Crow Dog's Paradise

Songs Of The Sioux

All Sioux music has its roots in Indian religion. Singing and dancing is just another way of praying. Henry Crow Dog is a Peyote man, a respected member of the Native American Church. Eating the vision-inducing peyote is at the core of his religion. Henry's son, Leonard, also belongs to this cult. He is also a Yuwipi medicine man–a healer and visionary.

The majority of songs in this album are Peyote songs. The Native American Church and its cult are perfectly lawful for its Indian members. Leonard Crow Dog says: "When I was about 13 years old I started out with four peyote buttons. Two years later I ate twelve buttons during a meeting. Peyote power is the knowledge of God, of the Great Sprit Peyote is not a chemical gimmick, but a holy herb, our sacrament. That peyote took me to a lot of good places, to many good people. I got married with this peyote, my children are baptized with it."

A Peyote meeting lasts from sundown to sunup. It is conducted by a "Road Man" who functions as the priest. He is helped by the fire-chief who tends the flames, and by the cedar-man who burns incense. A drummer chief accompanies the worshipers on the water-drum, and a woman watches over a pail of fresh water which is drunk at the end of the ceremony.

Church members sit on the floor of a room from which the furniture has been removed. Sometimes a large open Bible, a rawhide bag of cedar incense, the peyote staff, the fan, and the gourd. Across the Bible is placed an eagle feather. At the center of the room is a U-shaped trough of cement resting on a sheet of metal. In it is kindled the sacred fire. Every two hours the glowing embers are formed into a new shape–first into a half-moon, then into a hear, into a cross and, finally, into a morning star. In case of a baptism the embers will be formed into the glowing outline of a bird.

Everything used in a Peyote ceremony has its deeper meaning. The cedar powder stands for the green things of the world, trees and plants, who are our "relatives." The peyote fan with its feathers represents the winged creatures of the air. This fan can be used to catch songs. The peyote staff represents the spiritual authority. Prayers are traveling upwards along this staff. The stones inside the rattle talk to God. They are prayers., The tuft of horsehair at the top of the gourd represents the rays of the life-giving sun. The fire stands for the generations, for passing on the flame to those coming after us. The deer-hide of the drum is the skin of Jesus as he is beaten by the soldier; it also represents all the four-legged creatures of this earth. The drum-stick made of cedar wood represents our friends, the trees. The rope, wound around the drum, represents Christ's crown of thorns. The seven knobs at the rim are the seven sacraments. The liquid inside the the drum is the water of life–the throb of the drum the heartbeat of the Indians. Grandfather Peyote is the Holy Spirit, which illuminates our minds and makes us understand.

Among the Sioux, the peyote is chopped up like relish to make the swallowing easier. The bowl of peyote is passed around four times during the night. The drumming and singing is constant, producing a trance-like effect. The staff, the gourd, and the fan are passed from hand to hand. Clutching them, every man sings four songs and then gives them to the next person. The drum chief sits with each singer and accompanies him with his fast, rhythmical beating; he blows into the drum, shakes it, and changes the pitch at will from a high, metallic sound to a dull, muffled throb. Under the influence of the peyote many listeners imaging that the drum is inside their breasts–that is has become their beating heart. The songs are simple:

"He yana yo wana hene yo
He yana yo wana hene yo
He yana yo, wani hiyan
He ye ye yo wai."
Now, let it be now, right now.

Other songs in the album are Yuwipi songs, stemming from a religion which is much older among the Sioux than the Peyote cult, a religion whose origin is shrouded in a dim and distant past. A Yuwipi ceremony starts with purification in the sweat-lodge. red-hot-stones, glowing in the dark, are brought into the little hut and cold water is poured over them. The sweat lodge is filled with white steam and the heat on the naked body is intense. Songs and prayers are offered to the Great Spirit.

The ceremony takes place at night in absolute darkness. Blankets are hung over all the windows in a room–not even the moonlight is allowed to penetrate from the outside. An earth altar is set up, representing the universe. Colored flags stand in the corners of the room, symbolizing the four directions of the winds. A sacred square is formed with a string of 405 tobacco knots. In its center, the medicine man has his hands and fingers tightly bound with rawhide thongs. He is wrapped and tied into a large star blanket, bundled up like an Egyptian mummy. He is then placed face down, upon the floor and all lights are extinguished. Immediately the chanting and drumming begins. The arrival of the spirits is manifested by rattles flying through the air, by the touch of a feather on the face of those who are present. Sparks and strange lights flit through the air, and the whispering of tiny voices is heard-communications from another world. A big bird seems to be flying through the room; one feels the air currents from its flapping wings, hears, its cries from somewhere on the ceiling. All these represent the spirits which speak to the medicine man, telling him how to cure the sick person who have asked for the ceremony. In the end, the laps are lit again and the medicine man stands–untied and unwrapped, freed miraculously from his bonds. The sacred pipe is passed to everybody present: it represents the link from the earth to the sky, from man to the Great Spirit. The good fragrance of re-willow-bark tobacco fills the air. A dog has been cooked and is now eaten as a ritual sacrifice. Each person states his problem and asks advice from the Yuwipi man–the "tied-up-one." Finally, everybody takes a sip of water and says "Mitakuye Oyasin"–"All my relatives"–which means all living men, all living creatures down to the ants and butterflies, all trees and plants including the tiniest flower. This ends the ceremony.

Music, then, is an integral part of Sioux religion. The instruments employed are few: a drum (cancega), and gourd or rattle (wagmuha); a flute (siyotanka), shaped like a bird's head, is used only for love songs. The water-drum has been taken over from the Southwestern tribes and is used only in the Peyote cult. A shrill eagle-bone whistle is sometimes employed (primarily, during the Sun Dance) and it appears in this recording in the last two of the opening group of eight Peyote songs. (It is, in fact, the very last sound heard at the close of that set–Side one, band one.)

Henry Crow Dog says: "As long as we still know our songs, this Sioux nation will continue to live. If we ever forget our songs, that would be the end of us as a people. We won't forget. We will live."

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Native Words



Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & gourd; Al Running, water-drum This band consists of a set of 4 peyote songs. Four is the magical number, representing the four directions of the universe.

All-Tribes Peyote song. A song for those who eat the sacred herb for the first time. The words mean"Peyote Spirit, watch over me."
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & gourd; Al Running, water-drum Song to Wakan Tanka - The Great Spirit. Sioux
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & gourd; Al Running, water-drum This song begins with the sound of an eagle-bone whistle (Wambli Huhu Siyotanka), It is a Peyote morning song to greet the dawn, and was made up by a man in prison, who says, "In the future. I shall be a different man." Sioux
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & gourd; Al Running, water-drum "Help me, sacred Peyote." A song to the four directions of the universe. It ends with an eagle-bone whistle. Sioux
Wolakota (Peace Song) Henry Crow Dog, vocal & drum Grass Dance–a social dance whose origins stem from a ceremony of the sacred clowns (Heyoka). The dancers wore the clowns' special feather bustles, but the other merely stuck grass in their hair and belts. Sioux
Jesus, Light Of The World Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & gourd: Al Running, water-drum There are two slightly different forms of Peyote worship: Moon-Fire and Cross-Fire. While Christian beliefs form a strong part of the Native American Church (the Peyote Church), they are more pronounced during a Cross-Fire ceremony. Sioux
Song For Him Who Do Not Return Henry Crow Dog, vocal An honoring song, first sung in memory of a Sioux soldier named Philip Stands, who lost hi life in World War II. Sioux
Yuwipi Song Henry Crow Dog, vocal & drum; Leonard Crow Dog, vocal This song is performed during a Yuwipi ceremony which is much older than the Peyote cult. (Among the Sioux, Yuwipi is part of their ancient religion–Peyote a comparatively recent acquisition from the Southern tribes.) This is a song to the universe (Maka Sitomni), and to the Four Directions. It says, "Grandfather, watcher over me. Grant me my wishes through the powers of the Sacred Pipe." Sioux
Gourd Dance Song Henry Crow Dog, vocal & drum Another honoring song. Its main theme is Wolakota– Peace, Friendship. Sioux
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & gourd: All Running, water-drum These two songs were made up by Leonard Crow Dog.

"Throughout This Continent"
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & gourd; Al Running, Water-drum Song for a loved one. "We remember you through this sacred Peyote." Sioux
Hanblechia Song To The Universe Henry Crow Dog, vocal & drum; Al Running, water-drum Hanblechia is a vision quest, during which a man fasts for two days and two nights (even four days, in extreme cases) on a lone hilltop, seeking illumination through dreams sent by the supernatural powers. Sioux
Leonard Crow Dog Talks About Peyote And The Native American Church Sioux
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & drum; Al Running, water-drum "Uncle Eagle Feather's Peyote Song." Sioux
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & drum; Al Running, water-drum Tunkashila–Grandfather–Show Me The Way. Sioux
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & drum; Al Running, water-drum "Generation to Generation." Leonard's song to his children. Sioux
Peyote Song Leonard Crow Dog, vocal & drum; Al Running, water-drum Kiowa Peyote Song. This song was taught to Leonard by a member of the Kiowa Tribe. Kiowa