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Intertribal Style of Native American Music

Reference the history and present details of Native American music developed among many tribes.


Intertribal Music and the Modern Powwow

During the mid-twentieth century, an intertribal style of song and dance based loosely on Northern Plains traditions developed among people of all Indian nations. Many tribes – particularly those on the East Coast – had lost cultural elements including language, religion, song, and dance during generations of assimilation and persecution. Performers from Plains tribes traveling with Wild West shows and circuses during the early years of the century passed on songs and dances to Native Peoples. From these small beginnings, traditions have been rebuilt around borrowed music and dance, as well as around materials from historical archives.

The intertribal powwow serves as a contemporary gathering place for all NativePeoples to celebrate their identity and to promote Native culture. These gatherings alsoprovide forums for Natives to exchange information and to discuss Native rights andhealth and education concerns. Music and dance are the centerpiece of these occasions.Social and competitive dancing, such as the Grand Entry, Flag Song, Intertribal, HoopDance, Men's Fancy Dance, Women's Fancy Shawl Dance, and specialty dances unique toa particular tribal tradition, go on long into the night. The modern powwow traditionbegan near the end of World War I, although tribal and intertribal gatherings have beenongoing for centuries. Among the oldest continuously operating tribal gatherings is theCrow Fair, which began in 1918 under the guidance of famed Chief Plenty Coups. TheGallup Intertribal Ceremonial in New Mexico, the Nanticoke Powwow in Delaware, andthe United Tribes Powwow in North Dakota are but a few of the hundreds of powwowsopen to the public each year.

Excerpted from Multicultural Perspectives in Music Education.

Related Resources

Regional Music Styles of Native American Tribes
Reference this chart of the regional music styles of Native American tribes.


Reference the history and present details of Native American music developed among many tribes.
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