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Title: Indian Story and Song - from North America
Author: Fletcher, Alice C. (Alice Cunningham), 1838-1923
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Indian Story and Song - from North America" ***

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transcribed by Linda Cantoni, Espe (Nada Prodanovic), and
the PG Finale Team.

[Transcriber's Note: This e-book contains passages in Native American
dialects; hyphenation and accents have been preserved as they appear
in the original. Italics are represented by underscores. Obvious
printer errors in English passages have been corrected, in particular
the inconsistent use of "rythm" for "rhythm."]





_Holder of the Thaw Fellowship
Peabody Museum Harvard University_

Small Maynard & Company

_Copyright, 1900,
By Alice C. Fletcher_

_Entered at Stationers' Hall_






_At the Congress of Musicians held in connection with the
Trans-Mississippi Exposition at Omaha in July, 1898, several essays
upon the songs of the North American Indians were read, in
illustration of which a number of Omaha Indians, for the first time,
sang their native melodies to an audience largely composed of trained

_This unique presentation not only demonstrated the scientific value
of these aboriginal songs in the study of the development of music,
but suggested their availability as themes, novel and characteristic,
for the American composer. It was felt that this availability would be
greater if the story, or the ceremony which gave rise to the song,
could be known, so that, in developing the theme, all the movements
might be consonant with the circumstances that had inspired the
motive. In response to the expressed desire of many musicians, I have
here given a number of songs in their matrix of story._

_Material like that brought together in these pages has hitherto
appeared only in scientific publications, where it has attracted the
lively interest of specialists both in Europe and America. It is now
offered in a more popular form, that the general public may share
with the student the light shed by these untutored melodies upon the
history of music; for these songs take us back to a stage of
development antecedent to that in which culture music appeared among
the ancients, and reveal to us something of the foundations upon which
rests the art of music as we know it to-day._

_Many of the stories and songs in this little book are now for the
first time published. All have been gathered directly from the people,
in their homes, or as I have listened to the earnest voice of the
native priest explaining the ancient ceremonials of his fathers. The
stories are close translations, losing only a certain picturesqueness
and vigour in their foreign guise; but the melodies are exactly as
sung by the Indians._

_Indian myths embodying cosmic ideas have passages told in song,
tribal legends have their milestones of song, folk-tales at dramatic
points break into song; but into these rich fields I have not here
entered. This collection reveals something of the wealth of musical
and dramatic material that can be gleaned outside of myth, legend, and
folk-lore among the natives of our country._

_Aside from its scientific value, this music possesses a charm of
spontaneity that cannot fail to please those who would come near to
nature and enjoy the expression of emotion untrammelled by the
intellectual control of schools. These songs are like the wild flowers
that have not yet come under the transforming hand of the gardener._





STORY AND SONG OF THE HE-DHU´-SHKA                         3

STORY AND SONG OF ISH´-I-BUZ-ZHI                          14

STORY AND SONG OF THE LEADER                              21

THE OMAHA TRIBAL PRAYER                                   26

STORY AND SONG OF THE BIRD'S NEST                         30

A TRYSTING LOVE-SONG                                      34


STORY AND SONG OF ZO_N_´-ZI-MO_N_-DE                      45

LOVE-SONG. Poetical Transcription by Miss E.D. Proctor    49

STORY AND SONG OF THE WREN                                53

THE OMAHA FUNERAL SONG                                    57

STORY AND SONG OF THE MOTHER'S VOW                        61

A LOVE-CALL                                               68

A GAME SONG FROM THE NORTH-WEST COAST                     70

STORY AND SONG OF THE INDIAN COQUET                       74

AN OLD MAN'S LOVE-SONG                                    77

STORY OF THE WE´-TO_N_ SONG.                              81

A PAWNEE LOVE-SONG                                        86

STORY AND SONG OF A WARRIOR                               88

THE MOCKING-BIRD'S SONG                                   94

A SONG OF THE GHOST DANCE                                 96

SACRED SONGS OF PEACE                                    101

COMFORTING THE CHILD                                     108

MUSIC IN INDIAN LIFE                                     114

THE RELATION OF STORY AND SONG                           120



THE INSIGNIA OF THUNDER (Omaha)                            6

THE WARRIOR'S PRAYER (Omaha)                               9

THE LAUGH (Ponka)                                         13

ISH´-I-BUZ-ZHI. Dance Song (Omaha)                        18

THE LEADER'S SONG (Omaha)                                 24

TRIBAL PRAYER (Omaha)                                     29

THE BIRD'S NEST (Pawnee)                                  33

TRYSTING LOVE-SONG (Omaha)                                36

THE DEATHLESS VOICE (Dakota)                              42

ZO_N_´-ZI-MO_N_-DE (Omaha)                                46

LOVE-SONG. Poetical Transcription by
  Miss E.D. Proctor (Omaha)                               50

THE WREN (Pawnee)                                         54

SONG TO THE SPIRIT (Omaha)                                58

THE MOTHER'S VOW (Dakota)                                 66

A LOVE-CALL (Omaha)                                       69

GAME SONG (Vancouver's Island)                            72

THE INDIAN COQUET (Omaha)                                 75

AN OLD MAN'S LOVE-SONG (Omaha)                            78

WE´-TO_N_ SONG (Dakota)                                   84

LOVE-SONG (Pawnee)                                        87

A WARRIOR'S SONG. Mi´-ka-thi (Ponka)                      92

MOCKING-BIRD'S SONG (Tigua)                               95

SONG OF THE GHOST DANCE (Arapaho)                         98

CHORAL. Sacred Song of Peace (Omaha)                     105

THE GIFT OF PEACE (Otoe)                                 107

KAWAS, THY BABY IS CRYING (Pawnee)                       109

THY FATHER IS COMING (Pawnee)                            111

LOOK UP (Pawnee)                                         113

PRAYER FOR RAIN (Mexico)                                 123

KWAKIUTL SONG (British Columbia)                         123



[Footnote 1: In the Indian words and vocables the vowels have the
continental sound. _G_ is hard, as in _go_; _dh_ is like _th_ in
_the_; _th_, as in _thin_; _n_ as in French _en_.]

It had been a warm September day; and I was resting in my hammock,
swung from a wide-spreading tree that stood near the tent of my Indian
host. We had partaken of our evening meal beside an outdoor fire. The
mother was busy clearing away the supper dishes, the men had gone off
to look after the horses, the children had fallen asleep, and I lay
watching the shadowy darkness come out of the east and slowly pursue
the glowing trail of the retreating sun, thinking of the Indian's
imagery of night ever haunting and following upon the track of day,
seeking to gain the mastery. I was aroused from my musings by hearing
the mother say, "It is chilly!" for the fire had died down, and the
deep blue of twilight was all about us.

She dropped beside the embers, blew them into a feeble blaze, threw on
fresh wood, that crackled and sent up a shower of sparks and soon
bright yellow flames illumined the under side of the branches beneath
which I was swinging.

The call of the fire summoned one tall form after another out of the
dusky surroundings, and around the blazing logs robes were spread here
and there, on which the men reclined. By and by the women came and
dropped down near the fire, and added the treble of their voices to
the deep tones of the men, as the chat of the day's occurrences went

It was a peaceful, picturesque scene upon which I looked; and by very
contrast my thoughts reverted to the preceding evening, when I had
attended a meeting of the He-dhu´-shka, society composed of warriors.
The gathering had been in a large tent; and, as the night was warm,
the bottom of the tent cover had been lifted to let the breeze blow
through. This had given an opportunity for the crowd outside to look
within and watch the ceremony and the dramatic dance. To the right of
the door, in two circles around the drum, sat the choir of men and
women, all in their gala dress. Each member of the society, wrapped in
his robe, with measured steps entered the tent, and silently took his
seat on the ground against the wall. The ceremony had opened by the
choir singing the ritual song which accompanied the act of charring
the elder wood with which the face of the Leader was afterward to be
painted. As memory brought back the scene in vivid colours,--the
blazing fire in the centre of the wide circle of muffled warriors, the
solemn aspect of the Leader awaiting the preparation of the elder
wood, and his strange appearance after the painting of his face,--I
pondered wonderingly as to what it all might signify. In my perplexity
I spoke from my hammock to one of the elder men in the group before

"Grandfather, I wish you would explain to me the meaning of what I saw
yesterday at the He-dhu´-shka Society. Tell me why the Leader put
black on his face."

My friend was accustomed to my questionings, and all eyes were turned
toward him as he replied:

"The Leader put the black cloud over his face, because the black cloud
is worn by Thunder when it comes near to man. The song sung while this
is being done tells that the Leader is making ready and impatiently
awaits the commands of the approaching god of war."...

This is the song which accompanied the preparation and the putting on
of the insignia of the thunder god. The music is expressive of the
tremulous movement of the leaves, of the flying of the birds, of the
stir of all nature before the advancing storm, typifying the
stirring of the heart of man when summoned to fight the enemies of his


_Omaha. He-dhu´-shka._

Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Non-g'dhe dhe-te hi-dha-ki-un te dhon-hi-de,
Non-g'dhe dhe-te hi-dha-ki-un te dhon-hi-de,
Non-g'dhe dhe-te hi-dha-ki-un te dhon-hi-de,
Non-g'dhe dhe-te hi-dha-hi-un te dhon-hi-de,
Non-g'dhe dhe-te hi-dha-ke-un te dhon-hi-de.]

At the close of the song and ceremony of blackening the Leader's face,
I had seen the Leader take the pipe belonging to the society, fill it,
and reverently lift the stem upward.

"When the Leader's face is painted," continued the old man, "he offers
the pipe to Wa-ko_n_´-da (god). The words of the song then sung mean:
Wa-ko_n_´-da, we offer this pipe (the symbol of our unity as a
society). Accept it (and us). All the members must join in singing
this prayer, and afterward all must smoke the pipe."


_Omaha. He-dhu´-shka._

Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Wa-kon-da dha-ni ga dhe ke,
Wa-kon-da dha-ni ga dhe ke,
Wa-kon-da dha-ni ga dhe ke,
E-ha dha-ni hin ga _we dho he dho_.]

"The He-dhu´-shka Society is very old," continued my friend. "It is
said to have been in existence at the time when the Omahas and the
Ponkas were together as one tribe. There is a song with a dance which
must be given at every meeting. It is to keep alive the memory of a
battle that took place while we were migrating westward, and where
defeat would have meant our extermination as a tribe. I will tell you
the story.[2]

[Footnote 2: The translation given is by my collaborator, Mr. Francis
La Flesche.]

"One morning the tribe, whose country had been invaded by the Ponkas,
made an unexpected assault upon the camp of the invaders. For a time
it seemed as though the Ponkas would fare badly at the hands of their
assailants, who were determined to drive out or destroy the intruders;
but after a desperate struggle the Ponkas pushed their enemies back
from the outskirts of the village, until finally their retreat became
a rout. Both sides suffered great loss. The ground was strewn with the
dead, and the grass stained with the blood of the warriors who fell in
the battle; but the victory was with us, and we had conquered the
right to dwell in that country.

"At the outset of the conflict a man bent with age emerged slowly from
the door of one of the tents. The breezes played with his long white
hair as he stood leaning on his staff, shading his face with one hand
and looking intently in the direction whence came the noise of battle.
As he recognised the voice of a warrior rushing to the fray, imitating
as he ran the cry of some animal (his tutelary god), the aged man
called after him:

"'Once more! Once more be the undaunted warrior you have hitherto
been! Utter aloud your mystic cry, and make the enemy to tremble with

"If a youth passed by, singing his death song, the old man would

"'Who is that young man? He promises well.' Upon being told whose son
he was, the aged man shouted: 'Ho-o! You have the spirit of your
father. Be like him: turn not your face from the foe!'

"All day the old man stood at his door as though rooted to the ground.
As the hours sped on, fainter and fainter grew the shouts and the
cries of the contending men, until finally the sounds died away. Even
then the venerable man moved not from his tent, but still stood
watching. Lower and lower dropped the sun toward the western horizon,
and all through the village anxious faces were turned in the direction
whence the last sound of the fight had been heard. Suddenly a woman

"'There they come!'

"At her words the old man leaned forward, straining his dim eyes to
discern the distant figures on the far-off hill. In single file, on
the warriors came, one preceding another, according to the grade of
the honours he had won in the battle. The Herald hastened forth from
the village to meet them and to learn their tidings. After a halt he
turned and came on in advance of the men, shouting as he came near
the village the names of those who had fallen in battle. As each name
was called, the wife or mother of the slain man rent the air with
sudden cry and wail, so that the whole village vibrated with the sound
of sorrow as the victorious warriors drew near. In the midst of all
this commotion the aged watcher remained motionless, giving no sign of
emotion as the wailing grew in volume, and stirring not even when he
heard the names of his two sons called in the long death-roll.

"As the warriors entered the village, the Herald proclaimed the names
of those who had distinguished themselves in that memorable fight.
Slowly the men of valour approached their aged chief, who bowed
acknowledgment as each one spoke and laid at his feet a trophy of war.

"Among the veterans came a young warrior, who, in this his first
battle, had, in a hand to hand contest, wrenched a club from the grasp
of his antagonist, and had slain the enemy with his own weapon. This
club he presented to the old man, recounting the deed. The chief,
lifting the weapon, exclaimed with a dramatic laugh: 'Ha, ha, ha! It
is thus you should treat your enemies, that they may fear you. My
exhortations to our young men have not fallen on deaf ears. Those who
sought to destroy our people lie scattered and dead on the ground.
Wherever their shadows may wander, even there the fear of you shall
be. The enemy sought to make me weep, but I laugh.' And the old man
danced to his triumphant laugh for the victory of that day."


_Ponka. He-dhu´-shka._

Ha, ha, ha ha ha! Ha ha! hi hi! ha ha! hi!]

So this was the meaning of the monotonous song that had accompanied
the opening dance I had seen at the He-dhu´-shka Society, where the
dancer, with body bent and with short rhythmic steps, had kept time to
the dramatic laugh of the song,--a song that had seemed so aimless to
me only the night before.

"Every song of the Society has its story which is the record of some
deed or achievement of its members," said another old man who was
lying beside the fire. "I will tell you one that was known to our
great-great-grandfathers," and rising upon his elbow he began:--


"Long ago there lived an old Omaha Indian couple who had an only
child, a son named Ish´-i-buz-zhi. From his birth he was peculiar. He
did not play like the other children; and, as he grew older, he kept
away from the boys of his own age, refusing to join in their sports or
to hunt with them for small game. He was silent and reserved with
every one but his mother and her friends. With them he chatted and was
quite at ease. So queer a little boy could not escape ridicule. The
people spoke of him as one 'having no sense,' and it seemed as though
he would have no friends except his parents and a few women intimates
of his mother.

"During the long winter evenings, when the old men who came to his
father's lodge talked of bygone times and told tales of ancient
heroes, this silent, seemingly heedless boy caught and treasured every
word. He noted that the stories said that the mighty men of early days
were armed only with clubs. He mused on this fact, and determined to
make himself such a weapon. So he fashioned a four-sided club,
practised with it in secret, and kept it constantly with him. He was
well laughed at because he clung always to his club and would not
learn the use of the bow; but he kept his own counsel, and, as the
years went on, no one knew that the Sparrow-hawk had talked to him in
a vision, and that he had become possessed of two of its sacred

"One day when Ish´-i-buz-zhi had grown to be a man, he heard a group
of warriors discussing plans for an expedition against a tribal enemy.
He determined to go with them; but he said nothing, and silently
watched the men depart. That night he stole away and followed the
trail of the warriors. In the morning one of the servants of the war
party discovered him and reported to the Leader, who ordered that he
be brought in. When the men saw that it was Ish´-i-buz-zhi, they joked
him, and asked why he who cared only for the company of old women had
come to them; but the Leader rebuked the warriors and received the
youth kindly, and, when he found that the young man was not properly
provided with clothing, bade his followers to fit him out from their
own supplies. They obeyed, and they also made him a bow of ash and
gave him some arrows.

"After many days' travel the party drew near to the enemy. A scout
discovered their camp and reported having seen one of their men. At
once the warriors prepared for battle, putting on the sacred paint and
divesting themselves of unnecessary garments, which they handed over
to Ish´-i-buz-zhi to take care of during the fight. But the young man
had his own plans, and went to the Leader and asked permission to go
and look at the enemy. With many cautions not to give an alarm and
prevent surprise, the Leader consented, and off Ish´-i-buz-zhi

"Catching sight of the enemy, he threw away his bow, and, armed only
with his club, rushed suddenly upon the foremost man, overthrew and
killed him. When the war party came upon the scene, they saw with
amazement what he had done,--how by the might of his single arm he had
killed the Leader of the enemy and scattered his warriors.

"On the return of the Omaha men to their village the Herald, according
to custom, proclaimed the deed of Ish´-i-buz-zhi. The old mother
sitting in her tent heard his words, and called to her husband:

"'What is this that I hear? Go you out and learn the truth.'

"'It is only their ridicule of our boy,' said the old man, loath to

"The Herald cried again, and the old man arose and stood at the door
of the tent. Then of a truth he learned that, single-handed, his son
had vanquished the enemy. Again and again did Ish´-i-buz-zhi join war
parties, and he was always the foremost to meet the enemy and to
scatter them with his club.

"Many tales are told of him; for he was fond of joking, and was often
absent-minded. It is said that his wife was skilled in embroidery, and
would decorate his moccasins with fine porcupine quill work; and it
disturbed her to see him put them on to go out of a morning when the
dew was on the grass. So she took him to task for his thoughtlessness.

"'While the grass is wet,'" said she, "'carry your moccasins in your

"He obeyed; but he forgot to put them on when the grass was dry, and
came home with feet bruised and sore, and his moccasins still in his

"But these peculiarities no longer provoked ridicule, as when
Ish´-i-buz-zhi was a boy; for as a man, generous and strong, he was
beloved by the people. The child who had feasted on tales of the
old heroes had in his manhood reproduced their brave deeds. So it came
to pass that, when danger threatened, it was to him that the people
ran for help; and he never failed them."

The song refers to one of these appeals. An alarm arose, and to
Ish´-i-buz-zhi, sitting in his tent, the people cried, "The enemy
comes and calls for you, Ish´-i-buz-zhi."


_Omaha. He-dhu´-shka._

Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Ni-ka wi-ta wa-gun-dha ti-be-no,
Ni-ka wi-ta wa-gun-dha ti-be-no,
Ni-ka wi-ta wa-gun-dha ti-be-no,
Ni-ka wi-ta wa-gun-dha ti-be-no,
Ni-ka wi-ta wa-gun-dha ti-be-no dho-e.
Nu-da hun-ga Ich-i-buz-zhi dha-da e dhin-ke de,
Ni-ka wi-ta wa-gun-dha ti-be-no,
Ni-ka wi-ta wa-gun-dha ti-be-no,
Ni-ka wi-ta wa-gun-dha ti-be-no.]


After many years of warfare the Omaha tribe made peace with the Sioux.
One bright autumn day it was suggested that, in order to show their
friendly feeling, a party of Omahas should visit the Sioux tribe. So
the men and women made everything ready for the long journey.

Tent covers and camp belongings were fastened on trailing travaux,
ponies were laden with gayly painted parfleche packs, containing the
fine garments of the people and the gifts to be presented to the
Sioux. Soon the motley-coloured line could be seen winding over the
rolling prairie. The young men, mounted on their spirited horses,
dashed off, racing with each other to attract the attention of the
maidens, who could only follow with their eyes, so closely guarded
were they by the elder women. Old men jogged along in groups, talking
to each other, their lariats dragging through the grass, now and then
snapping off the head of a wild flower or catching in a tangle of
weeds. Boys made the air ring with their laughter, as they slipped off
their ponies to shoot their small arrows at some imaginary game. It
was a scene full of careless pleasure and happy movement under a
cloudless sky.

When nearing the Sioux village, the people paused beside a stream to
wash off the dust of travel, to put on their gayest attire, and to
newly paint their hair and faces. The prairie was their vast
dressing-room, and friendly eyes were their mirrors. Young men decked
each other, and girls slyly put on touches of finery. Every one was
moving about and busy, from the oldest man to the youngster captured
from play to be washed and painted. At last the transformation was
complete, from the dun, every-day colour to the brilliant hues of a
gala time. Now messengers were despatched with small bunches of
tobacco, tied up in bits of bladder skin (in lieu of visiting cards),
to give notice of the visiting party's approach.

Suddenly some one asked, "What if the Sioux do not believe we are
coming in peace, and should capture our messengers and attack us as we
come near with our women and children?"

Such a reception had not before been thought of; and silence fell upon
the people as they halted, under the gloom of the apprehension. At
length the Leader stood up and said,--"We have made peace, we have
come in good faith, we will go forward, and Wa-ko_n_´-da shall decide
the issue."

Then he struck up this song and led the way; and, as the men and women
followed, they caught the tune, and all sang it as they came near the
Sioux village.

In the words the Leader, as representing the Omahas, speaks: "I am
advancing. I am moving toward you. Behold me, young men, warriors of
the Sioux! Here I stand. Wa-ko_n_´-da alone decides the destinies of

The visitors met with a welcome, and the breach between the two tribes
was healed for many a long day.


_Omaha. He-dhu´-shka._

Shu-b'dhe adhin-he on-don-ba i ga ho.
Shu-b'dhe adhin-he on-don-ba i ga ho.
Sha-on-zhin-ga ha, dha-dhu anon-zhin on-don-ba ga, he.
Wa-kon-da hi-dhe-g'dhon be dho he dhoe.
On-don-ba ga he.
Sha-on-zhin-ga ha dhe-dhu anon-zhin on-don-ba ga he.
Wa-kon-da hi dhe-g'dhon be dho he.]


According to the Omaha idea, a child during its infancy had no
recognised existence as an individual or distinct member of the tribe,
but remained as a part of its parents. When it could walk alone, at
about three years of age, it was initiated into the tribal
organisation through certain religious rites; but its responsible and
individual life did not begin until its mind had "become white," as
the Indians say. This expression referred to the dawn, to the passing
of night into day, and represented the coming of the child out of the
period where nothing was clearly apprehended into a time when he could
readily recall past events with their distinctness of detail. This
seeming mastery of the minutiæ of passing occurrences indicated that a
stage of growth had been reached where the youth could be inducted
into the religious mysteries through a distinct personal experience
acquired in the rite, No_n_´-zhi_n_-zho_n_,--a rite which brought him
into what was believed to be direct communication with the
supernatural powers.

In preparation for this rite the Omaha youth was taught the Tribal
Prayer. He was to sing it during the four nights and days of his
vigil in some lonely place. As he left his home, his parents put clay
on his head; and, to teach him self-control, they placed a bow and
arrows in his hand, with the injunction not to use them during his
long fast, no matter how great the temptation might be. He was bidden
to weep as he sang the prayer, and to wipe his tears with the palms of
his hands, to lift his wet hands to heaven, and then lay them on the
earth. With these instructions the youth departed, to enter upon the
trial of his endurance. When at last he fell into a sleep or trance,
and the vision came, of bird, or beast, or cloud, bringing with it a
cadence, this song became ever after the medium of communication
between the man and the mysterious power typified in his vision; and
by it he summoned help and strength in the hour of his need.

In this manner all mystery songs originated,--the songs sung when
healing plants were gathered and when the medicine was administered;
when a man set his traps or hunted for game; when he desired to look
into the future or sought supernatural guidance, or deliverance from
impending danger.

The Tribal Prayer was called in the Omaha tongue Wa-ko_n_´-da
gi-ko_n_: Wa-ko_n_´-da, the power which could make or bring to pass;
gi-ko_n_, to weep from conscious insufficiency, or the longing for
something that could bring happiness or prosperity. The words of the
prayer, Wa-ko_n_´-da dhe-dhu wah-pa´-dhi_n_ a-to_n_´-he, literally
rendered, are, Wa-ko_n_´-da, here needy he stands; and I am he.

This prayer is very old. Its supplicating cadences echoed through the
forests of this land long before our race had touched its shores,
voicing a cry recognised by every human heart.


Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Wa-kon-da dhe-dhu
Wa-pa-dhin a-ton-he.
Wa-kon-da dhe-dhu
Wa-pa-dhin a-ton-he.]


[Footnote 3: An old priest of the rite gave me the story and song
through Mr. James R. Murie, an educated Pawnee, and they are here for
the first time made public.]

Scattered through an elaborate ritual and religious ceremony of the
Pawnee tribe are little parables in which some natural scene or
occurrence serves as a teaching to guide man in his daily life. The
following is an example.

The words of the song ("the sound of the young") are purposely few, so
as to guard the full meaning from the careless and to enable the
priest to hold the interpretation as a part of his sacred treasure.
They are sufficient, however, to attract the attention of the
thoughtful; and such a one who desired to know the teaching of the
sacred song could first perform certain initiatory rites and then
learn its full meaning from the priest.

       *       *       *       *       *

"One day a man whose mind was open to the teaching of the gods
wandered on the prairie. As he walked, his eyes upon the ground, he
spied a bird's nest hidden in the grass, and arrested his feet just in
time to prevent stepping on it. He paused to look at the little nest
tucked away so snug and warm, and noted that it held six eggs, and
that a peeping sound came from some of them. While he watched, one
moved; and soon a tiny bill pushed through the shell, uttering a
shrill cry. At once the parent birds answered, and he looked up to see
where they were. They were not far off, and were flying about in
search of food, chirping the while to each other and now calling to
the little one in the nest.

"The homely scene stirred the heart and the thoughts of the man, as he
stood there under the clear sky, glancing upward toward the old birds
and then down at the helpless young in the nest at his feet. As he
looked, he thought of his people, who were so often careless and
thoughtless of their children's needs; and his mind brooded over the
matter. After many days he desired to see the nest again. So he went
to the place where he had found it; and there it was, as safe as when
he left it. But a change had taken place. It was now full to
overflowing with little birds, who were stretching their wings,
balancing on their small legs, and making ready to fly; while the
parents with encouraging calls were coaxing the fledglings to venture

"'Ah!' said the man, 'if my people would only learn of the birds,
and, like them, care for their young and provide for their future,
homes would be full and happy, and our tribe be strong and prosperous.

"When this man became a priest, he told the story of the bird's nest
and sang its song; and so it has come down to us from the days of our



Transcribed from Graphophone and harmonized by EDWIN S. TRACY.

Ha-re ha-re re ha-re
Ha-re ha-re e ha-re
Re wha-ka ha-re re ha-re, wha-ka ha-re re ha-re
Re wha-ka ha-re re ha-re.]


One of the few delights of life in camp is the opportunity the tent
affords of ready access to the open air. There is no traversing of
stairways, no crossing of halls, and no opening of reluctant doors,
but only the parting of the canvas, and our world is as wide as the
horizon and high as the heavens. Even when the tent door-flap is
snugly closed, nature is not wholly shut out. Often I have lain
looking up at the stars as they passed slowly across the central
opening, and listened to the flight of the birds as they travelled
northward at the coming of spring. And I have watched the birth of
many a day, from the first quivering primrose hue to the full flush
and glow of rosy colour, and then the stirring breeze, the waking
leaves, and the call of the birds breaking into song.

One morning I rose from my blankets and stepped out under the broad
dome of the sky, while all about me in their shadowy tents the people
slept. I wandered toward a glen, down which the water from a little
spring hurried to the brook. As I sat among the fresh undergrowth, I
watched the stars grow dim and the thin line of smoke rise from the
tents, telling that the mother had risen to blow the embers to a
blaze and to put another stick or two upon the fire.

As I sat, thinking a multitude of thoughts, I heard a rustling upon
the hill opposite me. Then there was silence, quickly broken by
movements in another direction; while from the hill came the clear
voice of a young man singing. In a moment more two women, whom I
recognised as aunt and niece, appeared at the spring, the one elderly,
the other young and pretty; but the singer was still invisible. The
cadences of the song were blithe and glad, like the birds and the
breezes laden with summer fragrance. The words, "I see them coming!"
carried a double meaning. The girl for whom he had waited was in truth
coming, but to the singer was also coming the delight of growing love
and abundant hope.



Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Hi dha ho!
Sha a-ma wi un-don-be a-me dho he,
Sha a-ma wi un-don-be a-me dho he
Sha a-ma wi un-don-be a-me dho he dhoe.
Hi dha ho!
Sha a-ma wi un-don-be a-me dho he.
Sha a-ma wi un-don-be a-me dho he.]

The women filled their water vessels. The elder took no note of the
song, but turned steadily toward the home path. The eyes of the maiden
had been slyly searching the hillside as she slowly neared the spring
and dipped up the sparkling water. Now, as the aunt walked away, the
song ceased; and a light rustling followed, as the lover, bounding
down the hill, leaped the brook and was at the side of the girl. A
few hasty words, a call from the aunt, a lingering parting, and I was
alone again. The brook went babbling on, but telling no tales, the
birds were busy with their own affairs, and the sunbeams winked
brightly through the leaves. The little rift, giving a glimpse of the
inner life of two souls, had closed and left no outward sign; and yet
the difference!

There was a measured thud upon the trail, and an old woman with
stooping shoulders passed down the glen. As she bent over the spring
and took her water supply, I heard the young man's voice in the
distance, singing his song as he wended his way home. The old woman
heard it, too. She straightened up and looked steadily in the
direction of the singer, slowly shook her head, picked up her water
vessel, and turned away, her crooked figure disappearing in the
shadows. Then I arose and followed the singer, trying to forget the
warning shake of the old woman's head.


[Footnote 4: The translation of the story is by Mr. Francis La


A long, long time ago a large number of warriors, under the leadership
of a man noted throughout the warlike tribes for his valorous deeds,
started forth to harass and, if possible, to drive a powerful people
from a territory which abounded in game. This war party was out many
days, had many a weary march in search of the enemy, scouring the
country far and wide, keeping their scouts in the front, rear, and
flank; for the leader was determined not to return to his village
without the trophies of war.

They came one day to a large grove with a clear brook running through
it. Here the Leader ordered the camp to be pitched, that his little
army might rest awhile and repair their moccasins and clothing.
Sentinels were stationed so as to guard against surprise. Hunters were
sent forth, and returned laden with game.

Night came on. There was no moon; and it was dark, although the stars
shone brightly. A fire blazed in the open air, and the men whose duty
it was to dress and cook the meat, were moving about the burning logs;
while others sat mending their moccasins by the firelight, listening
to stories of battles, marvellous escapes, and strange adventures.

Supper was cooked, and the meat was piled on freshly cut grass spread
upon the ground; and near by were set the pots of broth and the wooden
bowls and horn spoons. The Leader was called to perform the usual
sacred rites observed before the serving of food; and all the warriors
gathered around the fire, each one eager for his portion of the meal.
At a signal from the Leader every man bowed his head, and there was
silence. Not a breath of air was stirring. Now and then could be heard
the far-off dismal howl of the grey wolf or the cry of a strange bird
startled from its nest by a coyote. Save from these and the crackling
of the fire there was stillness in all the surroundings. The warriors
had made their silent petitions to Wako_n_´-da, the power that moves
all things. The Leader lifted his head. Then from the pile of meat he
took a bit and raised it toward the sky, as an offering to that
mysterious power, when suddenly the stillness was broken and the
ceremony interrupted by a clear voice bursting into song, the echoes
in the hills and valleys catching and repeating the strain.

Each warrior involuntarily grasped his bow. The Leader, ever keen and
alert, exclaimed in a hoarse whisper, "The fire! the fire!"
Immediately many hands were rubbing the flaming wood into the earth.
Commands were hastily given by the Leader; and the warriors, with
palpitating hearts, started out to form a ring around the spot whence
the thrilling sounds came. The voice sang on. The ring grew smaller
and smaller until in an open space the shadowy form of a tree loomed
up before the advancing warriors. No escape was now possible for the
singer, yet the song went on without hesitancy. The tree was now
clearly visible. The song came to a close, and the echo died away in
the distance. The men kept on toward the tree, with bows drawn and
arrows strung. No form was seen running around inside the ring,
seeking an opening for escape; but, lo! at the foot of the tree lay
scattered the whitened bones and the grinning skull of a man. Death
had claimed the body of this warrior and compelled its return to dust,
but had failed to silence the voice of the man who, when living, had
often defied death.



Harmonized by EDWIN S. TRACY.

Hi dho ho hi dho ho i dho hi dho ha ha i dha
ah hi dha ha hi dha ha hi dha ha idha ha
ha hi dho i dha he e dho i.
Ah hi dho hi dho hi dho ho i dha i dho
ha ha i dha ah hi dha ha i dha ha hi dha ha i-dha ha
ha hi dha e dho he dho.]

The Leader, looking around upon his followers, lifted his voice and

"This was a warrior, who died the death of a warrior. There was joy in
his voice!"

The men to whom the strange experience narrated in this story came,
afterward banded themselves together in order the better to serve
their people, to present to the young men of the tribe an example of
generosity in time of peace and of steadfast valour on the field of
battle. They kept together during their lives and added to their
number, so that the society they formed continued to exist through

The story and song which has been handed down through all these years
as the inspiration of the founders of the Ma-wa´-da-ni Society,
embodies a truth honoured among all peoples,--that death cannot
silence the voice of one who confronts danger with unflinching
courage, giving his life in the defence of those dependent upon his
prowess. Such a man might fall in the trackless wilderness, and his
bones lie unhonoured and unburied until they blanched with age: still
his voice would ring out in the solitude until its message of courage
and joy should find an echo in the heart of the living.


Victory songs, of which this is one, were sung when the people with
rhythmic steps celebrated ceremonially the return of victorious
warriors. Because of its peculiar accessory, the scalp, this ceremony
has been called by us the "scalp dance," although no Indian so
designates it.

The contrast between the sentiment of this story, teaching respect and
honour to the old, and the ceremony, as we baldly see it, is
startling. But it is with the Indian as with ourselves: the cruelties
of war and the gentler emotions are often intertwined, the latter
surviving and lifting up a standard for emulation, the former passing
away, dying with the instigating passion. Among the many hundreds of
Indian songs I have known, none commemorate acts of cruelty.

Years ago the Omaha tribe and the Sioux met while searching for a
buffalo herd; and, as was usual, a battle ensued, for each tribe was
determined to drive the other from the region of the game. Although
the Sioux outnumbered the Omaha, the latter remained victors of the

[Music: ZO_N_-ZI-MO_N_-DE.


Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Ye ha he ya e he dha ye ha he
ya e he dha ah ha ya e he dha ye ha he
ya e he dha dha ha dhoe.
Zo_n_-zi-mo_n_-de a-ma sha e dhe.
Ah ha ya e he dha e ha he ya e ha dha dha ha dho.]

An old Omaha, interested to observe how some of the tribe would
conduct themselves in their first battle, made his way toward the
scene of conflict. It chanced that just as a Sioux warrior had fallen,
pierced by an arrow, and the Omaha men were rushing forward to secure
their war honours, this old man was discovered coming up the hill,
aided by his bow, which he used as a staff. One of the young warriors
called to his companions:--

"Hold! Yonder comes Zo_n_-zi´-mo_n_-de, let us give him the honours."

Then, out of courtesy to the veteran, each young warrior paused and
stepped aside, while the old man, all out of breath, hastened to the
fallen foe. There he turned and thanked the young men for permitting
him, whom age had brought to the edge of the grave, to count yet one
more honour as a warrior.[5]

[Footnote 5: To be the first to touch the body of an enemy counts as a
war honour.]

The words of the song give the exclamation of the generous youth:
"Zo_n_-zi´-mo_n_-de comes! Stand aside! He comes."


The words of many love-songs refer to the dawn, the time of the day
when they are usually sung; but this reference is not a literal one.
It figures the dawn of love in the breast of the singer. The Indian
stands so close to Nature that he sees his own moods reflected or
interpreted in hers.

The Indian words of this song, freely translated, are:--

     As the day comes forth from night,
       So I come forth to seek thee.
     Lift thine eyes and behold him
       Who comes with the day to thee.

[Music: LOVE SONG.


Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Fades the star of morning,
West winds gently blow, gently blow, gently blow.
Soft the pine trees murmur,
Soft the waters flow,
Soft the waters flow,
Soft the waters flow.
Lift thine eyes, my maiden,
To the hill-top nigh.
Night and gloom will vanish
When the pale stars die,
When the pale stars die,
When the pale stars die.
Lift thine eyes, my maiden,
Hear thy lover's cry.]

Miss Edna Dean Proctor has rendered into charming verse the scene and
the feeling of the hour, giving us an Indian love-song in its
entirety. By her courtesy I am able to reproduce here her poem written
some years ago, on hearing the melody which I had then recently
transcribed during one of my sojourns among the Omaha Indians:--

     Fades the star of morning,
       West winds gently blow,
     Soft the pine-trees murmur,
       Soft the waters flow.

     Lift thine eyes, my maiden,
       To the hill-top nigh,
     Night and gloom will vanish
       When the pale stars die;
     Lift thine eyes, my maiden,
       Hear thy lover's cry!

     From my tent I wander,
       Seeking only thee,
     As the day from darkness
       Comes for stream and tree.
     Lift thine eyes, my maiden,
       To the hill-top nigh;
     Lo! the dawn is breaking,
       Rosy beams the sky;
     Lift thine eyes, my maiden,
       Hear thy lover's cry!

     Lonely is our valley,
       Though the month is May;
     Come and be my moonlight,
       I will be thy day!
     Lift thine eyes, my maiden,
       Oh, behold me nigh!
     Now the sun is rising,
       Now the shadows fly;
     Lift thine eyes, my maiden,
       Hear thy lover's cry!


[Footnote 6: Both story and song were recited to me by an old priest
of the rite, and were interpreted by Mr. James R. Murie.]

This little parable occurs in the ritual of a religious ceremony of
the Pawnee tribe. The song has no words, except a term for wren, the
vocables being intended only to imitate the notes of the bird,
nevertheless, one can trace, through the variation and repetition of
the musical motive, the movement of the gentle thoughts of the teacher
as given in the story which belongs to the song.

"A priest went forth in the early dawn. The sky was clear. The grass
and wild flowers waved in the breeze that rose as the sun threw its
first beams over the earth. Birds of all kinds vied with each other,
as they sang their joy on that beautiful morning. The priest stood
listening. Suddenly, off at one side, he heard a trill that rose
higher and clearer than all the rest. He moved toward the place whence
the song came, that he might see what manner of bird it was that could
send farther than all the others its happy, laughing notes. As he came
near, he beheld a tiny brown bird with open bill, the feathers on its
throat rippling with the fervour of its song. It was the wren, the
smallest, the least powerful of birds, that seemed to be most glad
and to pour out in ringing melody to the rising sun its delight in

"As the priest looked, he thought: 'Here is a teaching for my people.
Every one can be happy, even the most insignificant can have his song
of thanks.'

"So he made the story of the wren and sang it; and it has been handed
down from that day,--a day so long ago no man can remember the time."



Transcribed from Graphophone and harmonized by EDWIN S. TRACY.

Ke-chi ra-ku-wa-ku whe ke re re we chi,
Ke-chi ra-ku-wa-ku whe ke re re we chi,
Ke-chi ra-ku-wa-ku whe ke re re we chi,
Ke-chi ra-ku-wa-ku whe ke re re we chi,
Ke-chi ra-ku-wa-ku whe ke re re we chi,
Ke-chi ra-ku-wa-ku whe ke re re we chi.]


There was but one funeral song in the Omaha tribe, and this was only
sung to honour some man or woman who had been greatly respected by the

What one would see, when this song was sung, was in violent contrast
to the character of the music. The blithe major strains suggest only
happiness. They hardly touch ground, so to speak, but keep their
flight up where the birds are flitting about in the sunshine; and, if
there are clouds in the blue sky, they are soft and fleecy, and cast
no shadows. Yet the men who sang this song were ranged in line before
the tent where the dead lay ready for burial. They had drawn the stem
of a willow branch through a loop of flesh cut on their left arm, and
their blood dripped upon the green leaves and fell in drops to the

The meaning of this strange spectacle and its musical accompaniment,
so apparently out of keeping, must be sought for in the beliefs of the
people. It was a drama touching two worlds.

The shedding of blood was to express how vital was the loss. This act,
visible to the mourners, was an exhibition of sympathy; but music
had power to reach the unseen world, so the song was for the spirit of
the dead, who could not see the lacerated singers, but could hear
them, as they sang to cheer him as he went forth, forced by death to
leave all who were dear to him.[7]

[Footnote 7: It was one of the customs of the Omahas to cease wailing
at a certain stage in the funeral ceremonies, that the departing
friend might not be distressed by the sounds of sorrow, as he left his
home behind him,--a custom founded on the same belief as that
expressed by this funeral song.]

The song was always sung in unison. The rhythm was accented by each
singer beating together two small willow sticks.

There are no words to the song, only vocables; and these belong to the
breathing or sighing class, indicative of emotion.



Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

E a dha ah
E he a ha ah, he ah
E dha ah he a ha ah
E dha ah
E ah
E ah ha e ha o
E dha he he dhoe ha o o
E dha ha he a ha ah
E dha ah e ah
E ah ha e ha o
E dha he dho.]


It was a warm day of early spring on the Upper Missouri, when the
subtle joy of awakening life stirs the blood and rouses the fancy. The
brown outline of the bare trees was already broken by little leaves
that were shaking themselves in the bright sunlight. Flowers were
peering through the vivid green of the freshly sprung grass, the birds
had come, and the silence of the year had passed. It was a day to
enjoy outdoor life, to indulge in hope and happy thoughts. The sky was
so blue between the rolling white clouds that one forgot they could
ever become portentous of storm. The tents of the Indians, dotted
along the banks of the stream, stood like tall white flowers among the
trees. Women and children were chatting and calling to each other. Men
moved sedately about, busy with preparations for the coming summer
days. Young men and maidens were thinking of each other; for the
morning song of the lover had been heard, and the signal flash of the
mirror[8] had revealed his watching-place to the dark-eyed girl
demurely drawing water for the household in the early dawn.

[Footnote 8: Young men carried small looking-glasses with which they
flashed signals.]

Unheeding the passage of the hours, I wandered up the narrow valley,
noting the fading lines of aboriginal life spread out before me. All
at once I became aware that the brightness of the day was
overshadowed: a greyish hue, that rapidly deepened, pervaded the
scene. Suddenly the wind came over the hills, the birds darted about,
and the sound of thunder was heard. Everything was seeking a shelter;
and, as I turned in haste, hoping to reach the nearest tent, I saw an
old woman emerge from a lodge and in the face of the storm begin to
climb the hill, down which the wind swept, laying low the grass and
whipping the heads of the flowers. Seemingly unmindful of the storm,
on the woman went, her scant garments flapping, and her hair, seamed
with grey, tossing about her wrinkled face. The sight was so strange
that I paused to watch her, as she climbed on and on, steadfastly
breasting the storm. The lightnings flashed around her, and the
thunder echoed among the hills as she reached the top. There she
stopped and stood, a silhouette against the surging clouds, her hands
uplifted, her head thrown back; and between the thunder peals I heard
her voice ring out loud and clear in a song,--a song, I doubted not,
that carried a message to the mighty storm, in which to her the gods
were present. Many years have passed since I witnessed this scene and
learned the story of the woman's song. She is now at rest, and let us
hope her lifelong sorrow may have turned to joy.

In the early part of the century a Dakota woman fasted and prayed, and
Thunder came to her in her vision. To the god she promised to give her
firstborn child. When she became a mother, she forgot in her joy that
the life of her little one did not belong to her; nor did she recall
her fateful vow until one bright spring day, when the clouds gathered
and she heard the roll of the thunder,--a sound which summoned all
persons consecrated to this god to bring their offerings and to pay
their vows. Then she remembered what she had promised; but her heart
forbade her to lay the infant, which was smiling in her arms, upon the
cloud-swept hill-top. She pressed the baby to her breast, and waited
in silence the passing of the god in the storm.

The following spring, when the first thunder pealed, she did not
forget her vow; but she could not gather strength to fulfil it.

Another year passed, and again the thunder sounded. Taking the
toddling child by the hand, the mother climbed the hill; and, when the
top was reached, she placed it on the ground and fled. But the boy
scrambled up and ran after her, and his frightened cry stayed her
feet. He caught her garments and clung to them; and, although the
thunder called, she could not obey. Her vow had been made before she
knew the strength of a mother's love.

Gathering the boy in her arms, she hid herself and him from the
presence of the god. The storm passed, and the mother and child
returned to the lodge; but fear had taken possession of her, and she
watched her son with eyes in which terror and love struggled for the

One day, as the little one played beside a rippling brook, laughing
and singing in his glee, suddenly the clouds gathered, the flashing
lightning and the crashing thunder sent beast and bird to cover, and
drove the mother out to find her child. She heard his voice above the
fury of the storm, calling to her. As she neared the brook, a vivid
flash blinded her eyes. For a moment she was stunned; but, recovering,
she pushed on, only to be appalled by the sight that met her gaze.
Her boy lay dead. The thunder god had claimed his own.

No other children came to lighten the sorrow of the lonely woman; and
every spring, when the first thunder sounded, and whenever the storm
swept the land, this stricken woman climbed the hills, and there,
standing alone, facing the black rolling clouds, she sang her song of
sorrow and of fealty.

       *       *       *       *       *

The words of the song are addressed to the god; but the music, in its
swaying rhythm, suggests the mother's memory of the days when she
soothed her little child.

The following is a free translation of the Indian words:--

     E dho he![9]
     Behold! On their mighty pinions flying,
     They come, the gods come once more
     Sweeping o'er the land,
     Sounding their call to me, to me their own.
     Wa-gi-u_n_![10] Ye on mighty pinions flying,
     Look on me here, me your own,
     Thinking on my vow
     As ye return once more, Wa-gi-u_n_!

[Footnote 9: Sighing vocables.]

[Footnote 10: Dakota term for the thunder bird.]



Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

E dho he!
Gi-un, gi-un a-gi-ba ha-don-be
Co-dha, gi-don-be a-me, ha-don-be a-me,
Wa-gi-un gi a-me dho he dho-e.
gi-un a-gi-ba ha-don-be
Co-dha gi-don-be ha-we ha-don-be a-me.
Wa-gi-un gi a-me dho he dho.]


The native flageolet has proved a trusty friend to many a youth to
whom nature had denied the power of expressing in vocal melody his
fealty to the maiden of his choice. With its woody tones he rivalled
the birds as he sounded his love-call from the hills and made glad the
heart of the girl, who, catching the signal, awaited his coming at the

There are many bits of music composed for this little instrument,
which, in spite of its inaccuracies of pitch, arising from imperfect
construction, are not without hints of beauty.

[Music: LOVE CALL.


For the Flageolet.]


It is well known that the serious avocations of the fathers often
serve as games for the children. So it comes about that in the games
of chance we have a survival of the ancient custom of divination. As,
according to Indian belief, song was the medium through which man
communicated with the mysterious powers, we find all his games of
chance accompanied by melodies.

One autumn evening many years ago I was walking along a stretch of the
Pacific shore. The westerning moon flooded the water with light, and
lit up the edge of the dense forest that formed the background of an
Indian village. From one of its great square wooden dwellings came the
sound of singing, and the ruddy firelight shone through the cracks of
the plank door as I approached.

Entering, I saw that the central fire had just been lighted. The four
families, which had each their particular portion of the communal
house, had suffered their separate fires to burn to ashes, and had
pushed back their various belongings to give more room for the
gathering crowd.

I lingered at the door, looking on the motley scene: the women and
children in the background; the old men in groups, talking over their
younger days; the line of men singers, each with his piece of board
with which to strike the floor in lieu of a drum; the young men who
were to play, ranged in two opposite rows; and others standing about,
watching their friends and eager for the game to begin.

When all was ready, the leader of one side held up for a moment in one
hand a small piece of bone, then began tossing it secretly from one
hand to the other, moving the closed fists rapidly past each other to
the rhythm of the song sung by the singers, the opposite side keeping
sharp eyes on the moving fists, to be ready, when the signal should be
given, to detect, if possible, the hand to which the bone had finally
been passed.

Heavy stakes were put up, and there was every sign that song after
song would follow each other as the night wore on.

The song which follows is sung when playing a game of chance:--

[Music: GAME SONG.

_Vancouver's Island._

Transcribed and Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.]


In the last century there lived a man who, in his young days, was a
desperate coquet. He played havoc with the plans of many a young man,
robbing him of the fancy of his sweetheart, and then leaving the
maiden all forlorn. His behaviour aroused the anger and jealousy of
both sexes, but he seemed as impervious to the contempt of his fellows
as he was callous to the woe of his victims. The whole village buzzed
with the gossip of his adventures, and every one wondered how he
managed to escape punishment.

After the manner of the people, a song was made about him and his
career, that has outlasted his vain victories.

It is difficult to convey in concise English the sarcastic humour of
the original. The words picture this young man as sitting on a hill,
near the village where he lived and achieved so many conquests. The
warm summer breeze wafted up to him the hum of the people as they
talked, blaming him for his actions. "But why blame me?" says the
irresistible youth, stretching himself at full length in the
sunshine. "It was the gods that made me as I am: blame them, if you
will!" And he gave a sigh of satisfaction, "Hi!"

The music carries the story well. The swing of the last six bars
suggests his shrug of irresponsibility.



Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Ta won gdhon dhe-nun-ye de
Un-dhon-ge-a dhon-ke dhe
wa-kon-da he-gi-mon-te in-dhin-ga-ye ga-ma hi-a me


Early in the century there lived an Omaha Indian, a tall and comely
man, gifted with a fine voice and a good memory, and who was greatly
admired by the men and women of the tribe. Although genial with every
one, he was reserved; and none knew all that had transpired in his
life or that occupied his thoughts. He was a prosperous man. His lodge
was well supplied, for his skill as a hunter was equal to his valour
as a warrior.

Years passed; and here and there a silver thread glistened in his
black hair, the furrows deepened in his handsome face, and more and
more his thoughts seemed to dwell on the past. One day he was heard
singing a love-song of his own composition, and gossip became busy as
to what this song might mean. His actions threw no light on the
mystery. He was the same kind husband and father, the same diligent
provider, and he sought no new companionship. Nevertheless, at every
dawn he went upon the hill near his lodge; and, while the morning star
hung like a jewel in the east, he sang the melody carrying the

     "With the dawn I seek thee!"



Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Ha he ha ha he ha he ha we dhe ha dha e ha dhoe,
Um-ba e-don ha-i-don, hu-wi-ne ha, ho e ho wa dho he dhe,
I ha, ha he ho, ho he ho, he ha we dhe dhoe.
Un-ba i-don ha-i-don, hu-wi ne ha, ho e ho ne dho he.]

The young men caught the tune, and sang it as they wooed the maidens;
and the old man smiled as he heard them. "Yes, they are right," he
said. "It is a love-song."

He grew to be a very old man, an old man with a love-song, until it
was only when the warm days came that he could slowly climb the hill
at dawn, and, alone with the breezes and birds, greet the new day with
his song, that both kept and revealed his secret,--the secret of a
love, like the radiant bow, spanning the whole horizon of his life. At
last a time came when his voice was no longer heard.

The tender cadences of his song, fraught with human hope and human
feeling, still linger, and to-day awaken echoes across the barriers of
time and race.


Many Indian tribes believed it possible for one person to affect
another through the power of the will. This belief gave rise to
peculiar customs and to a class of songs called, in the Omaha tongue,
We´-to_n_, composed and sung by women for the sole purpose of exerting
this power for the benefit of absent warriors.

Unless the village was attacked, women did not take active part in
war. When the men went forth on a long journey to meet the enemy, the
women remained at home, attending to domestic duties. Their thoughts,
however, were with the absent ones; and, under the incentive of the
belief in will power, they would gather in groups at the lodge of the
Leader of the war party, and in the hearing of his family would sing a
We´-to_n_ song, which should carry strength to the far-away warriors
and help them to win the battle.

The words of these songs do not reveal the purpose for which they were
sung, it being one of the peculiarities of the Indian never to
expatiate upon that which to him is apparent. The gathering of the
women at the lodge of the Leader of the war party, the united action
in singing a song never used but for one purpose, made any explanatory
words seem unnecessary. The distinctive mission of the song was to
reach the absent man, who, far from home, was suffering hardship and
facing danger. Upon him the singers fixed their thoughts, and to him
sent strength by their power of will. The words always referred to the
difficulties that confronted the warrior, and promised him success and
victory. They were not addressed to any visible audience.

The We´-to_n_ song here given was composed by a Dakota woman.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many years ago a large party of warriors were out on a dangerous
expedition for the purpose of recapturing some property stolen by an
implacable enemy. There seemed little hope for their safe return, and
great apprehension was felt in many a tent. One evening, as the moon
rose, round and clear, over the wide rolling prairie, a group of women
moved in single file to the lodge of the Leader of the war party, upon
whom rested the responsibility of the expedition.

The tent stood dark against the evening sky, revealing the anxiety
within, which had let the blazing fire die to smouldering embers. At
the door the women paused, and across the stillness of the night they
sent forth this song, fraught with their united determination to
compel victory for the absent men.

"All the tribes shall hear of you," they sang. "Put forth your
strength. Truly this shall come to pass."

Out of the silent tent emerged the Leader's wife, bearing in her arms
gifts in acknowledgment of sympathy given and of succour sent.

       *       *       *       *       *

And, as the women sang, "truly it came to pass." In due time the men
returned triumphant, after many hair-breadth escapes, with not one of
their number missing.

[Music: WE-TO_N_ SONG.


Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

E ya-a he!
ah he dhe he dhe ah he dhe he dhe e-ya he!
ah ye dha he he ah he dha he dhoe,
ou-ki-a-ma dhi nun-un-ta-ye wa-skon-e-gun ya he
E ya he!
ah he dhe he he ah he dhe he dho.]


There is no dalliance in this Pawnee love-song. It has no words, but
the music tells the story,--the insistent call of the lover to the
maiden to fly with him, the wide sweep of the prairie, the race for
cover, and the dauntless daring that won the girl from rival

[Music: LOVE SONG.


Transcribed by E.S. TRACY.]


The Mi´-ka-thi songs are sung by warriors as they leave the village on
their way to battle. They all originate in some personal experience,
and both story and song are handed down with care and precision.

       *       *       *       *       *

A Ponka war party once camped near the enemy. The usual sentinels had
been stationed, with special injunctions to be vigilant, that the camp
might not be discovered and surprised. Among those assigned to duty as
sentinel that night was a young man ambitious to win preferment and
honour in the tribe. His career was yet all to make, and he was on the
alert for opportunity to distinguish himself.

There was no moon, and only the keenest eye could discern any distant
object in the darkness. The silence was unbroken save by the
occasional cry of the wolf, the creaking of a cricket, or the rustle
of a passing breeze.

The young man, intently on the watch, scanned the country from right
to left, searching through the dimness for any moving thing; but all
was motionless beneath, while overhead the stars moved slowly through
the heavens, as the night wore on.

At a little distance from the watcher was a clump of trees. Upon this
he kept a steady eye, only turning now and then to sweep the horizon.
Once, as his eye returned to the trees, he beheld a shadow unnoticed
before. It moved; and, without waiting to see more, he sped
noiselessly as an arrow to wake the Leader and report that he had seen
the enemy creeping toward the sleeping warriors.

The Leader, an old and experienced man, made no reply, but rose
quickly and silently, and taking his bow in his hand, motioned the
sentinel to lead the way.

With rapid, muffled steps, they reached the place where the young man
had stood when he had seen the moving shadow. The Leader looked
intently in the indicated direction, bent his ear to the ground and
listened, then rose and looked again.

A faint gleam of light in the east gave sign of the approach of day,
as the Leader stepped cautiously toward the group of trees, followed
by the young warrior, whose heart beat high with hope that the time
had at last come for him to show his valour and win a war honour. A
greyish hue was spreading over the land as they neared the place. The
young man's eyes sought among the trees the hidden enemy, but the
Leader paused and addressed the youth:--

"Was it here that you saw the enemy?"


"Look on the ground and tell me what you see?"

Surprised at the words, yet obedient, he turned his scrutiny from the
trees to the grass upon which they stood, and detected there the
traces of the feet of an animal. As he gazed silently at the tracks,
absorbed in his thoughts, the dawn came slowly on. The Leader was the
first to speak:--

"I had seen a wolf pass here when I was going the rounds of the camp,
and when you reported to me I had but just returned to my bed. I arose
and came with you, to be quite sure that we had both looked in the
same direction and had seen the same thing. A warrior must learn to
distinguish a man from a wolf, even in the darkness of midnight."

The youth heard the words in silence. At last he said, "A warrior has
much to learn; and it is well if, while he learns, he brings no
trouble to his friends." Then, standing beside the veteran Leader, in
the light of the coming day, he suddenly broke into song, voicing
there on the instant the feeling born of his night's experience.

This story and song he gave to others, that it might be as a voice of
warning to young and eager warriors, and help them to guard against a
misadventure like his own.

Although the young man in after years became noted in the tribe for
his prudence and valour, this story and song of his youth have
survived the memory of his later deeds.

The words give the pith of the adventure: "I did not report aright
when I went to the Leader and bade him arise. It was a wolf that was

The spirited music breathes the impatient eagerness of youth. The
haste and insistence of the young warrior are heard in the phrase
where he addresses the "Nu-don hon-ga," or Leader. The song is a great
favourite among the young men of several Indian tribes in our

[Music: MI-KA-THI.



Hi a ha ha ha a he a-we dho he
e hu he a he dhe ya a ho e dho he
e hu e a-he ya a ha e dho he he dho-e.
Nu-don hon-ga ni-a-shi-ga bi-e he mia ka non-zhi-a he e
Mi-ka-thi-a-ma ha dhea a-me dho he e
Hon-ga dhe-te non zhin-ge dho he e.]


This little song of springtime was noted from the singing of a Tigua
girl of the pueblo of Isleta, N.M., by my honoured and lamented friend
and co-worker, Professor John Comfort Fillmore. It tells the story of
the semi-arid region where it was born.

     Rain, people, rain!
     The rain is all around us.
     It is going to come pouring down,
     And the summer will be fair to see,
     The mocking-bird has said so.



Transcribed and harmonized

Hla-chi dai-nin, hla-chi dai-nin, i-beh ma kun whi ni weh, da win gu ba
  hin ah.
Ah hlun hla hlue i hi ei-ah whi no ei-ah whi no i-ah ei-ah hi-ah hin ni
  ni ah.
Tur wey u tur p'hoa whe na he de a na lhen h'li he pun hi ni ni ah
Li u yu sa na a a a ya he wa a hi ni ni a hi ni ni a ni a a ha i hi.]


There are few more pathetic sights than that of an Indian ghost
dance,--pathetic in itself, not to consider the gloomy background of
fear inspired by it in the minds of so many of our own race who have
so widely misunderstood its meaning. The ceremony is but an appeal to
the unseen world to come near and to comfort those who have been
overtaken in the land of their fathers by conditions both strange and

The ghost or spirit dance is a modified survival of several ancient
ceremonies, blended into one and touched here and there with ideas
borrowed from our own race.

In the hypnotic vision which follows the monotonous dance, the
landscape of his former days, untouched by the white man, appears to
the "controlled" Indian: the streams wander through unbroken prairie;
no roadways, no fields of wheat, intrude upon the broad stretches of
native grasses; the vanished herds of buffalo come back to their
grazing-grounds; the deer and the antelope, the wolf and the bear, are
again in the land; and the eagles look down on the Indian villages,
where are to be seen the faces of old friends returned from the
spirit realm. These are the scenes which come to the homesick Indian,
who is stranded in his native land, his ears filled with foreign
sounds, his old activities gone, and his hands unskilled and unable to
take up new ones.

The ghost dance is the cry of a forsaken people, forsaken by the gods
in which they once trusted,--a people bewildered by the complexity of
the new path they must follow, misunderstood by and misunderstanding
the race with whom they are forced to live. In this brief ceremony of
the ghost dance the Indians seek to close their eyes to an unwelcome
reality, and to live in the fanciful vision of an irrecoverable past.

       *       *       *       *       *

This song was given me by a ghost dancer, a leader in the Arapaho
tribe. Before he sang, he explained to me the ceremony, its peaceful
character, and, all unconsciously, made apparent its expression of a
pathetic longing for a life that can never return. Standing before the
graphophone, he offered an earnest prayer, then, with his companions,
sang this song.

The simple pathos of the words cannot be reproduced in English.
They carry a meaning beneath their literal sense that appeals like the
cry of a child.

     Father, have pity upon me!
     I am weeping from hunger (of the spirit):
     There is nothing here to satisfy me!

The music tells the story of the cry. Its cadences are antiphonal, as
between the two worlds.




When the white race first visited the Indians in the Mississippi
valley, they found among them a ceremony common to a large number of
tribes; and it was observed that, whenever the symbolic objects
peculiar to this ceremony were displayed, they were treated with
profound respect.

These sacred objects were two perforated sticks, like pipe stems, one
painted blue to represent the sky, and the other green to typify the
earth; and among their bright-coloured decorations were the plumages
of particular birds and wing-like pendants of eagle feathers. They
symbolised the heavens and the earth and the mysterious power that
permeates all nature. In their presence the Indians were taught that
they should care for their children, think of the future welfare of
the people, put aside personal grievances, repress anger and warlike
emotions, and be like kindred, at peace with one another. Different
names were given to these peculiar objects by the different tribes;
and they were classed by our early travellers with the "calumets," or
pipes of peace, although they were not pipes, for they had no bowl and
could not be smoked.

It was due to the presence of one of these so-called "calumets" in
Marquette's frail canoe that made possible his peaceful descent of the
Mississippi River on his voyage of discovery. He writes that the
"calumet is the most mysterious thing in the world. The sceptres of
our kings are not so much respected; ... for one with this calumet may
venture among his enemies, and in the hottest battles they lay down
their arms before this sacred pipe."

The "calumet" ceremony has, therefore, an historic interest for us,
apart from its revelation of the religious beliefs and social ideals
of the Indian. To explain the symbolism, the teachings, and the
observances which make up this complex rite would fill a volume; but,
that something of the dignity and beauty of the thoughts expressed in
it may be known, two of its numerous songs are here given.

To understand the significance of these songs, it should be known that
two distinct groups or parties were indispensable to the performance
of the ceremony; namely, they who brought the "calumets" and they who
received them. As it was imperative that there should be no blood
relationship between these two parties, they always belonged to
different tribes or to two distinct kinship groups within the tribe.
The party bringing the "calumets" was called "the father," while those
receiving them were "the children." These terms refer to the tie about
to be formed between the two unrelated parties by means of this sacred
ceremony. This tie was esteemed more honourable and binding than the
natural bond of father and son.

The ceremony generally took place in a circular dwelling known as an
"earth lodge." The occasion drew together a large concourse of
people,--men, women, and children; and the gay costumes, the glinting
of ornaments, the picturesque groups, and the happy, smiling faces of
old and young made a scene full of colour and motion. Many times I
have witnessed this ceremony and joined in its beautiful chorals, led
by the bearers, who swayed the "calumets" to the rhythm of the song,
wafting over the heads of the people the blessing of peace.

The following choral was sung immediately after the "calumets" had
been ceremonially taken from their resting-place, with movements that
simulated the eagle rising from its nest. The bearers then faced the
people, seated on the ground against the wall of the lodge, and with
slow rhythmic steps moved around the circle, waving the "calumets"
over the heads of the multitude. As the "calumets" passed slowly by,
the people took up the choral, until at last the great lodge resounded
with its majestic cadences. The leaping flames from the central fire
lit up the faces of the hundreds of men and women; while the swaying
feathers of the "calumets" cast great wing-like shadows on the
glistening roof, and seemed to make real the symbolic presence of the
mighty eagle himself, circling over the people as he sped on his
mission, bearing the benediction of good will among men.

Once, at the close of this song, an old Indian turned to me and said,
"The 'calumets' are of God."

The words of this choral refer to the blessing of peace given to "the
fathers" in ancient days, and now brought by the symbolic "calumets"
to "the children."

     Down through the ages vast,
     On wings strong and true,
     From great Wa-ko_n_´-da comes
     Good will unto you,--
     Peace, that shall here remain.

[Music: CHORAL.


Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Dha ke-de hia u-dha ho-dha
ke-de ho-dha dha ke-de
ha dhe he hia dha ke-de hia
dha ke-de ha dhe he.]

After the bearers, or "the fathers," had ceremonially borne the
"calumets" four times around the lodge, singing as they went and
waving the blessing of peace and fellowship over the heads of "the
children," they paused as they reached a consecrated place at the back
of the lodge, facing the entrance to the east. Here the ground had
been specially prepared, and a wildcat skin spread upon it for the
reception of the "calumets." Over this skin, which had its symbolic
meaning, the bearers waved the "calumets," imitating the movements of
the eagle, sweeping lower and lower, rising and circling again, and
then dropping lightly upon its nest.

The song is one of those sung to accompany the movements of the
"calumets" as they are thus lowered to rest. The words refer to the
search of "the fathers" for "the children," to bring them peace, as
the eagle soars abroad and returns to its nest.

     Far above the earth he soars,
     Circling the clear sky,
     Flying over forests dim,
     Peering in shadows,
     Seeking far and wide his child,
     To give him peace.



Harmonized by PROF. J.C. FILLMORE.

Zhin-ga dha-we dho dho we he ho-i ne
Zhin-ga dha-we dho dho we he ho-i-ne
Zhin-ga dha we dho dho we ha je dha we.]


The three following songs have a common motive, and are parts of one
ceremonial action; but the motive is treated differently in each song,
so as to conform to the movements of the ceremony.[11] An unconscious
art is here shown, which is interesting as a bit of musical
archæology. During the "calumet" ceremony among the Pawnees, if a
child cried and would not be comforted, its parents were permitted to
appeal to the "calumets" for help.

[Footnote 11: These songs were never before noted, and have hitherto
been sealed from the knowledge of the white race. They were given and
explained by a priest of the rite, through Mr. James R. Murie.]

The fan-shaped pendant of one of these "calumets" was made of the
feathers of the golden eagle. This bird in the ceremony was called
Kawas, and symbolised the peaceful and conserving power, the giver and
preserver of life, the parent of all things. It was to the priestly
bearer of this particular "calumet" that the parents appealed. On
receiving the appeal, the priest and his assistants arose, and,
standing beside "the holy place,"--the consecrated space where the
"calumets" were laid at ceremonial rest,--they sang this song, thus
passing on to Kawas the appeal of the parents.



Transcribed from Graphophone record and Harmonized by E.S. TRACY.

Ho o Kawas ta wha-ka ra-tsa we
Kawas ta wha-ka ra-tsa we
Ah he-wi! wha-ka ra-tsa we,
Kawas ta wha-ka-ra tsa we.]

The words are in the nature of a prayer, the music has the swing of a

     Kawas, thy baby is crying!
     Grieving sore, wailing, and weeping.
     Aye, forsooth! wailing and weeping,
     Kawas, thy baby is crying!

Then the bearers took up the "calumets" and moved with slow rhythmic
steps toward the crying child, singing as they went and swaying the
sacred symbols to the measure of this song. Its meaning was explained
to me as follows:--

"Hah-ars (a contraction of the word meaning father) signifies
Ti-ra´-wa, the power that animates all things, all animals, all men,
the heavens, and the earth. Ti-ra´-wa is represented by the Hako (the
'calumets'), and it is this power which now approaches to console the

In the music one hears the coming of Ti-ra´-wa in the footsteps of his
creatures, both great and small.

     Thy father is coming,
     E'en now he is near thee;
     Cry no more: the mighty one,
     Thy father, is coming!



Transcribed from Graphophone record and Harmonized by E.S. TRACY.

Ho Hah-ars si-rah ti we-ra,
Hah-ars si-ra ti we-ra
Re-ko ji!
He ti we-ra,
Hah-ars si-ra ti we-ra.]

Upon reaching the child, the golden eagle "calumet" was gently swayed
above it, while in the background the other "calumet" was waved to
ward off disturbing influences, and the priests sang this song. It is
said that on hearing it "the child always looks up and ceases its

The caressing, almost playful rhythm of the music twines about the
deep religious feeling expressed in the words, like the arms of an
infant about the neck of its thoughtful, reverent parent.

     Lift thine eyes, 'tis the gods who come near,
     Bringing thee joy, release from all pain.
     Sending sorrow and sighing
     Far from the child, Ti-ra´-wa makes fain.

     Ah, you look! Surely, you know who comes,
     Claiming you his and bidding you rise,
     Blithely smiling and happy,
     Child of Ti-ra´-wa, Lord of the skies!

[Music: LOOK UP!


Transcribed from Graphophone record, and Harmonized by E.S. TRACY.

Ho Ha!
Is-te wa-ta si wi-ta ha,
Ha! Is-te wa-ta si wi-ta ha
Hah-ars hi re wa-ha-ki,
Ha! Is-te wa-ta si wi-ta ha.]


Music enveloped the Indian's individual and social life like an
atmosphere. There was no important personal experience where it did
not bear a part, nor any ceremonial where it was not essential to the
expression of religious feeling. The songs of a tribe were coextensive
with the life of the people.

This universal use of music was because of the belief that it was a
medium of communication between man and the unseen. The invisible
voice could reach the invisible power that permeates all nature,
animating all natural forms. As success depended upon help from this
mysterious power, in every avocation, in every undertaking, and in
every ceremonial, the Indian appealed to this power through song. When
a man went forth to hunt, that he might secure food and clothing for
his family, he sang songs to insure the assistance of the unseen power
in capturing the game. In like manner, when he confronted danger and
death, he sang that strength might be given him to meet his fate
unflinchingly. In gathering the healing herbs and in administering
them, song brought the required efficacy. When he planted, he sang,
in order that the seed might fructify and the harvest follow. In his
sports, in his games, when he wooed and when he mourned, song alike
gave zest to pleasure and brought solace to his suffering. In fact,
the Indian sang in every experience of life from his cradle to his

It would be a mistake to fancy that songs floated indiscriminately
about among the Indians, and could be picked up here and there by any
chance observer. Every song had originally its owner. It belonged
either to a society, secular or religious, to a certain clan or
political organization, to a particular rite or ceremony, or to some

Religious songs were known only to the priesthood; and, as music
constituted a medium between man and the unseen powers which
controlled his life, literal accuracy was important, otherwise the
path between the god and the man would not be straight, and the appeal
would miscarry.

In every tribe there were societies having a definite membership, with
initiatory rites and reciprocal duties. Each society had its peculiar
songs; and there were officials chosen from among the members because
of their good voices and retentive memories, to lead the singing and
to transmit with accuracy the stories and songs of the society, which
frequently preserved bits of tribal history. Fines were imposed upon
any member who sang incorrectly, while ridicule always and everywhere
followed a faulty rendering of a song.

The right to sing a song which belonged to an individual could be
purchased, the person buying the song being taught it by its owner.

These beliefs and customs among the Indians have made it possible to
preserve their songs without change from one generation to another.
Many curious and interesting proofs of accuracy of transmittal have
come to my knowledge during the past twenty years, while studying
these primitive melodies.

Indian singing was always in unison; and, as the natural soprano,
contralto, tenor, and bass moved along in octaves, the different
qualities of tone in the voices brought out the overtones and produced
harmonic effects. When listening to chorals sung by two or three
hundred voices, as I have many times heard them in ceremonials, it has
been difficult to realise that all were singing in unison.

Close and continued observation has revealed that the Indian, when he
sings, is not concerned with the making of a musical presentation to
his audience. He is simply pouring out his feelings, regardless of
artistic effects. To him music is subjective: it is the vehicle of
communication between him and the object of his desire.

Certain peculiarities in the Indian's mode of singing make it
difficult for one of our race to intelligently hear their songs or to
truthfully transcribe them.

There is no uniform key for any given song, for the Indians have no
mechanical device for determining pitch to create a standard by which
to train the ear. This, however, does not affect the song; for,
whatever the starting note, the intervals bear the same relation to
each other, so that the melody itself suffers no change with the
change of pitch.

Again, the continual slurring of the voice from one tone to another
produces upon us the impression of out-of-tune singing. Then, the
custom of singing out of doors, to the accompaniment of the drum, and
against the various noises of the camp, and the ever-restless wind,
tending to strain the voice and robbing it of sweetness, increases the
difficulty of distinguishing the music concealed within the noise,--a
difficulty still further aggravated by the habit of pulsating the
voice, creating a rhythm within the rhythm of the song.

Emotion also affects the rendering of Indian music. This is especially
noticeable in solos, as love-songs, where the singer quite
unconsciously varies from a quarter to a whole tone from the true
pitch. On the contrary, emphasis sharps the tone. If, however, these
peculiarities are imitated to him, the Indian immediately detects, and
declares them to be wrong, thus betraying his unconsciousness of his
own inaccuracies in endeavouring to strike a plain diatonic interval.

Our difficulty in hearing the music of the Indian is equalled by the
trouble he has with our instruments. His attention is engaged by the
mechanism. He hears the thud of the hammer, "the drum inside" the
piano, the twanging of the metal strings, and the abrupt, disconnected
tones. Until he is able to ignore these noises he cannot recognise the
most familiar tune. Even then, if his songs are played as an
unsupported aria, they are unsatisfactory to him. His ear misses
something it heard in the unison singing of his people, and which the
addition of a simple harmonic accompaniment supplies, making the
melody, as he says, "sound natural." The discovery of the Indian's
preference in the rendition of his songs upon the piano led to many
experiments, in which Professor Fillmore took part, and that brought
to light many interesting facts. Among these facts may be mentioned
the complexity of rhythms, one played against the other; the
modulation implied in some of the melodies; the preference for a major
chord in closing a minor song; and the use of certain harmonic
relations which have been deemed peculiar to the modern romantic

As these melodies are the spontaneous utterances of a people without
any theory of music or even a musical notation, they throw light upon
the structure, development, and freedom of natural expression in


The rise of our music and poetry is lost in an irrevocable past; but,
as the operation of psychical laws is universal, it may be that some
of the influences that have been operative in the growth of these arts
can be discovered through the study of native American story and song,
born of a race living in a state of culture antecedent to that in
which our earliest literature and music flourished.

Within a generation diligent search has begun among some of the Indian
tribes, to ascertain, through a sympathetic study of rites,
ceremonies, and customs, what were the red man's ideals, what his
beliefs, and what his actual attainments. Already this labour is
bearing fruit. Scholars are recognising that the aboriginal conditions
on this continent throw light on the slow development of human society
and its institutions; and the time seems not distant when students of
man's culture will turn hither for evidence needed to fill gaps or to
explain phases in the development of art,--art in form, in colour, and
in melody,--for, it has been well said, America is the "fossil bed"
where are preserved stages of progress unrecorded in written history.

In Indian story and song we come upon a time where poetry is not yet
differentiated from story and story not yet set free from song. We
note that the song clasps the story as a part of its being, and the
story itself is not fully told without the cadence of the song. Yet in
even the most primitive examples a line of demarcation can be
discerned; and when this line has deepened, and differentiation has
begun, we are able to trace the formative influence exerted by story
upon song and by song upon story, and can observe what appear to be
the beginnings of musical and poetical structure.

The brevity of Indian songs at once arrests attention. They begin
without introduction, almost abruptly, breaking out upon us as though
surcharged. This peculiarity arises from the relation of the song to
the story. The story is always founded upon a dramatic circumstance,
in which at some point the emotion is forced to find a means of
expression beyond the limitation of words alone; and the song is the
result. This dramatic circumstance may be a danger confronted or
averted, a valorous deed achieved or a difficulty surmounted, a
religious experience or an ardent craving for supernatural aid. The
Omaha tribal prayer will serve as an illustration, where the cry to
Wa-ko_n_-da is the climatic voicing of the youth's desire in the midst
of his weary vigil and fasting. His long preparation for the rite, the
solitude of his surroundings, the suffering of mind and body as alone
he faces nature and the supernatural,--all these conditions make the
story, and, to the Indian, form the true setting of the song.

The motive of a song and its distinctive rhythm were determined by the
emotion evoked by the dramatic circumstance. The simplest resultant of
this directive emotion in music is a pulsating rhythm on a single
tone. Such songs are not random shoutings, but have a definite meaning
for those who sing and for those who listen, as in this Navaho ritual


From this extremely simple expression the growth of the musical motive
can be traced in these Indian songs through the use of two or more
tones up to the employment of the full complement of the octave.[12]

[Footnote 12: A careful analysis of hundreds of aboriginal songs,
gathered from the arctic seas to the tropics, shows that in every
instance the line taken by these tones is a chord-line where the tones
are harmonically related to each other. Out of these related tones the
untutored savage has built his simple melodies. The demonstration of
the interesting fact that "the line of least resistance" in music is a
harmonic line was made by my late associate, Professor John Comfort


_Mexico. Tarahumare._


[Music: SONG.

_British Columbia. Kwakiutl._


The creation of that which we know as musical form seems also to be
due to the influence of story upon song. We have already noted how the
directive emotion started the distinctive rhythm and determined the
order of the related tones, and so constructed the motive or theme.
But neither the rhythm nor the simple motive could express the
_movement_ of the dramatic story: hence we find this expressed by the
repetition, modification, and variation of the motive, the growth of
the phrase, the formation of the clause, and the grouping of clauses
into a period,--in fact, the outline of the form upon which all our
culture music is built. Culture music, however, shows an intellectual
control of emotion, a power of musical thinking, the enlarging and
embellishing of musical form,--a form, nevertheless, which we find
outlined, more or less clearly, in the songs of the untutored red man.
The difference between these spontaneous Indian melodies and the
compositions of the modern masters would seem to be not one of kind,
but one of degree.

As these songs are from a race practically without musical
instruments,--for the drum and rattle were used only to accentuate
rhythm,--they are representative of the period when the human voice
was the sole means of musical expression,--a period which antedated
the invention of instruments by an immeasurable time. They prove,
therefore, that musical form was not developed, as has sometimes been
stated, by the use of instruments, but that it took its rise in a
mental necessity similar to that which gave structure to language.

The influence of song upon story is seen in the attempt to bend prose
to a poetic form.

Many Indian songs have no words at all, vocables only being used to
float the voice. On classifying these wordless songs, we discover that
those which are expressive of the gentle emotions have flowing,
breathing vocables, but, where warlike feelings dominate the song, the
vocables are aspirate and explosive. In this determinate use of
vocables we happen upon what seems to represent the most primitive
attempt yet discovered to give intellectual definition in verbal form
to an emotion voiced in rhythm and melody.

In songs where words are employed, we also find vocables which are in
accord with the spirit of the song, used to make the words conform to
the musical phrase. These vocables are either appended to the word or
else inserted between its syllables, to give length or added euphony.
We also note a desire for rhyming, since vocables similar in sound
frequently occur at the end of each musical phrase.

It would lead into too many details to present the various devices
discernible in this aboriginal material by which the Indian sought
euphony and measure. Nor can it be easily illustrated how words of
many different languages were bent by elisions or stretched by
vocables, that they might conform to the musical phrase. There is
abundant evidence that the ear, accustomed to the pleasure of the
rhythmic cadence of the song, was beginning to demand a corresponding
metrical use of words in expressing the poetic thought involved in the
dramatic story which gave birth to the music.

The art of poetry is here in its infancy, giving even less sign of its
future development than music, which had already acquired the outline
of that form which has since crystallised into the art of music.
Notwithstanding, we find that words were chosen for their descriptive
power, and that they were made rhythmical to fit the melody. Like the
swelling buds on the bare branch, which hint the approach of summer's
wealth, so these little vocables and rhythmic devices whisper the
coming of the poets.

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