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 Native Peoples to celebrate their identity and to promote Native culture. These gatherings also provide forums for Natives to exchange information and to discuss Native rights and health and education concerns. Music and dance are the centerpiece of these occasions. Social and competitive dancing, such as the Grand Entry, Flag Song, Intertribal, Hoop Dance, Men's Fancy Dance, Women's Fancy Shawl Dance, and specialty dances unique to a particular tribal tradition, go on long into the night. The modern powwow tradition began near the end of World War I, although tribal and intertribal gatherings have been ongoing for centuries. Among the oldest continuously operating tribal gatherings is the Crow Fair, which began in 1918 under the guidance of famed Chief Plenty Coups. The Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial in New Mexico, the Nanticoke Powwow in Delaware, and the United Tribes Powwow in North Dakota are but a few of the hundreds of powwows open 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.


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