Songprints, the first book-length exploration of the musical lives of Native American women, describes a century of cultural change and constancy among the Shoshone of Wyoming's Wind River Reservation. Through her conversations with Emily, Angelina, Alberta, Helene, and Lenore, Judith Vander captures the distinct personalities of five generations of Shoshone women as they tell their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes toward their music. These women, who range in age from seventy to twenty, provide a unique historical perspective on many aspects of twentieth-century Wind River Shoshone life.
In addition to documenting these oral histories, Vander transcribes and analyzes seventy-five songs that the women sing--a microcosm of Northern Plains Indian music. She shows how each woman possesses her own songprint--a song repertoire distinctive to her culture, age, and personality, as unique in its configuration as a fingerprint or footprint. Vander places the five song repertoires in the context of Shoshone social and religious ceremonies to offer insights into the rise of the Native American Church, the emergence and popularity of the contemporary powwow, and the changing, enlarging role of women.
Songprints also offers important new material on Ghost Dance songs and performances. Because the Ghost Dance was abandoned by the Wind River Shoshones in the 1930s, only Emily and Angelina saw it performed. Vander engages the two women--now in their sixties and seventies--in a discussion of the function and meaning of the Ghost Dance among the Wind River Shoshones. Thirteen Shoshone Ghost Dance song transcriptions accompany their accounts of past performances.
The distinctive voices of these five women will captivate those interested in music, women's studies, ethnohistory, and ethnography, as well as ethnomusicologists, Native American scholars, anthropologists, and historians.