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Native American Dance
Yup'ik diva dances once more
Alaska: The Egan Center was packed for the drumming and dance showcase during the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. Many -- perhaps hundreds -- were turned away at the door.  Performers representing Alutiiq, Inupiat, Yup'ik and Southeast Indian traditions took their turns, and then a surprise:  87-year-old Mary Ann Sundown planned to dance.  As the beloved "Dance Diva" from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta hobbled onto the stage, bent and slow, cheers and whistles from a thousand or more fans shook the roof.  She donned her fur headpiece and gripped her dance fans, sitting in a chair to perform.   Mary Ann's coordination, grace, charm, and humor showed through, and at the end of each song, she struggled to her feet for the final choruses.  Her performance included two comic numbers associated with Sundown:  the "Mosquito Song," which includes hilarious swatting and itching pantomimes; and the "Cigarette Song," in which the performers try to imitate the elegant puffing of movie stars and wind up coughing.  Sundown's  set closed with a tribute piece to her grandchildren,  her trademark laugh and an expression of wondering love as she looked  back at her family -- some in diapers -- in front of the stage. Before leaving, Mary Ann told the crowd in Yup'ik, through a translator, how happy she was to be here. How she had lost her ability to walk for a while but it had returned. How she had fallen off a four-wheeler while berry-picking but been unharmed.   "She says someone's looking out for her," the interpreter said, "and that's God."

Slideshow of 87-year old Yupik elder, Mary Ann Sundown,  dancing at AFN Convention.

Missionary contact brings the Hymnal.  Attribution withheld by Request
Indians now have dual citizenship, they are citizens of their nation and of the U.S., during the days when America was young, they were not citizens of the U.S., but citizens only of their own nations, be that Oneida, Onondaga, Mohawk, Cayuga,  or whatever their nationality happened to be. Yes, they are considered American citizens on one hand. They are not citizens of any state, but they are also considered a semi-sovereign nation. They have sovereignty, but come also under the US. Office of Indian Affairs. They have formed treaties with the U.S. government historically. Only much later did Indians become Americans. Because they were not Americans, but of different nations entirely during America's early days, I don't see how Indian music could be considered the first or one of the first American musics. The meaning of Indian nation citizenship is very tricky.

Answer: Native people were Americans long before the United States was established.

1890--Jesse Walter Fewkes records the Passamaquoddy Indians off the coast of Maine. This is the first field use of the newly-invented recording machine.

The New York Oneida Nation form of hymn singing has many similarities to Sacred Harp Singing
In both traditions, a lot of the repertoire is drawn from the Isaac Watts material which he composed early in the 18th Century.
I'm not enough of an historian to know how to research it, but it would be interesting to investigate when the Oneida Episcopal and Methodist hymn singing began.  Of course the Oneida Longhouse singing tradition is much older, an earlier form of American singing than Sacred Harp. 

The Oneida hymn tradition may parallel the Cherokee in some ways, in roughly the same era

         Most of the Oneidas I know attribute the creation of their hymnal to Eleazer Williams, the charasmatic preacher who led a portion of the tribe from New York to the vicinity of Green Bay, WI in 1822.  Williams was a controversial figure who later in life claimed to be the "Last Dauphin," the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  He was lampooned by Mark Twain in "Huckleberry Finn." 
He was a published author both in English and in "The Language of the Seven Iroquois Tribes" as early as 1813.  Although printed versions of the hymnals were not published until the 1850s, knowledgeable Oneidas have told me that their tradition of hymn singing pre-dated the move to Wisconsin.  That the same type of singing is done in their Wisconsin, New York and Ontario communities is consistent with that assertion.
Although most Oneidas converted to Christianity in the 18th Century, I wouldn't say that they are "pretty danged acculturated."  They have it both ways, actually.  They've retained continuous Iroquoisan ceremonial traditions in the community too. 

Acculturation is relative.  Some Cherokee living in Georgia had plantations, African slaves (which they took to Oklahoma with them), dressed in "white" fashions (or close Cherokee adaptations), sang Christian hymns (some of which were written by Charles Wesley, who corresponded with Boudinot as he compiled the Cherokee Hymnal), and  voted for the "compromises" of the Echota Treaty, which ended up with the Trail of Tears.
On the other hand, other Eastern Band Cherokee, notably those who lived just outside the Qualla Boundary in the Snowbird communities, who managed to hide out in the same mountain terrain that the anti-abortion terrorist Eric Rudolph used to hide out in recently,  managed to hang on to the traditional language and culture of the Cherokee back in the 1830s.  It was their descendants  who were Mooney's informants in his landmark ethnological report (1888). This was the basis of much that is known and retained of traditonal Cherokee Myth and religion. 
Ironically, these same Snowbird Cherokee who still sing from the old shaped note Cherokee Hymnal, and were the ones (Walker Calhoun among them) who reported that they sang the Cherokee translation of "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah" on the Trail of Tears.  To this day, the Cherokee versions of "Guide Me O" and "Amazing Grace" are sung at the annual Trail of Tears Gospel Singing at the Jacob Cornsilk Community Center in Snowbird.
Speaking of which, I understand that Charles (Cold Mountain) Frazier's latest novel is all about William Thomas, the Trail of Tears, and Thomas's Cherokee 1st Regiment (CSA) during the Civil War.  It's the most amazing story you can imagine.  I can't wait.

           Perhaps one of the earliest Indian language hymnals was published by Elias Boudinot (signator of the notorious Echota Treaty) in the Cherokee language a few years before the Trail of Tears.  I'm pretty sure he used shaped notes, though I've never seen a copy.  I don't know if he used harmony, fugued or otherwise.  Harmony singing was not, I believe, part of Cherokee singing tradition before Christianization, but, by the 1830s, the Cherokees were pretty 'danged' acculturated.

- When the Indian nations were divided up among Christian denominations for evangelizing, the Presbyterians were given territory occupied by Dakota-Nakoda-Lakota peoples. There are still people on the Fort Peck Reservation who sing Presbyterian hymns in the Dakota language in 2006.

- Nez Perce, in Idaho. Our archives have a tape from a past apprenticeship that contains "Nez Perce Hymns" where one can hear Jesus Christ's name interspaced with Nimiiputimt'ky. These hymns have been sung by the Nez Perce since the times of Reverend and Mrs. Spalding (1836...) and other missionaries who established a mission at Lapwai.

The American Indian Language Development Institute's (AILDI) mission is to mobilize efforts to document, revitalize and promote Indigenous languages, reinforcing the processes of intergenerational language transfer. AILDI plays a critical role in ongoing outreach, training, and collaborative partnerships with educators, schools and Indigenous communities nationally and internationally through the use of multiple resources.

"The Heard Museum is honored to recognize the lifetime achievements of Mr. Ted Vaughn and his grassroots efforts to preserve Yavapai language and culture," said Heard Museum Director Frank Goodyear Jr.

Indian Rights Activist

Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin) (1876-1938) Writer, musician, educator, and Indian rights activist, Zitkala-Sa (or Red Bird) was born on the Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. After her white father abandoned the family, she was brought up by her Indian mother in traditional Sioux ways. At the age of eight, Zitkala-Sa's life was transformed when white missionaries came to Pine Ridge and convinced her to enroll in a boarding school in Wabash, Indiana. Part of a movement to "civilize" Indian children by removing them from their native culture and indoctrinating them in Euro-American ways, the school trained Indian pupils in manual labor, Christianity, and the English language. Zitkala-Sa found it a hostile environment and struggled to adapt.


Carlisle Indian School Collection, 1878-1969
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Bureau of Archives and History Pennsylvania State Archives MG-216

Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania (1880)
The United States Indian School at Carlisle, Pa., was founded by Gen. Richard Henry Pratt in 1879, and served as a model for government boarding schools for Indians until its closure in 1918. Over 10,000 students enrolled at the Carlisle Training School during its 39 years, where, separated from their native cultures, the students were prepared for work in industrial and manual labor and socialized into "civilized" life. Given new white names to replace their Indian ones, the students were prohibited from speaking their native languages, were instructed in Christianity, and were fed, clothed, and housed under strict military discipline.

T. Roosevelt on Native Americans From his State of the Union Message, 1901
In my judgment the time has arrived when we should definitely make up our minds to recognize the Indian as an individual and not as a member of a tribe. The General Allotment Act is a mighty pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass. It acts directly upon the family and the individual. Under its provisions some sixty thousand Indians have already become citizens of the United States. We should now break up the tribal funds, doing for them what allotment does for the tribal lands; that is, they should be divided into individual holdings.

First Nation Language Resources - North American Indian & Indigenous People

Esther Martinez Act: Native-languages bill becomes law. President Bush has signed into law legislation named after an Ohkay Owingeh storyteller and linguist.
Many of the original birch bark scrolls were destroyed by missionaries who saw the Midewiwin as an obstacle to Christianizing the Ojibwe.


Cherokee Syllabary Pronunciation Key Sequoyah, a Cherokee mountaineer, invented the original first syllabary in modern times. The Cherokee alphabet is written in the syllabary form. A syllabary is an alphabet in which each letter in a word stands for a whole syllable (such as "ga" ) instead of a single letter (such as "g"). With the exception of the letter "s," Cherokee is a complete syllabary. Cree Syllabrary Pronounciation Key

Story Telling of North Carolina Indians

Center for Multilingual Multicultural Research

The Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committee

Broadcasting In Cherokee
Oklahoma :Experts say the Cherokee language
could be extinct in two generations.  Now Tahlequah's KTLQ radio station is trying to keep the Cherokee Language alive. Recently Dennis Sixkiller and David Scott called the Sequoyah High School's state championship game in Cherokee.  "We have a lot of people that  still speak the Cherokee language, and it gives them a chance to hear the ball games," said Jim Trickett  "They may not  understand English, [but] they understand Cherokee,"  Scott says some basketball terms can't be translated, so the men had to improvise. For three pointers, they use  the Cherokee word for three.   And for coach, they use the Cherokee word for leader.

"Redskin" Term Did Not Begin as Insult, Smithsonian Scholar Says
Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution linguist Ives Goddard spent seven months researching the history of the word "redskin." His conclusion: the word did not begin as an insult.  Redskin was first used by Native Americans in the 18th century to distinguish themselves from whites encroaching on their lands and culture. The earliest known use of "redskin" was in a 1789 statement made by Illinois tribal chiefs negotiating with the British to switch loyalties away from the French. "I shall be pleased to have you come to speak to me yourself," said one statement attributed to a chief named Mosquito.  "And if any redskins do you harm, I shall be able to look out for you even at the peril of my life." The French used the phrase "peaux Rouges " -- literally "red skins" -- to translate the chief's words.  When it first appeared as an English expression in the early 1800s, "it came in the most respectful context and at the highest level," Goddard said.  "...white people and Indians talking together, with the white people trying to ingratiate themselves."  In July 22, 1815, "red skin" first appeared in print in a Missouri Gazette news story.  Government envoys were rebuking Midwestern tribes for refusing to yield territory claimed by the United States. Meskwaki chief Black Thunder was unimpressed: "Restrain your feelings and hear calmly what I say," he told the envoys.  "I have never injured you, and innocence can feel no fear.  I turn to all red skins and white skins, and challenge an accusation against me."  Goddard admits it is impossible to know whether the chiefs said "redskin" in their own languages or was merely translated that way by interpreters.  The same is true of "white-skin."  American Indian activist Susan Harjo is not impressed.  "I'm very familiar with white men who uphold the judicious speech of white men," said the Cheyenne-Muscogee writer.  "Europeans were not using high-minded language.  [To them] we were only human when it came to territory, land cessions and whose side you were on."  Harjo argues that the word "redskin" grew from the practice of offering bounties to anyone who killed Indians.  Bounty hunters "needed proof of kill, but they had a storage problem," she said, adding that instead of a body, they accepted scalps or other parts of a "redskin."  Linda Shoemaker, a University of Connecticut historian, weighed Goddard's research and Harjo's comments with her own studies. The final message, Shoemaker suggested, is that "even if the Indians were the first to use it, the origin has no relationship to later use.  What happened at the beginning doesn't justify it today."  Goddard's report appears in the European Review of Native American Studies.

Linguists Find the Words, and Pocahontas Speaks Again
A growing number of linguists and anthropologists are recreating dead or dying Indian languages. Their field, called "language revitalization," is the science of reconstructing lost languages. One benefit of these studies is the Virginia Algonquian dialogue spoken in "The New World," a movie about Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America (1607). Virginia Algonquian had not been spoken for more than two centuries. Only two modern accounts -- one by Captain John Smith and the other by the Jamestown colony secretary, William Strachey -- preserved some Virginia Algonquian words. So, when movie director Terrence Malick decided that Powhatan should speak in his own language, he called in Dr. Blair Rudes, a linguist involved with many Algonquian language projects. The first challenge for Dr. Rudes was the limited vocabulary. Smith set down just 50 Indian words, and Strachey compiled 600. The lists were written phonetically by Englishmen whose spelling and pronunciation differed, making it difficult to determine the actual Indian word. For instance Strachey set down words for walnut, shoes and two kinds of beast,
"paukauns:" paka-ni (meaning large nut),
"mawhcasuns:" maxkesen (shoe)
"aroughcoune :" i árehkan (raccoon)
"Opposum:" wápahshum

Dr. Rudes had to apply techniques of historical linguistics to rebuilding a language from these sketchy, unreliable word lists. To discover the language, Rudes depended upon several elements:
Each Algonquin language is different, but as closely related. Comparing the related Algonquin languages reveals common elements of grammar and sentence structure and many similarities in vocabulary.
Proto-Algonquian is an early language common to all Algonquian speech. A list complied by linguists contains 4,000 words from the surviving tongues and documentation of the extinct ones. He compared this list to Strachey's words.
A translation of the Bible into Munsee Delaware, an Algonquin language once spoken by Massachusetts Indians, offered Dr. Rudes insights. He adapted some of those words for Virginia Algonquian.
100-year-old recordings of the last Munsee Delaware speakers were a valuable guide to pronunciations.
The related Algonquian languages were among the first in America to die out. No one is known to have spoken Virginia Algonquian since 1785. Like many other Indians, Algonquian speakers had no writing system, and their grammar and most of their vocabulary were lost.
Of the more than 15 original Algonquian languages in eastern North America, the two still spoken are Passamaquoddy-Malecite in Maine and Mikmaq in New Brunswick.
Like most of the 800 or more indigenous languages in North America, Virginia Algowhen became extinct as Indians declined in number, dispersed and lost their cultural identity due to European Invasion.
At least half the world's estimated 6,000 languages have so few remaining speakers that they are threatened with extinction. By 2100, it's believed less than 3,000 languages will survive.
Phil Konstatin's October 2006 Newsletter

William Bright, 78, Expert in Indigenous Languages, Is Dead
Colorado: William Bright spent more than 50 years studying the vanishing languages of indigenous people. In 1949, Bright received a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from UC Berkeley. He then began his fieldwork among the Karuk, whose languages spoken by just a handful of elders. Since encounters with Europeans had rarely ended well for the Karuk, the community had little reason to welcome an outsider. But Bill Bright was deferential, curious and, at 21, scarcely more than a boy. He was also visibly homesick. The Karuk grandmothers took him in, baking him cookies and cakes and sharing their language. They named him Uhyanapatanvaanich, “little word-asker.” Shortly before his death, he was made an honorary member of the Karuk tribe, the first outsider to be so honored. Mr. Bright’s approach to studying language was to learn it within its cultural context, which might include songs, poetry, stories and everyday conversation. And so, lugging unwieldy recording devices, he continued to make forays into traditional communities around the world, sitting down with native speakers and eliciting words, phrases and sentences. Among the languages on which he worked were Nahuatl, an Aztec language of Mexico; Cakchiquel, of Guatemala; Luiseño, Ute, Wishram and Yurok, languages of the Western United States; and Lushai, Kannada, Tamil and Tulu, languages of the Indian subcontinent.

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