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Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

(Creek: ‘turtle rattle’)

Vessel rattle of the Creek Indians of the southeastern USA; it is also used by the Yuchi, Cherokee, and Seminole tribes. The name was documented in the early 20th century. The rattle is made from six to ten dried terrapin shells. Holes are bored in the shells, which are filled with pebbles and attached to a piece of rawhide. Dancers wear one set on the outside of each leg, tied just below the knee. The rattle is worn only by women, in the corn and stomp dances of the Cherokee and Seminole, and in the ribbon dance which is part of the Green Corn ceremonial of the Muskogee Creek....

Article

Ma’wo  

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by Richard Keeling

[mawu, mawuwi]

Musical bow of the native peoples of northern California and the San Joaquin Valley. The Yokut name is ma’wo; the Maidu term mawu or mawuwi; other Maiduan groups call it pan’da, and the Kato name is cele (‘singing’). It is the only string instrument used by native peoples of California, but musical bows are also found among the Tlingit of Alaska and the Carrier of northwest Canada. Among some Maiduan groups the bow was made especially for musical purposes and used by shamans for communicating with spirits. Some authorities say the shaman’s bow was rubbed with human blood. Most cultures including the Yokuts use a normal hunting bow, but more elaborate versions with a central bridge are also found. The Yurok played a regular hunting bow for amusement. The quiet bow sound was sometimes augmented by humming.

The method of playing was similar for all types. The bow was held in the left hand with most of the instrument projecting towards the player’s right side. The wooden part of the lower end, or sometimes the string, was held between the teeth or in front of the open mouth; the string was either plucked with the fingers of the right hand, or was struck lightly with the fingernails, a twig, or a bone. The mouth cavity was used as a resonating chamber and different notes could be produced by varying its size and shape....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

(Cheyenne: ‘bass drum’)

Large double-headed drum of the Cheyenne Indians of the northern Plains of the USA. The ‘big drum’, a common name used to distinguish the bass drum from the smaller handheld frame drum, is found throughout North America. It is generally broad and shallow, about 60 to 80 cm in diameter and 20 to 40 cm deep and traditionally made from a hollowed log. The heads, of untanned hide, are laced together in criss-cross fashion around the body. Although a commercial bass drum is often used nowadays, its calfskin or plastic heads may be replaced with deer hide (as among the Flathead people of Montana) or buffalo skin (as among the Dakota for use in their sun dance). The padded beaters, 35 to 45 cm long, can be of wood or fibreglass, the latter favoured for its flexibility. Drums made by the Ojibwa of the western Great Lakes have painted heads and are elaborately decorated with cloth and beadwork; they are suspended from four stakes driven into the ground....

Article

Klisala Harrison

[kingáan, hat’awt’isk]

Terms for whistles and reed instruments of First Nations peoples of the North American Pacific Northwest, including the Kwakwa̲ka̲’wakw (ma̲dzis), Haida (kingáan), Nuuchahnulth, Tlingit, Tsimshian (hat’awt’isk), and Coast Salish. The instruments appear with and without fingerholes and can be blown by mouth or mechanically. The mouth-blown whistles appear in three forms: stopped pipes, half-stopped pipes, and open pipes. Some older literature and museum catalogues use the term sk’a’na to denote Haida (Xa’ida, Skittagetan) single- and multiple-pipe whistles. The mouth-blown reed instruments include single reeds, double reeds, retreating reeds, and ribbon reeds.

(1) Mouth-blown whistles with stopped pipes have from one to six sounding chambers and fundamental pitches. The whistles are carved from straight-grained wood, preferably red cedar or spruce. Generally the whistle is oval or cylindrical; sometimes it is pear-shaped, square (having a flat face and a rounded back), or a flattened, truncated cone. A block of wood is split lengthwise along the grain. One of the resulting halves is hollowed so that its walls are very thin. In it is carved the whistle’s sounding chamber or chambers, but a small block is left uncarved at its lower end (thus stopping the pipe), as is a larger block at the upper end (for the embouchure). The other half, which will form the top side of the whistle, is hollowed in the same way, but not so deeply. An airway for the embouchure is then carved, and sometimes a lip on the outside at the embouchure opening. A mouth with an edge like that of a recorder, commonly rectangular, or a crescent, circle, or irregular shape, is cut in the top side. The mouth, in the case of a whistle with one sounding chamber, is often near the embouchure. In whistles with more than one chamber, a mouth for each is located near the top, middle, or end of the whistle. The two halves generally fit together airtight without gluing; they are bound together in one or more places with split spruce root or shredded cedar bark, or rarely with animal sinew that is painted or left in its natural form. Modern binding materials include string, gauze, and cloth. If the wood dries and shrinks over time, the joint can be made airtight again by applying resin. Paper is applied on the sides of some modern instruments....

Article

Klisala Harrison

[mənai]

Generic term for drums of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other indigenous peoples of the North American Pacific Northwest Coast, including the log drum, box drum, and frame drum. The drumming board is related.

(1) The Kwakwaka’wakw log drum is made from a hollowed red cedar log, with the sides and edges often carved and painted. The drum is a permanent fixture in a Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonial house (‘big house’). The big house Wawadit’la (at CDN.VI.rbcm) holds an example carved to represent a killer whale, painted black and red. Log drum designs are usually ‘crest animals’ of the extended family to which a big house belongs.

The log drum spans the width of a big house, leaving space on either side for dancers to enter and exit. The instrument is held off the floor by two wood blocks, one at either end, and is struck by several people using batons of split pinewood. The drum stick typically is held with the arm extended and then moved downwards and forwards. Drummers, typically males, sit on either side of the instrument. Often a bench is built on the side of the drum that is closest to the big house wall while chairs are used for the other side. Log drums are sometimes played concurrently with frame drums and box drums....

Article

Mapuíp  

J. Richard Haefer

Mouth bow of the forest-dwelling Moré Indian culture of eastern Bolivia. It consists of a small strip of palm frond 15 to 20 cm long and 2 to 3 cm wide, with two strings of palm fibre attached. One end of the frond is put into the mouth and supported by the teeth; the other end is supported by one hand. The other hand rubs a small stick (20 cm long) on the strings, which are moistened with saliva. The instrument accompanies lovers’ songs....

Article

(from Omaha ne’xe: ‘water vessel’; and gaku: ‘to beat’)

Water drum of the Omaha people of the central Plains area of the USA. It is made from a hollowed log partially filled with water and with a head of buffalo skin. The drum is tuned by tipping it to wet the skin, then partially drying it near a fire to produce the correct sound. As with the Ojibwa ...

Article

Paula Conlon

[‘Doc’ Tate ]

(b Fletcher, OK, July 3, 1932; d Lawton, OK, March 5, 1996). Native American (Comanche) maker and player of juniper flutes. He attended the Fort Sill Indian School and Haskell Indian Institute. He learned flute making from the Kiowa maker Belo Cozad (1864–1950) and the Lakota maker Richard Fool Bull (1887–1976). He used the traditional method of splitting the wood, carving the channel, boring the holes, and inserting the plug, then gluing the flute back together with sap, binding it with leather thongs, and attaching the external block. His first album, Indian Flute Songs from Comanche Land (NAM 401C, n.d.), was the first commercial recording consisting entirely of music for solo Indian flute. He introduced new playing techniques, including cross-fingerings to extend the range, and extending the warbling sound on the lowest tone to all the available pitches, thus expanding the flute’s repertoire and contributing to its revival in the latter 20th century. Tate (the English name given to him) was recognized as a National Heritage Fellow in ...

Article

Niçude  

Mary Riemer-Weller

(Omaha: ‘whistle’)

Bone whistle of the Omaha Indians of the central Plains of the USA. It is made from the wing bone of an eagle and is about 15 cm long, and it has a V-shaped flue opening in the centre but no fingerholes. It produces only one shrill note which, when played repeatedly, was said to imitate an eagle’s call. The whistle was played during parts of the ...

Article

Chad Stephen Hamill

Whistle of the Salish Indians of the Columbia Plateau. 10 to 15 cm long, it can be made from various hollow dry creek weeds, cow parsnip stalk, willow or elder wood, the ulna bone of a bald eagle, or the leg or wing bone of a crane or similar wading bird. The proximal end is cut at a 45-degree angle to rest against the lower lip of the player. A wedge-shaped hole is cut on the side opposite the angled cut and partially filled with pine pitch to direct the air to the lower edge of the cut. It produces a single sound. Whistles are used by young boys and men for personal enjoyment. The term ...

Article

Richard Moyle

Nose flute of Hawaii. It is a tube of thin-walled native Hawaiian bamboo, traditionally between 25 and 50 cm long, with a nose hole cut at an angle below the upper end, closed by a node. Two or three fingerholes penetrate the tube towards the open end. The traditional way of playing the flute was to hold it with the right thumb and forefinger and use the rest of the fingers of the same hand to cover the holes. The left thumb was used to hold the left nostril closed with the left hand cupped over or under the flute. Like the ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

[omitzicahuastli]

Generic term for a bone scraper of the Aztec (Nahua) people and other central Mexican cultures. The name was derived from omitl (‘bone’) and chicahuaztli (‘power’). It was a long serrated stick or bone scraped with a smaller stick. Two types have been identified, one a long femur with deep notches and incised with images relating to Quatzalcoatl and Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, found in the central Mexican highlands. The second type, notched but not incised, was from the Toluca and Tarascan areas. It is pictured in ...

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by Richard Keeling

[pakpaka]

Clappers of the Maidu people and other Indians of northern California and the San Joaquin Valley. Other names include Wintun tcakatta, Pomo tebatab, Chimariko hĕmuimektsa, Kato cun telegal, and Wailaki djin delbak. A straight piece of elder or other soft wood, about 45 cm long, is split in two for slightly more than half its length and the pith removed; the un-split portion serves as a handle. It is held one hand and the split portion is struck against the other palm. It provides a regular beat to accompany sacred and secular singing. A variant with the split part cut into many slender rods is used by the Hupa Indians of northwestern California in the ...

Article

Pe’xe  

J. Richard Haefer

Vessel rattle of the Omaha people of the central plains of the USA. It is a large gourd filled with coarse or fine stones as needed for the correct timbre. It is played in both tremolo and rhythmic striking styles, in the wa-wan ceremony. The mónze péxe (‘metal gourd rattle’) was made from a tin baking-soda can issued as a ration in the late 19th century, or nowadays from a large salt shaker with a wooden or fibreglass handle covered with leather and beadwork. It is used in the ...

Article

David P. McAllester

revised by J. Richard Haefer

Water drum used in meetings of the Native American (or Peyote) Church. The standard drum consists of a well-soaked buckskin head stretched over an iron kettle about 25 cm deep. The best skins are said to be ‘brain tanned’. The head symbolizes the former war shield, now a spiritual shield. It is attached by an intricate tying method that has symbolic import. Symbolism and rules may vary from fireplace to fireplace with some ideas common throughout the religion. Seven stones or marbles indicating the seven days, the seven sisters (constellations), the seven senses (orifices) of the face, or, for the Sioux, the seven council fires, are tied to the head. The rope tying the head represents the rope used to tie enemies, the reins of war horses, or blood veins. The kettle is half-filled with water, which represents rain or the water of the earth; the sound of the drum represents thunder. Live coals (four to 12 depending on the fireplace) symbolizing lightning are put in the water before the head is attached. The skin is kept moist during meetings by vigorously shaking the kettle between songs or by a quick shake during a song when the sound begins to change. At some fireplaces the drummer will suck or blow on the edge of the drum to force water onto the head, while at others this is prohibited....

Article

David P. McAllester

revised by J. Richard Haefer

Small vessel rattle used by singers during ceremonies of the Native American (or Peyote) Church. It is a gourd about 8 to 9 cm in diameter containing pebbles, pierced by a straight wooden handle about 25 to 30 cm long that passes through the gourd and projects slightly. A circular stopper on the handle prevents the stones from falling out. A tuft of dyed horsehair, representing the peyote cactus blossom, is tied to the projecting end. The handle, which may be carved or beaded at the base, symbolizes the arrow or the riding crop used in war but now used in peace. The beadwork may show various symbolic designs: rainbow for beauty of life, red–white–blue for war veterans, fire, or water. 12 tassels cut from a bow string (so it can never be used on a bow again) decorate the end of the handle to symbolize the months or yearly cycle. The user shakes the rattle with one hand and holds the peyote staff (symbolic of the broken bow) in his other hand. The stopper can be of wood or even a coin; it does not touch the edge of the gourd. Friction of the end of the handle projecting at the top (symbolic of the arrow head) holds the handle to the gourd. The rattle pebbles may have individual significance such as turquoise for an Apache, salt, ant, or ocean pebbles, and so on. The outer surface of the rattle may be decorated in patterns related to the peyote ceremony or patterns important to the owner such as stars, moon, fire, eagle; older rattles often had patterns scratched into the surface....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[pò’owìyè, poewiye]

Vessel rattle of the Tewa Indians of New Mexico. It is made by scraping the outside of a po (gourd) clean, removing the fibrous material from inside the gourd by shaking large pebbles in it (a job often done by children), boring a hole with an awl at both ends, inserting small pebbles from an anthill as rattle elements, and carving a cottonwood handle that extends through the two holes. The handle is fastened by a rawhide strap passing through a slit in its protruding upper end. A rawhide loop attached to the bottom of the handle serves for hanging the rattle when not in use. Shot pellets or corn kernels can be substituted as rattle elements. The rattle is used in the pogonshare (Corn Maiden or gourd dance) ceremony.

A. Garcia: ‘The Construction of Dance Instruments’, Music and Dance of the Twea Pueblos, ed. G.P. Kurath and A. Garcia...

Article

Susan M. Taffe Reed and Glen Jacobs

Generic term for an ‘object that is blown into’, used by the Munsee Indians of the Eastern Woodlands in North America; their relatives the Unami use the word ahpikòn. Known historically as the Lenape or Delaware Indians, the Unami and Munsee have bone flutes (waxkanii-pootaatiikanushal), reed flutes (kweenaskwii-pootaatiikanushal), and wooden flutes (xwusii-pootaatiikanushal), all of which are personal instruments.

The waxkanii-pootaatiikanushal is made of bird bones, though other animal bones can be used. It is a small, very high-pitched whistle without fingerholes. Sometimes called a war dance whistle, it is worn on a necklace by a man who blows into it while dancing. Larger types might have fingerholes. Little is known about the historical kweenaskwii-pootaatiikanushal though it was probably similar in construction.

The xwusii-pootaatiikanushal is a double-chambered duct flute made from eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), a lightweight, fragrant, pinkish to brownish-red softwood that has sacred associations in Delaware cultures. Before harvesting the wood, the maker offers tobacco to the tree. A piece of cedar approximately 5 cm in diameter and 45 to 60 cm long, roughly measured from the player’s elbow to his fingertips, is selected and the bark is removed and the wood split in half. Hickory or other hardwood coals are placed on the inner side of the split pieces and blown on to begin hollowing each half. Mud is smeared on the edges of the wood to protect it from being burnt. The charred wood is scraped away and this process is repeated until both halves are sufficiently concave to make a wide, open chamber. The two halves are glued together by a mixture of resinous pine tree sap with bear grease, traditionally heated in a mussel shell. Leather strips are tied at intervals around the assembled body to reinforce it and serve as decoration....

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by Susan M. Taffe Reed and Glen Jacobs

[pokhanii’kan]

Generic term for drums of the Munsee Indians of the Eastern Woodlands in North America; their relatives the Unami use the word puhënikàn. Their drums include the deerskin drum, water drum, hand drum, and powwow drum, all of which are played by one or more drummers each using one beater.

The deerskin drum, also called the skin drum or hide drum, is an idiophone made by folding a deer hide into a bundle; it appears in several forms. The atoh-xayii-powuniikan (Munsee: ‘deer skin drum’) is made from a single skin of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), preferably a buck. The animal is skinned and its hide fleshed, a process of removing most of the muscle and fat. At this point the hide can be salted, dried, and stored until needed. To make the drum, the hide is soaked for several days in an alkaline solution, such as hardwood ash mixed with water, which opens the pores and helps break down the hair follicles. Next, the hide is laid over a fleshing beam and a scraper is used to remove all remaining muscle, fat, and membrane. Then the hide is turned over and scraped to remove the hair and several layers of epidermis, a process called graining. Finally, the hide is cleaned by soaking overnight in fast-moving water. The rawhide is then folded and bound into a packet approximately 43 cm square....

Article

Pumín  

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

Generic term for drum of the Flathead Indians of Montana, USA. The kwtunt pumín is the large war drum or ‘big drum’ nowadays used to accompany powwow. Traditionally it is a double-headed drum made from a hollowed log and covered with bison or deer hides laced together from top to bottom; a modern substitute is a marching band bass drum with Mylar heads. It is played with a padded stick (spełce) about 48 cm long, now often a fibreglass rod.

More common is the łppumin or chelshpumin (chelsh: ‘hand’; łppumin: ‘drum’), a single-headed frame drum. Traditionally the frame was made from thin strips of wood, preferably fir, soaked and bent into a circle, or from part of a hollowed tree stump, but it can be made from a circular cheese crate or a metal wheel rim. The frame varies from 30 to 40 cm in diameter and 5 to 10 cm in depth. The ...