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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 ...

Article

Chad Stephen Hamill

[kiwkiwíl’ec]

Frame drum of the Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau. It is traditionally made of deer or elk hide stretched over a wooden circular hoop typically 5.5 to 10 cm deep and 25 to 38 cm in diameter, and struck by a stick with one hand. The hide is perforated at the perimeter with an awl or deer antler to form a series of holes 4 to 5 cm apart, then soaked, stretched over the frame, and tied through the holes across the open back, creating a knot in the center for a grip. Called pumíntn by Salish speakers and kiwkiwíl’ec by Sahaptin speakers, it is particularly important in the context of the Washat (Seven Drum Religion), a complex ceremony of drumming, dancing, and singing that honours indigenous foods and natural cycles that sustain the community. The drum is also used in communal ceremonies, as an accompaniment for personal songs, and during healings conducted by a medicine person....

Article

Qilílu  

Chad Stephen Hamill

Idiophone of the Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau. Literally ‘rawhide’ in the Sahaptin language, it is made of a bison hide wrapped fur-side in around itself as a bundle 50 to 80 cm long and allowed to dry and harden. It is held with one hand by several singers who use the other hand to strike it either with an open palm or a stick. A possible precursor to the drum, it formerly was used in a tradition known as ...

Article

Raberi  

J. Richard Haefer

[raveli]

Violin of the Rarámuri (Tarahumara) people of Chihuahua, Mexico. The instruments have the basic European violin shape although the size and proportions vary; some are as large as a viola. Traditionally, the four strings were made from goat gut, but nowadays nylon and metal strings are normal. The bridge might be handmade or commercially mass-produced. Local woods such as ash, maple, pine, and willow are used for the top and back, and fresh, green wood that bends easily is used for the bouts, which can have a distinctly squared shape. Traditionally, the woods are glued with gum from the roots of the ŕako plant.

Typically, the fingerboard, of inóko (a local hardwood), extends to the top of the C- or f-shaped soundholes. The soundholes often end in a small circle or a cluster of two or three small circles. The tailpiece is attached with cord or wire to an extension of the back; there is no endpin. The nut is part of the one-piece neck and pegbox. The pegbox might terminate in a carved scroll but usually does not. The bow, made from ...

Article

Chad Stephen Hamill

Scraper of the Native Americans of the Columbia Plateau. A serrated 30- to 60-cm length of wood or bone or an oblong piece of hardened, notched rawhide is held to the ground at a slant, and scraped up and down over the notches with a stick. It was the main rhythm instrument before the advent of the drum in Sahaptin cultures and remains in use nowadays....

Article

Saúga  

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[shawikuth]

Vessel rattle of the Tohono O’odham (Papago) Indians of southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. It is made from a dried gourd (Largenaria siceraria) about 15 cm in diameter and 20 cm long. The stem end is cut off just beneath the body and large stones or pieces of broken glass are placed inside and shaken to clean the interior. The gourd is then boiled to make it harder, to sharpen the sound. Many small pebbles from the edge of desert anthills are used for the rattle elements, though some players prefer four larger stones obtained from the Gulf of California.

A handle is carved from cottonwood tree root and fitted to the open end of the gourd; the handle extends through the top of the gourd where it is secured by a small wooden peg. If it does not fit tightly, gummy secretions from the creosote bush can be used as glue. Small soundholes are drilled in the body. The tip of the handle may be decorated with downy eagle feathers....

Article

Senasom  

J. Richard Haefer

[teenatzo]

Sistrum-type rattle of the Yoeme Yaqui people of Arizona and northern Mexico, and the Mayo and Guarijio peoples of Sonora, Mexico. A piece of wood approximately 30 cm long by 5 cm square has a rectangular chamber with open centre about 15 cm long cut into one end, and a rounded handle at the opposite end. Inside the chamber two sets of three or four bronze or tin disks about 8 cm in diameter are inserted on metal rods. The senasom is carried by pahko’ola (pascola) dancers and played by striking it against the palm of the left hand when the dancers wear their masks in front of their face; when dancing with the mask on the side of the face the senasom is inserted into the rihhutiam (dance belt) in the centre of the dancer’s back. Their Seri neighbours to the south most likely borrowed this rattle, which they call ...

Article

J. Richard Haefer

[sepú•nmeʔs mít’p]

End-blown courting flute of the Nez Percé (Sahaptian) people of Idaho. It is made from an elderberry stalk about 35 to 40 cm long and 3 to 4 cm in diameter, with the pith removed. There are six fingerholes plus a seventh hole said to make the sound ‘sweeter’ and also to relate the instrument to the seven-drum religion. A plug made from pitch is placed inside an opening near the proximal end. The opening is covered with a wooden block tied on with animal hide and long hair wraps; the block forms an external duct and symbolizes the wedding of a couple resulting from the playing of the flute....

Article

Susan M. Taffe Reed and Glen Jacobs

Generic term for rattles of the Munsee Indians of the Eastern Woodlands in North America; their relatives the Unami use the word shuhënikàn. The Munsee and Unami, referred to historically as the Lenape or Delaware Indians, possess a number of vessel and suspension rattles for social and ceremonial purposes.

Turtle rattles (takwaxii-shohwuniikanal in Munsee or tahkoxi šuhənik ʌn in Unami) are made from the shells of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina), box turtles (Terrapene carolina), and painted turtles (Chrysemys picta). The shell of pamputis (snapping turtle) is used to make ceremonial rattles by removing the turtle’s entrails, inserting pebbles in the shell, and sewing the turtle’s skin back together with animal tendon. A wooden splint is run from the underside of the shell to the bottom of the turtle’s head and the extended neck is wrapped with a leather strip. The rattle is played by shaking it in a vertical position or by striking it on one’s knee....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

[sikwǝmǝn]

Bone whistle of the Flathead Indians of Montana, USA. It is made from a wing or leg bone of an eagle or other large bird and has no fingerholes. It is used for signalling and is associated with personal songs, guardian spirits songs, and sun dance songs. Duct flutes (...

Article

Mary Riemer-Weller

Large wooden courting flute of the Sioux Indians of the northern Plains area of the USA. The name is derived from sĭyo (‘prairie chicken’) and tanka (‘great’ or ‘large’). This flute typifies a wide variety of such instruments used by native peoples throughout the USA and Canada, including among others the Iroquois ká’keeta’, Ojibwa bibigwan, Omaha niçude tunga, Cheyenne kahamaxé tahpeno, Flathead chłkhwa (cłxwa), Apache sul, Navajo dilnih, O’odham wa:p kuikuḍ, Yuman wĭlwĭl’tĕlhuku’p, Creek fīpa, and Yuchi lhokan’. Although occasional reference is made to the use of the flute in ceremonies and as a warning or war signal, it was usually played by young men for serenading and courting women, and for self entertainment.

It is normally made of wood or cane, with an external duct. No two instruments are identical. Plains flutes are commonly made of red cedar, although other straight-grained woods such as box-elder, ash, sumac, elderberry, redwood, osage orange, and fir are also used in the Plains–Plateau area; cane flutes are made in the southwest. Flutes have also been made from gun barrels and nickel tubing. The instruments are generally about 3 to 5 cm in diameter and 45 to 65 cm long (28 cm among the Northern Ute) A typical Plains flute is made from a straight section of wood split lengthwise and hollowed to form a cylindrical bore. A block is left inside, creating a partition between the upper and lower chambers. The upper chamber is proportionally shorter (1:4) than the lower. On the front surface a small hole is cut in each chamber, just above and below the partition. The surface around the holes is made flat and smooth and a thin wooden or lead plate is laid over it. A rectangular hole in the plate is cut exactly over the two holes in the cylinder. A wooden block or saddle, flat on the underside and carved on top according to the maker’s tradition, is tied over the plate. Air blown into the end of the upper chamber flattens into a thin stream as it passes out of the upper hole and between the partition and the plate. Entering the lower chamber, the airstream impinges on the sharp edge or lip of the plate and divides. Most of the air enters the body of the flute, while the surplus escapes from underneath the block, which has been positioned to leave the second hole partially uncovered....

Article

Double-reed aerophone of the Haida and other peoples of British Columbia. In some types the massive blades of the reed are inserted in the narrow end of a conical wooden (typically cedar) tube and fully enclosed by a large tapered cap, into which the player blows. In other types the reed is exposed. The name is also applied to wooden whistles of British Columbia, sometimes also called ‘dance whistles’; the tapered body is halved lengthwise, hollowed, and carved to form the windway, and reassembled with pitch and twine or split spruce root binding....

Article

Supe  

J. Richard Haefer

Flute of the Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands of Panama. It is an end-blown instrument of cane, about 60 cm long and 2 cm in diameter with an external duct. The supe is played in male/female pairs; the male or ‘primary speaker’ has four fingerholes and one thumbhole and is shorter than the female or ‘secondary speaker’, which has one or two fingerholes. The female instrument provides obbligato notes between the melodic notes of the male instrument, imitating the sounds of birds. The related dolo is a single external-duct flute with four fingerholes and one thumbhole, similar to the kuizi and used for improvising melodies.

The Kuna have four end-blown internal-duct flutes: gorgigala, mulagala, sulupgala, and uasgala, all made from the ulna bones of birds (eagle, pelican, or vulture). They are used for puberty ceremonies and sometimes hang from a cord around the neck of dancers. Other Kuna flutes include the ...

Article

Tambe  

Mary Riemer-Weller

revised by J. Richard Haefer

[taàbè, tembe, tombe]

Double-headed drum of the Tewa Indians of New Mexico. It is made from a hollowed cottonwood or aspen tree log and is roughly cylindrical. A drum of average size is 30 to 40 cm in diameter and 55 to 73 cm deep. The heads, usually made of calfskin for smaller drums and cowhide for larger ones, are stretched tightly over the ends of the log while wet. The heads extend about 12 cm over the sides and are laced together in a W pattern. Two hide handles are fastened to the lacing, near the top and bottom, one directly below the other. During a ceremony, the drum is carried or, if very large, suspended on a wooden stake by the handles. It is played with a padded beater (tambefe) held in the right hand. The instrument is used to accompany songs associated with numerous ceremonies. The heads are painted with contrasting natural colours and the sides of the log may also be painted....

Article

J. Richard Haefer

Collective name for the duct flute and drum used by the Yoeme Yaqui Indians of Arizona and northern Mexico. It is played when both the maso (deer dancer) and pahko’ola (pascola) dancers are dancing at the same time. The flute, called kusia or cuzia, has two fingerholes and a thumbhole. It is made from cane that grows in the Yaqui river basin. Two sections of cane, each 20 to 25 cm long, are joined at a node by carving one end so it can slide inside the other tube; the V-shaped toneholes are in the lower section. A mouthpiece is formed by undercutting the proximal end of the cane and inserting a smaller piece of cane beneath, held in place by a peg to make an internal duct to direct the airflow against a V-shaped lip cut in the upper surface of the top section.

The drum, called ...

Article

(Omaha: ‘deer hoofs’)

Suspension rattle of the Omaha people of the central plains of the USA. It is made from a cluster of deer hoofs fastened by short leather thongs to the top of a beaded stick 20 to 25 cm long. The lower part of the stick forms the handle, which is often further ornamented with a long tassel of buckskin thongs. Similar rattles were commonly used in the men’s warrior societies of the Great Plains and in rites and ceremonies of some native Californian peoples....

Article

Richard Keeling

Strung rattle of the Maidu and other native peoples of California. The Hupa call it k’ixulo’. It is a cluster of deer hoofs or dewclaws tied to a wooden or bone handle 30 to 45 cm long. When shaken, the hoofs 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

J. Richard Haefer

[tenovarim]

Cocoon rattles worn by Yoeme (Yaqui) Indian maso (deer dancers) and pahko′ola (pascolas) in Arizona and Northern Mexico. Saturniid moth cocoons, about 5 cm long by 3 cm in diameter, are filled with small pebbles and laced together in strings up to 200 cm long. The strings are wrapped spiral-fashion around the legs of the dancers from ankle to knee. The rustling sound of the rattles, arising from the intricate footwork of the dancers, evokes life in the desert and signifies to the moth that even though the larva is dead, his spirit is alive and his home occupied. The neighbouring Mayo Indians in Sonora use the variant name ...