The intertribal pow-wow is the most widespread venue for traditional Indian music and dance in North America. Heartbeat of the People is an insider's journey into the dances and music, the traditions and regalia, and the functions and significance of these vital cultural events. Tara Browner focuses on the Northern pow-wow of the northern Great Plains and Great Lakes to investigate the underlying tribal and regional frameworks that reinforce personal tribal affiliations. Interviews with dancers and her own participation in pow-wow events and community provide fascinating on-the-ground accounts and provide detail to a rare ethnomusicological analysis of Northern music and dance.
Many Kiowas believe that song is a gift from God. Its power, argues Luke E. Lassiter, rests in the many ways that community members hear, understand, and feel it: "Song has power. As I begin to understand what this means for my mentors, I am just beginning to understand what this means in my life. They are not just singers. They are vehicles for something greater than all of us. Indeed, I now understand that I am not just a singer. But . . . I will sing until I die." As a boy, Lassiter had an early fascination with pow wows. This interest eventually went from a hobby to a passion. As Lassiter made Kiowa friends who taught him to sing and traveled the pow wow circuit, serving many times as a head singer, he began to investigate and write about the pow wow as an experiential encounter with song. The Power of Kiowa Song shows how song is interpreted, created, and used by individuals, how it is negotiated through the context of an event, and how it emerges as a powerfully unique and specific public expression. The Power of Kiowa Song presents a collaborative, community-wide dialogue about the experience of song. Using conversations with Kiowa friends as a frame, Lassiter seeks to describe the entire experience of song rather than to analyze it solely from a distance. Lassiter's Kiowa consultants were extremely active in the writing of the book, re-explaining concepts that seemed difficult to grasp and discussing the organization and content of the work. In a text that is engaging and easily read, Lassiter has combined experiential narrative with ethnological theory to create a new form of collaborative ethnography that makes anthropology accessible to everyone. This book is designed for anyone interested in Native American studies or anthropology, and it also serves as a resource written by and for the Kiowa themselves.
The Native American casino and gaming industry has attracted unprecedented American public attention to life on reservations. Other tribal public venues, such as museums and powwows, have also gained in popularity among non-Native audiences and become sites of education and performance.
In PublicNative America, Mary Lawlor explores the process of tribal self-definition that the communities in her study make available to off-reservation audiences. Focusing on architectural and interior designs as well as performance styles, she reveals how a complex and often surprising cultural dynamic is created when Native Americans create lavish displays for the public’s participation and consumption.
Drawing on postcolonial and cultural studies, Lawlor argues that these venues serve as a stage where indigenous communities play out delicate negotiations—on the one hand retaining traditional beliefs and rituals, while on the other, using what they have learned about U.S. politics, corporate culture, tourism, and public relations to advance their economic positions.
Recording is central to the musical lives of contemporary powwow singers yet, until now, their aesthetic practices when recording have been virtually ignored in the study of Native American expressive cultures. Recording Culture is an exploration of the Aboriginal music industry and the powwow social world that supports it. For twelve years, Christopher A. Scales attended powwows—large intertribal gatherings of Native American singer-drummers, dancers, and spectators—across the northern Plains. For part of that time, he worked as a sound engineer for Arbor Records, a large Aboriginal music label based in Winnipeg, Canada. Drawing on his ethnographic research at powwow grounds and in recording studios, Scales examines the ways that powwow drum groups have utilized recording technology in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the unique aesthetic principles of recorded powwow music, and the relationships between drum groups and the Native music labels and recording studios. Turning to "competition powwows," popular weekend-long singing and dancing contests, Scales analyzes their role in shaping the repertoire and aesthetics of drum groups in and out of the recording studio. He argues that the rise of competition powwows has been critical to the development of the powwow recording industry. Recording Culture includes a CD featuring powwow music composed by Gabriel Desrosiers and performed by the Northern Wind Singers.