White Shield Singers

Arikara Grass Songs

Here are twelve grass dance songs (social dances) by one of the finest traditional American Indian singing groups in existence today. These singers are long-time favorites in both he U.S. and Canada. The singers are: Vincent Malnourie, Dan Howling Wolf, Dan Hopkins, Emerson Baker, Donald Malnourie, David Little Swallow, Fred Morsette, John Fox, Terry Howling Wolf. The music was recorded in New Town, North Dakota in 1973.

The Arikara people (sometimes spelled Aricaree or shortened to Ree) came to what is now South Dakota in the early part of the 17th century, having broken away from the Pawnee in Kansas and migrating up the Missouri River. They resemble in language and customs members of Cadoan groups. Their earth lodge villages (about thirty) lined the Missouri from Chamberlain to Pierre.

Due to being pushed westward by the oncoming Sioux migrations, and after being decimated by smallpox epidemics, the remaining Arikara people joined the Mandans and Hidatsa at Fort Berthold in North Dakota in 1948. Today, these three groups are officially known as the Three Affiliated Tribes.

The cover photograph is of RUSHING BEAR, Arikara leader, and show him in the beautifully made tribal costume of the period. I asked Mr. Paul Ewald, Arikara historian, about this man, and he provided the following most interesting report:
The association of this name with this man is rather unusual; it took a lot of research some years back to establish that Rushing Bear was one of the same as the Famous Arikara Chieftain, "Son of the Star."

Son of the Star's father was the famous "Old Star" sometimes known as "The Star" and whose third name "The Little Hawk with Bloody Claws" which, when corrupted to "The Bloody Hand" made it almost impossible to firmly nail down.

Son of the Star is the oldest sone of "Old Star." He took over the Chieftainship of the Arikara Tribe early in the 1860's when Major Mahlund Wilkinson, the Government Agent assigned to the Arikara, became piqued at the Chief White Shield, who questioned the veracity of Major Wikinson's annual report to the tribe. There was apparently a great discrepancy in the amount of trade goods receive by the Major and the amount ultimately passe out to the tribes.

Major Wilkinson, as was his privilege, summarily deposed White Shield and placed in the supreme position among the Arikara, the son of Old Star whose name was Rushing Bear. In the Arikara this would be spelled "kunuh-dunawenag." Son of the Star, famous because of his many extremely valorous feats on the dangerous battle fields of Plains Warfare, as always referred to as Son of the Star; almost never is he referred to as Rushing Bear, which actually was his proper name.

We first came upon the final solution of this enigma, by visiting Ft. Laramie in Wyoming where some of the principal treaties of the latter part of the 19th Century were consummated. Here, by a process of elimination of the other known Chiefs, we find that the Arikara Chief has signed himself by the above Arikara name with the interpretation by the military as "Rushing Bear." From this point on it was a relatively simple matter to approach still living elder members of the Arikara Tribe, who very readily acknowledged that they were aware of the fact that Son of the Star was in fact in reference to his progenital background, and that his given name was actually Rushing Bear.

...Notes by Gordon Bird

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Native Words



Arikara Grass Song 1 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 2 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 3 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 4 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 5 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 6 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 7 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 8 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 9 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 10 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 11 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 12 Arikara
Arikara Grass Song 13 Arikara