slightly rounded edges. The notched stick is held at its unnotched end while the notched end rests on the player’s left leg. The smooth stick, held in the right hand, is scraped up and down over the notches. The sticks produce a rasping sound in the same rhythm as the water drum ka’nohko’wah that leads the singing.

Rasping sticks are used only at wakes, held in people’s homes, and even here their use is quite rare, with preference given to the drum. The sticks are either buried with the person for whom the wake is held or are broken and burned with the drum-beater used during the singing....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[ká’nowa’, gasdöwøe’ sä]

Generic term for vessel rattles of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy peoples of northeastern North America. Haudenosaunee vessel rattles are made from horn, bark, gourd, tin, and coconuts, as well as snapping, box, and painted turtles.

The most important rattle is the kanyáhte’ [kánˀo:waỉ] (‘great turtle rattle’) made from the shell, head, and neck of the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine). It is called ganya:hde gano:wa or ganya:hde gasdawedra in Cayugan. Its construction is a skilled and lengthy process: the legs, tail, and viscera are removed and the shell is placed in the earth for ants to clean it; chokecherry pits are placed inside the shell and all openings are sewn closed. The head and neck are stretched out to form a handle, which is supported by a wooden rod or splints and wrapped with a rawhide thong, friction tape, or strips of inner tree bark (hickory or slippery elm are preferred). After the rattle has dried, it may be varnished and painted with red, black, or brown dots, bands, or crosses. The dimensions vary according to the size of the turtle and the total length can be from 25 to 50 cm. Instruments of about 30 cm are considered best for playing....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

[cōcōkai]

Suspension rattle of the Wintu people of Northern California. It is made from insect cocoons filled with small seeds and strung on a cord about 2 metres long. The cord is worn around the neck of male dancers for the h’up chonas, traditionally a war dance, nowadays used to symbolize tribal authenticity....

Article

Chad Stephen Hamill

Term in the Sahaptin language for a bell used by Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau. It is a normal hand bell of thin brass with a wooden handle. Assimilated into the Washat (Seven Drum Religion) by the Sahaptin peoples, especially the Nez Perce, it is rung at the opening of the ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

[labaleo]

Violin of the Yoeme Yaqui Indians of Arizona and Northern Mexico. It is a variant of the European violin, made from local woods. The Yaqui and Mayo Indians originally learned violin making from missionaries in the 18th century. The instrument is used to accompany the pahko’ola (pascola) dancers. There is no standard size, but most are close in size to the modern violin. They lack a separate bass bar and are not varnished. The four strings can be either normal violin strings or made from monofilament nylon; the bridge is usually purchased. Tunings vary in patterns of 4th and 5ths between adjacent strings according to the series of songs played throughout the night, and are referred to by the names of animals. The bow is hand made and a peg is inserted in the frog end to tighten the horsehair, which might or might not be woven into strands. Two violinists play in 3rds or 6ths accompanied by the ...

Article

Leli  

Richard Keeling

Bone whistle of the Maidu and other native peoples of northern California. It is made from the leg bone of a large bird, a deer or other animal, or local cane. The whistles, from 12 to 20 cm long and 1.5 to 2 cm in diameter (the larger of cane), are usually played in pairs, hence the Kato name tulnok kleyulit (‘whistles tied together’); other names for them include xosa:ng’ay (Hupa); speryspery (Yurok); məpu (Southeastern Pomo); tōka (Patwin); and delni (Wailaki). The bones are bound together with sinew or cord near each end and plugged at one end with pitch. Each tube has a V-shaped hole at or near the centre, with a block of pitch to direct the airstream over the opening. The two whistles produce different notes but are not played melodically; rather, they mark the rhythm of dancing. In ceremonial and secular dances, several men blow them at the same time, producing a rich texture that also includes contrapuntal singing. Historically they were used in shamanistic rituals. ...