Anthology of Indian & Eskimo Music: Disc 2

An Anthology of North American Indian & Eskimo Music

Folkways Records FE 4541

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Native Words



Wolf Song Sung by Billy Assu The totem pole was the ancestral tree with figures and emblems of dozens of clans carved in it. Each figure had its own song. The Indians did not worship the poles nor did they consider the emblems on them as gods. They regarded them mainly as an historic remembrance, a status symbol. Each new crest added to the family tradition required a new song. Whenever a chief acquired a new distinction through war or marriage it was recorded on his totem pole and in new songs. Often there was competition between crests. A person belonging to the clan of any crest could go to any other village and be entitled to the protection of those of the same crest.

The Indians ascribed to the totem emblems the power of manifestation in either human or animal form. Because of this versatility the emblems were accepted, not as gods, but creatures with magical powers who could communicate with both the spirit and human worlds. Thus we find on some poles a human face embodied in the figure of an animal or bird.

The most significant totems of the West Coast are the Wolf, the Raven, the Grizzly Bear, the Eagle and the Whale, but all these crests, once possessed by a family, become hereditary. They might be acquired through marriage, by conquest, or as a payment of debt.

The Wolf crest is identified with hunters. According to the Indian the souls of the hunters go to different places. The land hunter's soul goes to the home of the Wolf, the sea hunter's soul to the home of the Killer Whale. The Wolf represents the genius on land just as the Killer Whale represents the lordship of the sea.

Sometimes the Wolf is considered the head chief of the mythical people in their faraway villages. He is always acknowledged as an ancestor who gives his descendants many supernatural powers and during the winter initiates new dancers into the dance.

On the totem pole the Wolf can be distinguished by long slanting eyes, ears laid down backwards, many teeth, and an elevated nose.

Chief Assu owned the Wolf Song sung here. He explains that "It was the song of We-Wai-Kai. We-Kai was the first man of Cape Mudge. Married a woman of the Nootka tribe. Nootka tribe is a Wolf Tribe. You only acquire these by heritage or through marriage."

(Ida Halpern)
He je he he
Ji ha ha i ha ha ji

Wa ka gin ko ko kelah
Ise lah in wa uk

Gel sa kolah
Wa la sala jun quin
Que os oguala
Wa la sa lekjua glugwalsh
Gal sa Kwlah i jun tla
I am rocking from side to side
With those are dancing with me

I was first made to say
I was made great
There is no other (than me)
(This one pertains to spiritual greatness)
Spiritual power made great
(literal translation - great made, often used in Indian songs)
First to be mentioned
Potlach Song Sung by Billy Assu The most important ceremony of the West Coast Indians, and one in which music plays a significant part, has always been the potlatch. The word is derived from the Nootka "patshetl", which means "giving" or "a gift". It was customery for the chief of a tribe to call a potlatch and to distribute to his guests his possessions. The more he could give away, the greater became his honor and prestige. In return, he expected to receive even more worldly possessions at future potlatches given by rival chiefs.

Such feasting and gift giving are almost universal. Similar customs were observed by the Maya and the Melanesians; the Maya considered it compulsory to give the return feast, even in death. Kwakiutl, at least in the nineteenth century, carried rivalry, and distribution of property, to a unique extreme in that they would even destroy possessions in order to indicate superior wealth.

The potlatch was held in the fall when, after the long seasons of hunting and fishing, the Indians were free to indulge in winter dances and in the ceremonies of the secret societies. Occasions such as marriage, birth, and death were marked by the potlatch; but it might also be called in vengeance, to save face, to repair insult, or even to establish rights to certain dances, songs, legends and crests or costumes.

Everything connected with the ceremony had historical meaning and the most stringent rules in dress and ceremonial were followed. At funerals, significant objects were displayed and people would pay for the opportunity of seeing them. At winter dances, small gifts were given; sometimes they were true gifts, but more often they had to be returned with added value, according to set rules. Guests of the potlatch were welcomed by the chief and led, each to his appointed place, according to rank and tribe. Each procedure was accompanied by ceremonial singing, appropriate dances were performed by the host chief and speeches and orations were made glorifying his own position.

Entertainment played a major role in potlatch ceremonies and many theatrical tricks were performed, such as pretending to burn a woman alive, or to behead the dancers. Such tricks were pure theatre, but, as Chief Billy Assu said, "The white man misunderstood such tricks, and so forbade them, thinking the Indians were very cruel."

The song sung here belongs to Kai-Awt. "He is singing of recognized leaders of this tribe. No other people could equal them. A more recent leader might appear but he speaks about his forefathers. They can never be equaled. He is giving the history of his tribe."

(Ida Halpern)
Wa ja su las
E a ka gee-lee sa
Gk-ik-sus ta li sa la
Nik kus to la
Kin glaw wies kas owa
Gik sis ta li sa la
Wa kas u las
Kin has kas owa wa
Ya wa-mis kas awa
Ya gin Wa-mis Kas awa
You go ahead
And have a good time all over the world
Chief all over the world
Shouting out
Wonderful way I stand
Chief all over the world
Go ahead wonderful one
O wonderful one
You Wamiss (Chief Wamiss) Wonderful one
Mine Wamiss Wonderful one
Hamatsa Song Ceremonial rites were strongly interwoven with religious and social functions. The Northwest Coast Indian believed in a supreme being who was neither moral nor immoral. The source of both good and evil came from the same spirit. The great power did not mix with individuals; but the spirits of animals had the supernatural power to enter into, and disappear from, the bodies of medicine men, Hamatsas, dancers, and all participants in different ceremonial functions.

The "Hamatsa" was a secret society composed of men who had come under the protection of the cannibal spirits. They were called Wild Men of the Woods (Hamatsa) and in their ceremonies were mistakenly referred to by white men as Cannibal Dancers. In their ceremonies, dances and songs were used extensively. The secret society, ascribe to the Kwatiutl, was held in highest esteem and given the greatest prestige within the tribe. One must first have the hereditary right to belong and, beyond that, must be chosen and initiated. Every chief had to be Hamatsa, and the achievement was a rigorous and demanding ordeal.

Although men predominated the society, sometimes there were women Hamatsa. The rank was hereditary and a women, being the only daughter of a Hamatsa, could become a member.
War Song For Marriage Marriages were arrange by parents and based on status and family stature and not, primarily, on the romantic sentiments of the young people to be married. Often such unions were planned when the children were mere infants. The bride was bought by the parents of the bridegroom and presents were sent as payment from the groom's parents to those of the bride. In some tribes, the young husband served his bride's parents until after the birth of their first child.

If a married man developed an interest in another married woman, the husband and the rival could settle the dispute with fists and spears. The winner got the woman, but had to to pay for her. So, occasionally marriages became not only a matter of business but also of sentiment.

Northwest Coast Tribes were divided into groups controlling marriages and descent. Among the Haida the two groups were called "Raven" and "Eagle". All persons were born into one group and had to marry into the other. When a man was a "Raven" his wife and children were "Eagles" because of matrilineal descent.

With the Kwakiutl the object of marriage was to acquire clan crests, privileges and song, which the wife brought in as a dowry and handed down to the children.

(Ida Halpern)
Ya la min gwa gwa la la sus sin si dzi kav lus
Ya la mus kwm kwm gi la sus
Ya la ams gwm gwm ki la sus sis kla-kwa us
Ya la am glu-gwala
In a humble way I am asking you, great one
You are the one that has copper in your possession as your dowry.
Rabbit Dance Song The Drum Dance is an event which takes place to mark holidays and special occasions such as when people return home from a long stay outside the community or important visitors arrive in the community. The Dance generally occurs in the evening and often lasts throughout the night. While the primary focus of the event is on dancing, it is the only occasion at which all residents of the community are expected to be in attendance, so it also serves as a time for socializing and gossiping. Drum Dances begin with either a speech and/or a Religious Song (no Slavey term). After this, songs for dancing are played. Three kinds of dances are performed: The Tea Dance (nola dakothe), The Rabbit Dance (ga dakothe), and The Cree Dance (enda dokothe).

This song is an example of the type used in Rabbit Dances. In this dance, the dancers form a circle one-behind-another and do a hop-skip step in duple rhythm.

(Michael Asch)
Northern Athapaskan - Slavey
Cree Dance Song This song is an example of the type used in Cree Dances. In this dance, the dancers form a circle as in the Rabbit Dance, but performs a "triplet" dance figure instead of a duple one.

(Michael Asch)
Northern Athapaskan - Slavey
Fiddle Dance Song Fiddle dances are quite popular among the Slavey. These dances generally take place on summer evenings and serve an entertainment function. At least two types of fiddle dances are used: the jib and the square dance. The song performed here is a jig. These songs were learned both from Europeans, especially Hudson Bay Company managers, during the 19th and early 20th century and, surprisingly, form United States Army Air corps personnel who were stationed along the Mackenzie River during World War II.

(Michael Asch)
Northern Athapaskan - Slavey
Bear Hunting Song Sung bu Sebastian McKenzie This song is about hunting black bear in the winter time. In order to do this, a sharpened pole is poked through the snow and wakes the sleeping bear who, as he emerges, is shot.

(Owen Jones, Jr.)
Algonkian - Naskapi
Inviting-In Dance Song In the region of the lower Yukon River and Norton Sound, considerably south of Barrow, the "inviting-in-Feast" (Aithukaguk), is given in January following the "Asking Festival" and the "Bladder Festival", which placated the spirit of animals killed in the hunt, held in November and December. At Barrow, there have been only two types of festivals, the Whale Feast and the Inviting-In or Messenger Feast, so called because messengers were sent to invite other villages.

The principal sponsor of the Messenger Feast has to save for years for he has to feed the whole crowd the first day of the festival. He is often impoverished by this, but he gains fame and all his guests are forever obligated to him. A head man announces his intention to hold a feast, sends a messenger forth with the invitation to the visitors. His group then gathers every night to rehearse. In some villages the songs belong to one old man who "sells" them to different dancers, and he teaches the people the proper dances for the festival. Weeks are spent in learning the songs; every intonation must be exact. The chorus consists of five or six men led by an old man. Everyone may join in only after the song has begun. At the feast each group presents its best actors and they try to out-sing and out-dance each other. Face masks are worn: some are to make the guest amused, some are to honor the spirits of the animals for which the dance is given.

(Laura Boulton)
Eskimo-Inuit - Point Barrow
His First Hunt Many songs concern the hunt, as life itself depends on successful hunting, and the gods who control the animals of land and sea must be pacified by certain songs and ceremonies. Weather incantations help to prevent or abate storms that bring ill luck to the hunt. Still other songs are merely narratives of the exploits of the hunters.

(Laura Boulton)
On his very first hunt
He killed a fine seal
Even in the dark
Eskimo-Inuit - Chesterfield Inlet
Hunting For Musk Ox (Dance Song) This dance song about a strenuous musk ox hunt is accompanied by a big drum.

The dance songs, according to all accounts, may be about practically any subject, for example, games, friends or family, spirits, hunting animals, weapons, and animals.

(Laura Boulton)
Eskimo-Inuit - Chesterfield Inlet
Corn Dance The horticultural aspects of the Iroquois ritual, the summer's first fruit rites are identified with the women. The Corn Dance, which recurs at all these rites as well as the big Green Corn Feast, is addressed to the female corn deity. It can also appear at other times as a so-called social dance.

(Gertrude Kurath)
Stomp Dance The Stop Dance is called gadashot, gadatsheta, etc. in the various Iroquoian dialects. The Stomp can be attached to a number of dance cycles, especially to Corn, Bean, and Shake-the-Squash Dances. It is also included separately in the Food Spirit festivals and in all social evenings as opening or climactic finish.

(Gertrude Kurath)
ohwari ose (in Mohawk) The bear is fat Onondaga-Tuscarora
Song Of Welcome The Indian people often borrowed songs when visiting other tribes. This "Song of Welcome" came from Oklahoma and the Winnebago brought it back to use in Wisconsin as a social song.

(Charles Hoffman)
Brother, you are welcome!
Come sit at our fireside.
Be one of us!
Brother, you are welcome!
Algonkian - Winnebago
Buffalo Feast Song The Buffalo Feast Song is part of a religious song-cycle describing the relationship of animal and human life. These songs relate the co-operation of this relationship. It is understood by man and beast that one must be sacrificed that the other may survive. In prayers to the Great Mystery they make these sentiments known. To many tribes the buffalo meant everything to the well-being of the group, a chief of all spirits, a medium for deriving supernatural good.

(Charles Hoffman)
Algongkian - Winnebago
Morning Song These songs, accompanied by a gourd rattle, are concerned with the spiritual instruction of young children and are sung by the parents, later the grandparents, until the children are awake in the morning.

(Charles Hoffman)
Do not weep any more: the daylight of life is on the way.
Listen: I am telling you to go and tell the (great) stories of life, that you may be where I am.
The work of the laborer (singer) is ended. This is what I have told you to say and repeat: I love you and pity you, my child.
Algonkian - Winnebago
Song Of The Unfaithful Woman This flute melody was explained as "the story of an unfaithful woman whose husband had died. She wept, but it was not heartfelt; for while she was weeping her new lover was playing this flute melody to her from a nearby cliff."

(Charles Hoffman)
Algonkian - Winnebago
Hoot Owl Song This popular version of the Hoot Owl song known to every Michigan Indian singer in some variant. The function of this song may have been shamanistic at one time, but now the song is for children. Says Blue Cloud, "This is the song they used to use when teaching our youngsters how to dance." It can be used as accompaniment to a variety of dances that have lost their own songs.

(Gertrude Kurath)
Algonkian - Ottowa
Oh Mary This is a French-Indian love song. With much difficulty and many promptings from his wife, Lacasse narrated the story, "The girl was named Mary, his sweetheart. He seen her walkin' to the store. They call, she didn't answer. He followed her in the store. The girl didn't spoke. That fellow he was damn mad."

(Gertrude Kurath)
Algonkian - Ojibwa
Catholic Hymm The Baraga Ojibwa, L'Arbre Croche Ottawa, and other groups sing hymns in the native language. The words to these songs were translated by Bishop Baraga and other priests of L'Arbre Croche a century ago. The tunes are apparently as old as most of the surviving traditional Indian songs. This song, "Jesus wegwissian" (Jesus who art the Son), is identified as "Ave Maris Stella", but is set to a fine French folk tune in Dorian mode instead of to the Gregorian chant.

(Gertrude Kurath)
Okgonkian - Ojibwa
Corn Dance The only tribal gatherings of the Seminole are the Corn Dance in June and the Hunting Dance in September.

The Corn Dance, is held in June "after the corn is ripe and when everyone can get together." No one eats any of the new corn until after the ceremony.

For three or four days, while the people are gathering for the Corn Dance, those who wish to dance may do so for two or three hours in the evening. During the Corn Dance there is dancing most of the day and part of the evening, and on the night before the people disband they dance until morning. The dance lasts from four to eight days, according to the time that the people can remain together.

On the morning before the Corn Dance, the medicine men begin a fast which continues until the next morning. In the early evening of this day a "sacred bundle" is opened and the contents exposed to view for about ten minutes. The medicine men are seated in a row, the bundle in front of its owner. A fire, with a kettle of medicine, is in front of them. and beyond is another fire around which the people move in the Buffalo Dance, after the opening of the sacred bundle. The man who owns the bundle "sings and talks about long life" when the bundle is opened. After the bundle has been closed, the men and women dance the Buffalo Dance which continues about ten minutes and has only four songs.

The Corn Dance ceremony is the time for the trial and punishment of offenses that have not been tried and punished by the families of the offenders. The punishments are said to consist of whipping and cutting gashes arms and legs.

(Charles Hoffman)
Song Of Removal The removal of the Seminole to Oklahoma took place in 1836-1840, The songs concerning that event were recorded.

(Charles Hoffman)
They are taking us beyond Miami,
They are taking us beyond the Caloosa River,
They are taking us to the end of our tribe.
They are taking us to Palm Beach,
Coming back beside Okeechobee Lake,
They are taking us to an old town in the west.
Fortyniner Song The Fortynine Dance is a recent Pan-Indian derivative from the Scalp Dance of your. It now engages couples who face clockwise, arms in skater's clasp, and balance forward and back with a limping techniques similar to that of the Soldier Dance. It is a specialty of the younger set, who call it the "Indian two-step".

(Gertrude Kurath)
Contemporary - Pan Indian
The Seneca: As Long As The Grass Shall Grow Words and Music by Peter LaFarge Contemporary - Pan-Indian