War Whoops And Medicine Songs

The Music Of The American Indian including Songs of the Winnebago, Chippewa, Sioux, Zuni and Acoma.

Collected and edited by Charles Hofmann

The recordings included in this disc were collected in Wisconsin at the Upper Dells of the Wisconsin River where more than 200 American Indians from five different tribes assembled for the annual Stand Rock Indian Ceremonial. The neighboring Winnebago people were joined by the Chippewa, Sioux, Zuni and Acoma - distinct groups of the Woodlands, the Plains and the Southwest.

Many of these songs were also included in the book War Whoops and Medicine Songs, edited by Charles Hofmann, and published by Boston Music Company in 1952. Additional information on American Indian music and ceremony is also included in that book and it is suggested that the volume be used in connection with these recordings.

The original recordings were made as a cooperative project with the Library of Congress Archive of Folklore and the Music School of the University of Wisconsin.

Most of the singers were between the ages of 60 and 80 years, even though younger singers contributed much to the collection. The Winnebago singers were Albert Yellow Thunder, Winslow White Eagle, Blow Snake, Walking Blue Sky, Bringing Home the Prisoners, Storm Walking Woman, Proud Woman and Walking in Daylight.

The Oglala Sioux singers were Big Snake, Sweet Grass and Fire Shaker; the Acoma singer was Flaming Arrow and the Zuni singer was Laughing Eyes. The Chippewa singer and flute player was Roi Clearwater.

Play song


Performed by


Native Words



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. Brother, you are welcome!
Come sit at our fireside.
Be one of us!
Brother, you are welcome!
Friendship Song A popular dance song heard at social gatherings, performed by both men and women, moving sidewise in one direction to the beating of the drum. Winnebago
Riding Song A song for a joyous riding festival, heard during many ceremonials. Usually new words were added to this old melody thus making a topical song, a practice frequently done in all Indian music. Winnebago
Flag Song The Winnebago flag, a feathered staff, is symbolical of the history and brave deeds of the tribe. This song, sung by the victorious warriors when they returned to their own people, shows the respect and symbolical significance of this emblem. Our beloved flag went across the ocean and came back. Are you really glad to see it back again? Winnebago
Friends Song This old melody, with its poetic text, reveals the tenderness and devotion of two close friends. It is told that "the friendship was formed early in childhood and each vowed to die for the other if necessary." The song tells of the loss of one friend and the meditation of the survivor.

"My friend: when the days are ending, the sun is setting in the western horizon. The sky turns scarlet red. My heart goes out to you, and wonders if the time that has been will ever be again."
Buffalo Feast Dance Song A religious song-cycle describing the relationship of animal and human life. These songs relate the cooperation 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. Winnebago
Moccassin Game Song In the old days gambling or any game of chance was important medium of obtaining wealth. In those times such a hand-game as the moccasin game was and still is a particular favorite. An object is hidden and the guesser may touch each, but only overturn one moccasin. The players sing to distract their opponents. The game teaches the control and reading of facial expression. Winnebago
Game Song Of Derision To Losing Side This part of the moccasin game proves to be an amusing sport. This taunting song is heard as the wining players make sport of the losers and deride them. Winnebago
Morning Song These songs, accompanied by a gourd rattle, are concerned with the spiritual instruction of young children, are sung by the parents, later the grandparents, until the children are awake in the morning.

"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."
Love Song (Flute Melody) Love songs have probably been the most popular phase of Indian music, but we must realize that the Indian did not sing about love as we do, because for him love was not romance. In the old days, the courting flute was believed by many to serve as a magic love charm and the young men of the village played it in the summer evenings to attract the young girls. However, marriage was a different matter, and was arranged by the parents of the young people.

The examples on Side I, Band 10 and on Band 12, were played on a flute made from a metal gun-barrel.
Song Of The Unfaithful Woman (Flute Melody) Another flute melody 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." Winnebago
Second Love Song (Flute Melody) Once a young maiden heard the love call of a flute and recognized the young man who was playing it. She asked her parents for permission to visit her uncle, as an excuse to meet her lover, but the older people were not often deceived when the flute music sounded. Winnebago
Old Medicine Song 1 A small water-drum made from an iron kettle covered with a deer skin was used for recording these songs. At the starting of the drum each side forms in the Medicine Lodge and the drum is passed from one member to another until each medicine man has sung his own songs. This passing of the drum lasts from early morning until sunset. Winnebago
Old Medicine Song 2 Winnebago
Old Medicine Society Song Of The Initiation To The Lodge The songs of the initiation tell of the man who was an outstanding doctor and was sent for from long distances for his professional services. The Medicine Lodge, having its degrees deals with spiritual as well as physical matters.

"You have talked about me, but upon this earth I stand with a clear conscience with my eyes upon the Creator."
Old War Song 1 Although the Winnebago people are a member of the great Siouan family they have never been as warlike as some of their other brothers. The last fighting among these groups came in the 1860's when the Winnebagos were carrying on a war with the Arapahos. These two songs are among the oldest that the Winnebago had and the singer is telling that the enemy tribe is coming. Ho, they are Winnebagos!
Pawnee braves, they hailed us.
"Friends! Halloo!" they hailed us.
Ho, they are Winnebagos.
Old War Song 2 Winnebago
Opening Song Of The Rain Dance Living in the semi-desert country in the Southwest, the Pueblo people have much need for rain, a necessity most of all for the growth of corn, the main sustenance of the Pueblo. At various times during the year ceremonial dances are held, and during the summer the Rain Dances begin.

"O, my! Poor me! Maybe this time I will raise more corn! Dancers and Rain Gods will come, They will sing their sacred songs to rock the whole world to sleep. Then I will raise corn. That is what I plan. This is what the children of the earth wish!

"O, look! A cloud is appearing over there! The Rain Gods have poured water down in my field. Now I can sing and dance because the rain and my crops have brought me happiness!"
Corn Grinding Song As a compliment to the Rain Dance Songs this example of an Indian work song is the result of the harvest brought about after the gathering of crops. We hear the woman working with the grain at the trough as she sings to the rhythm of her work -

"Boo-ly-nah, Boo-ly-nah, Hey-ney-yah,
"Yo-way-ah, Yo-way-ah!...."

As in many of the work songs of primitive peoples, the text contains many meaningless syllables.
Lullaby 1 These old melodies are probably the first music to be heard by Zuni children. Nonie-hi-e -- nonie -he-e
Hey-lun-coo -- hey-len-coo
Nonie-hi-e . . .
Go to sleep, my little baby, while I work. Father will bring in the sheep soon. Zuni
Lullaby 2 Zuni
Buffalo Feast Dance Song 1 These songs, in comparison to the religious song cycle of the Winnebago, also concern the Buffalo Ceremony. This animal revered by all Indian peoples as a source of power as well as a source of food, is symbolized in the dances of the Southwest Pueblo peoples. The words heard here mention both cloud and green corn since the buffalo is used as a source of power in obtaining this sustenance. She-wah-na - (cloud) eh-hy-ya.
How-we-la-na (Green corn) eh-hy-na...
Buffalo Feast Dance Song 2 Acoma
Wedding Song This short excerpt is a portion of the dance performed at an Acoma wedding ceremonial, an elaborate and lengthy presentation as seen among the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest. Acoma
Sun Dance Song The last official Sun Dance ceremony was held in South Dakota in 1878. The singer described the time when they danced from rising of the sun until sunset, when two gashes were cut in the breast and a cord of sinew fastened to a stick was tied through the gashes, and how they danced looking at the sun all day without water:

"Wa-kan-tan-ka On-si-maly-e-yo" (God have pity on me!)
"Ya ti wan leci-he-lo" (You have a home over there where God is!)

The ceremony may be regarded as one of re-birth and re-animation. To the Indian people it represented the deepest religious feeling. These acts of self-torture (or self-infliction) were done in fulfillment of vows made in time of great danger or distress. Drum and whistle are used in these songs.
Oglala Sioux
Dog Feast Dance Song There are many ceremonies connected with the dog -- those were dogs are sacrificed and are part of a feast, or where dogs are fed the choice portions of a buffalo after the people had promised, "If only we find buffalo, we will give all our dogs a feast!" This vow was made so that food could be obtained for all. The song began with the words, "May you feast well, o dog!" Oglala Sioux
Travel Song In Wartime This is based on an old war song and new words were used which told
"The Indians are going to war. That's the word we got from the President. There is a boat coming blowing a whistle. We are going over the water to war!"

In the old days the Indians called this melody a "Precession Used in War." but in the present version, as sung since 1917, these new words have been adopted and in the middle of the song you can hear the boat whistle when it is imitated by the woman singer. Another version of this song said, "We are ready to go across. There is a train coming. Young Indians, have courage!"
Oglala Sioux
War Song This song of the Sioux soldiers became popular after 1942, but the melody is based on a social dance (known as the Rabbit Dance) with the following words,
"Sioux boys, you went over there and you took some prisoners. When the soldiers came back they told us the Japs were crying!"
Oglala Sioux
Chippewa Love Song Attractive melodies played on a cedar flute and love songs popular with the Chippewas in Wisconsin and Minnesota for several generations. Chippewa
Chippewa Flute Melody Chippewa