heard an announcement during each of the pow wows (contest
and traditional) asking that people not photograph, tape
record, etcetera. This may have occurred in relation to
drum songs - and I know that reference is made to copyright
and drum songs in your FAQ.
speaking copyright is a loose term in Indian Country.
Most general songs belong to the people, thus it would
be wrong to copy or sell such a song else where. There
are exceptions to this, however. Certain songs, such
as drum songs, belong to the specific drum it is written
for. So that is not the kind of song you would take
and use for your own or sell. The other exceptions include,
but are not limited to, ceremonial songs. If you saw
some one drop an eagle feather at a pow wow and they
did a special dance and songs for that, it would be
inappropriate to record such an event. We are only allowed
to record such ceremonies with our eyes and ears. So,
you may hear announcements during certain honor songs,
flag, veteran or other occasions where is it inappropriate
to record. A general intertribal or social dance does
not have these stipulations. These rules are the same
for contest and traditional pow wows alike.
would happen if someone attended a pow wow and did not
respect a request not to tape a song? In terms of consequences,
would it matter if the person was Indigenous (I'm using
this term intentionally to be as inclusive as possible
in light of various diverse peoples) versus non-Indigenous?
what I know of this matter, I would say that it does not
matter from which culture the offender is from, indigenous
or non. As for the consequences of doing so, this may
vary from location to location, but I doubt today that
it is highly enforced. At a strict location security may
try to confiscate the recorder or camera. I think part
of the consequence is based on spirituality, in that breaking
rules of respect such as this, will come back to you some
day in a negative way.
are the differences between competitive and traditional
difference between the two pow wows is intuitive with the
names. A competition pow wow is set up to attract the best
drums and dancers from all over by offering money through
singing and dancing contests. A traditional pow wow does
not embrace such a practice. Traditionally, pow wows were
get togethers to meet family and friends and have a good
time. As the popularity grew spectators were more and more
welcomed. Eventually, to gain bigger crowds money was offered
to those that would compete, thus the contest pow wow was
formed. Today most pow wows offer a honorarium to singers
and dancers to cover their expenses of travel to get there.
This is also the case with contest pow wows, but usually
the money is greater.
an item lose its 'spiritual' nature because: (i) it is sold
or (ii) made for commercial purposes?
think where this comment comes from is commercialization.
For someone to carve a sacred pipe and then sell it, is
not an accepted practice by traditional people. Sacred elements
like a pipe, drum, eagle bone whistle or others are either
created by the person that will use it or is created by
someone else and will give it to the final user. These kinds
of items should never be sold. I think once they are sold,
the feeling is that they no longer carry the spiritual nature
they should have. The items will not have gone through proper
ceremony at their creation either. Thus the feeling that
someone is then exploiting the spirituality of the culture
by doing so. So, again, for a truly spiritual item it is
never sold, but simply given to an individual that has earned
the right to carry such an item. So I think the answer to
this one is yes, it can loose that spiritual nature by becoming
a commercial item.
the pipe ceremony a reenactment of the original story of White
Buffalo Calf Woman?
pipe ceremony is not a reenactment of the White Buffalo Calf
Woman story. The story is about how the pipe was brought and
the people being taught how to use it. So the pipe is used
for a variety of reasons concerning ceremony.
the purpose of the inipi ceremony to seek a vision from the
don't think the purpose of an inipi is to see a vision. It has
occurred from time to time, but it is really a purification
ceremony. One does this so they can cleanse their body of negative
feelings and other issues. It often precedes other ceremonies
such as the sun dance or vision quest.
competitive dancing a new part of the wacipi?
the competition dancing is new. Maybe since the last 20 years
or so. They hold them to attract top of the line singers and dancers.
Many people, including myself, do not generally go to these because
the purpose of a wacipi is not for money. I've found there are
two distinctly different groups of people that go to either traditional
or contest dances.
every band have a head singer and drum keeper?
don't know that I would say each band has a head singer or drum
keeper. However, usually each band has a drum. Now if that didn't
make sense, then here is a little more. Many communities have a
community drum in which that drum stays in the community and is
around for community service. Many communities don't have a drum.
Now there are many singers out there who have been around the block
and just wish to have a drum of their own. These will usually travel
around depending on where they want to go. Now each drum does have
both a lead singer and a drum keeper. Sometimes it's the same person.
Each role is different. The drum keeper takes care of the drum,
keeps it safe in their home and feeds it from time to time. He may
even take it to ceremony if it's needed. The lead singer keeps the
songs and is responsible for coming up with appropriate songs and
leading the whole group through the song. He doesn't always have
to lead the song, if perhaps someone else at the drum has a better
voice he may pass the lead to him from time to time. The reason
is, the song needs to sound as good as possible, so the best/strongest
voice should be leading.
Densmore states in one of her books that there is no system of musical
notation. Is that true or was there a system that she didn't understand?
Densmore was right that there was and still is no system of musical
notation. Just like the language, up until around the early 1900's there
was no written notation for either. The language, songs, and most of
the cultural teachings are still passed down verbally, although now
there is a written language and courses for any of the above. The drum
and songs, in particular, are still passed down from one to another
at the drum.
music at a powwow considered ceremonial?
to songs used in a ceremony, no. However, every song has some a little
bit of healing power. When one speaks of a ceremonial song they are usually
referring to a song used for sweat, sun dance, etc.
a difference between the terms tradtional and ceremonial?
A.Yes. A traditional
song is usually one that you will hear in pow wows and usually has words
in it. This is compared to a straight song which is also commonly heard
If so, what
is considered ceremonial music?
A.A ceremonial song is used
for just that, ceremonies. There are specific songs sung for sundance, inipi,
pipe ceremony, etc. These songs are only used for that specific purpose.
These songs consist of specific ones for filling a pipe, calling in spirits,
sending spirits away, praying to the four directions, and so forth. Again,
there are specific ones for different ceremonies, although sometimes some
will will be used for another ceremony.
From what I
have read, all songs that are performed have some sort of purpose. Therefore,
aren't all songs ceremonial?
A.I guess if you
want to analyze it that way, you could say yes. Yes, all songs have some sort
of purpose. Most of what you would hear in a pow wow all have the purpose
of making some one feel good or come out and dance. As I said early, common
usage of the term suggests a song reserved for a specific ceremony.
what song will be sung to honor an individual? Are the songs created especially
for an individual, or are there special traditional songs specifically created
for honoring? Are giveaways always connected to honor songs?
A.In Dakota (Sioux) society
the drum group that is to sing the honor song is chosen by the people who
have asked for the special honoring. The specific honor song is chosen by
the drum group, or lead singer of the drum group. They will select a song
based on the specific circumstance, such as is it for a committee, or is
somebody graduating, or is it a male or female elder being honored for something.
There are certain songs that fit better for one occasion or another. An
experienced drum group will know/have several to pick from. Sometimes, a
specific song will have been written for that individual for that occasion.
If the honoring is for a naming, usually that name will be inserted into
an existing honor song. One time I was taught a special honor song by someone
who wanted me to sing it for his son's ceremony. That was the only place
I was allowed to sing it because the song itself belonged to his son. In
this case, that person was also a singer.
The question: "Are giveaways always connected to honor songs?"
would be answered with no. However, honor songs are pretty much always connected
with giveaways. An honor song usually follows a giveaway. Sometimes it's
referred to as a thank you song. A giveaway is not necessary when an honor
song is sung. Giveaways are ceremonies in itself for a specific significant
event in someone's life.
Might a women's
song be different in structure (two halves, with honor beats. a tail, and with
native language sung during the second half only) from a men's song? How?
A.There are appropriate songs
for each occasion but they are not specific for women only. These songs
can be sung for women at one time, while then being used for men or both
other times. It depends on what the song says. In traditional songs (songs
with words) most speak about men. They use words like hoksida (man) or other
words. In this case, different words would be inserted for woman. The structure
of the song is the same for men or women.
of beat is most common for women's honor songs?
A.Same as with any other
honor song. The two type of beats used is the parade beat and the regular
pow wow beat. A parade beat is a slow beat, half the speed of a pow wow
beat. You will hear this beat during the flag song.
Are there honor
songs that might be more appropriate for a young girl, or a middle aged woman
or an elder? Why might you choose one over the other?
A.Not really. If you want
to make a song fit a specific category, such as elder woman or young girl,
then you would insert the appropriate word into the song, such as kunsi
for grandmother, for example.
How did you
learn to perform the honoring songs? (I mean who taught you and how did you
learn to do the songs?)
A.Honor songs are just like
any other song. You learn them at the drum. Who ever is the lead singer
leads it off and you follow and pick it up the best you can. Maybe you write
your own songs. When you become a lead singer it is then your responsibility
to know the songs, what they say, and how they are used. Over the years,
I've had many teachers. All of whom knew/know many and different songs than
is doing a project on the Sioux and one of the questions asks to describe
the following characteristics of your chosen group. We are stuck on education
and can't find any info. Was there any formal education for the Sioux women,
men, and children? We do know that a lot of info was passed down from generation
to generation through story telling. Would there be anything else we can add
A.Good question. In the
pre-European days, there never was a formal style of education as we know
it today. As you mentioned, most of the education was done from generation
to generation on a one on one basis. The Grandmother was usually the teacher
for the grandchildren. Through stories and games children learned how to
hunt, gather, build things, survive, etc. If there wasn't a grandmother
around then another elder would take the place as teacher and story teller.
The father would teach of things like hunting and things required to be
Post European contact brought organized schools ran by missionaries. These
are the same people that brought the European way of thinking to Native
Americans. Most forced the children to cut their hair, not to speak their
language or practice their religion. Today schools exist that teach both
of current society and traditional ways of living.
Where can we find info on vegetation?
A.I am assuming you mean
info about how plants were used for herbs, medicines, and food. There are
a few books out there that list various plants and their uses. I would suggest
looking for those. One I have is by Francis Densmore about Ojibwe use of
plants. Keep in mind that medicinal uses are still passed down verbally
and that it is the proper way to get accurate information for medicines.
Do you think Native Americans
and "Mainstream" society should converse with each other to prevent
racial tensions and bitterness?
A.Learn about American history
from some reliable sources and you find that after centuries of repression,
today Native Americans have learned to live within two worlds. People must
follow both "mainstream" society and their specific culture at
the same time, if they wish to keep their culture. Most people have adapted
to mainstream society to some degree, as they must follow it to survive.
Therefore, there is plenty of communication between the cultures. The problem
where things break down, is that much of mainstream society does not understand
the ways of the native cultures. The value systems are very different, so
respect for each side is often lost.
Do you think
it's a good idea having Indian Reservations? Don't you think that creates more
bitterness and resentment?
A.If you follow history
you will see that reservations are not something any Native American asked
for. They were set up a long time ago to put the people some place out of
the way so they wouldn't get in the way of Europeans taking over the land.
Most reservations are placed on the worst soil in the worst living conditions,
because the settlers didn't want that land. Over the years, Native Americans
adapted to that life style out of necessity. Today Native Americans are
free to live where ever they choose. If they stay on the reservations, they
have different benefits versus staying in a city. Many nations are taking
advantage of their little piece of land and community and are using their
rights as a sovereign nation. This really is no different than some small
country in Europe nestled inside a larger country. Unfortunately, most reservations
are the poorest communities in the country.
Are women allowed to sit at the drum?
A.As you know, this is becoming
an even larger issue these days. A simple answer... traditionally speaking,
no. However, women are starting to break tradition around here by creating
women only drums. They definitely raise an eyebrow when they show up in
public. Some will say what they are doing is OK. Many will leave the circle
and not dance when they sing. I've heard the lead singer to a couple of
women's drums speak publicly about what they are doing. One of them said
they started the group based on a vision of some sort, and that it serves
a need for women that are trying to overcome certain issues in their lives.
(The drum can be very healing). I know that in each case I've seen a woman's
drum sing, they were usually the most respectful people among all the singers
at the pow wow. I suppose that is necessary given that controversy.
There is another instance where women sit at drums. If a particular drum
is specifically a "family" drum, then those family members comprise
the singers, men, women, and children. I would suggest that in your situation
(non Indians singing) that you avoid having women sit directly at the drum
and sing. I say this because you don't have the blood line or the spirituality
that goes with it to make such a statement. There is, of course, no reason
that women can't sing with the drum from behind the singers. That is very
traditional and usually an honor for the men to have women singers help
Are there any
rules about where in the verse the women (wiciglata) come in?
A.Over the years I have
always known the answer to be that the women sing the whole song, but not
the lead line, or the first time through the song. I recently asked some
friends I know who have been singing for 40+ years. I heard one answer.
Then I heard another answer from someone else, then another. Apparently,
that question depends upon the area you are speaking of and what kind of
upbringing was taught. Some say they don't sing the first line to the second
half of the song either, although I've heard plenty of women sing it. So,
I think the safest approach is all but the lead line (and it's refrain)
nor the first time through the song.
Are there any
rules about what songs women can sing (and cannot sing)?
A.This one is a little tougher
for me. Mostly because, I am not a woman. I think there a few special songs
that are supposed to only be sung by men. They would be certain honor songs.
I'm not sure I could tell you specifically which ones without asking someone
else myself. Otherwise, traditional, contest, flag, veterans, etc. are all
copyright on songs (sung "live" at powwows or recorded on tape/CD)?
Is it allowed to sing all songs (or are some songs "private")?
A.Strictly for the purpose
of singing yourself, nobody seems to care about copyrights. Everybody takes
songs from somebody else. That is how the culture works. It is a verbal
teaching. Some groups just sing old Porcupine or Badlands tunes, while others
write a lot of their own songs. The only exception to this is singing drum
songs. These songs are written specifically for that drum (who ever writes
it). So that song belongs to that drum only. On the other hand, some groups
still sing other group's drum songs when a drum song is asked for and they
don't have one. They are also careful not to sing it if anyone from that
group is present. Oh, another instance I just remembered. There are some
certain society songs. These belong to a specific band or society within
the nation, and are only sung for/by them. The best and most important thing
you can do when you want to use a song you don't know about, is ask the
source you got it from. You should always know some history about any given
song you sing, such as it's translation or meaning, if it has one, and how
I'm a 21 year
old, Hispanic male. Since the first pow wow I had the opportunity to attend
I have been interested in getting involved with native dance and pow wows themselves.
I am wondering how possible this would be for me to do?
A.If you truly feel compelled
to dance and celebrate at pow wows, then do so. To make it easier to get
started, try to make a few friends at the local pow wows. Chances are they
can probably help you on how to create a dance outfit, and explain some
the traditions and do's and don'ts at pow wows. Pow wows are for everyone.
People enjoy them for different reasons and partake in different ways. You
can start dancing without an outfit if you like, but you should work toward
making one if you want to be a dancer. Get a little instruction from somebody
about how to do the different dances. Then, above all... Have fun!
are the "Dakota Death Songs?"
A.To my knowledge there
are no such things as "Death Songs" for the Dakota people. There
are, however, memorial songs sung to honor someone who has passed on. These
songs can be either all vocables or with words, most likely with words.
The drum beat used is not a syncopated one, but what we call a parade beat,
which is a slow beat such as in this flag song: North Dakota Flag Song