Native American Musicians (Contemporary Music) for Classroom “Study”



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Native American Musicians (Contemporary Music) for Classroom “Study”

While some research and listening will reveal that there are many great artists to appreciate, here are a few “major” artists whose music and videos are readily available. Almost all of these artists are award winners and have interactive websites – some have free downloads for their music.

Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree) Folk/ Pop music and protest songs for Social Justice issues.

Keith Secola (Ojibwe) Various genres: Folk, Rock, Country, Jazz. His songs touch on specific Native issues with a touch of humor and irony.

Blackfire (Dine’) Punk/Rock band whose focus is on activism and redress for land and environmental issues.

Annie Humphrey (Ojibwe) Folk/ Alternative Rock. Social justice and human rights are the main themes of her songs, although she also touches on Native women’s issues as well.

Robbie Robertson (Mohawk) Rock/ Alternative. Probably best known for his work with Bob Dylan and The Band, Robertson has two recordings (CDs) that are Native focused. He uses a variety of well-known American Indian musicians as collaborators.

A Tribe Called Red (Canadian First Nations) Hip Hop/ “Powwow Dubstep” This trio is becoming very well-known world-wide. Their music touches on several “urban aboriginal” Native issues, but also includes electronica & dance music. Their website is phenomenal.

Joy Harjo (Muskogee) Jazz/Blues & Poetry. Well known writer and poet who also sings and plays saxophone. Her music concentrates on traditional stories and themes of being alive and present in the world.

Ch’aska (Indigenous Peruvian) Thrash Metal/Folk Metal. Hailing from Peru, this band is really interesting and their lyrics (when you can understand them –don’t worry metal aficionados will understand them) are anti-colonial/decolonial in nature.

Indigenous (Dakota/Nakota/Lakota) Contemporary Electric Blues. Award-winning guitarist Mato Nanji (front-man for Indigenous) collaborates with family members on the earliest recordings, and other musicians presently to create music about reservation life, love, and resilience.

Lozen Punk/Noise – While I am not sure of the tribal affiliation, this is a two piece all female band is making a splash in the underground Seattle scene. Their songs are about the urban Indian experience and also delve into social and gender issues. Named for a woman warrior / resistor of the Apache nation.

Testament (Chuck Billy, lead singer and frontman, is Pomo) Thrash Metal. Although the band doesn’t necessarily concentrate on all Native themes, several of their songs (penned by Chuck Billy) do address Native issues such as Removal, Native Identity, and Colonization. It’s loud and fast.

John Trudell (Dakota) Spoken Word/Blues Rock. Trudell, former American Indian Movement spokesperson and activist, presents “songs” as poetry set to music. He address racism, reservation life, Native urban life and environmental concerns in his music.



Native American Rhetoric in Music/ Assignment Sheet/ English 1213 Comp and Research

Choose from one of the songs we’ve been studying in class (Buffy’ song “Now that the Buffalo’s Gone; Robbie’s song “In the Blood;” Joy’s song “Mankiller Honor Song”; or Keith’s song “NDN Kar”) and write an essay/analysis that addresses the ways in which the song focuses on Native history, brings up cultural survival of the tribe(s), or calls for social justice for Native people. While your main focus of the paper may be lyrics, do not overlook the “tone” or “mood” of the music itself. You might want to also include *some* discussion of instrumentation and/or incorporation of “traditional” Native instruments, words, or vocalizing.

Remember that your audience is made up of people interested in Native issues and music, but have not listened to these songs before, so you’ll need to do a bit of back-grounding about the artist. Don’t forget to contextualize, as we’ve discussed in class.

Parameters: Use an MLA documentation system to cite your sources as we have discussed in class, and find at least two sources (can be legitimate websites or journal articles) to support the points you are making in the paper.

Your paper should be at least 3 full pages long, and not longer than 4 full pages, double spaced.

Use your “Rhetorical Strategies at-a-glance” handout to help you identify some of the items for analysis.



Grading Criteria (what I am looking for )

Good organization

Transitions that help the reader move through the paper

Examples that illustrate the point you are making

Support for the claims you make in the paper

Clear and understandable prose

Evidence of your thinking in the paper

A paper that is relatively free from serious grammatical issues

Proper documentation of source materials

Schedule for assignment:

For the past two class meetings, we’ve been listening to and discussing these songs. You’ve also had a chance to do a bit of web searching about these songs and artists—you may need to include some of this data into your paper as well.

For our writing process:

Next Tuesday: 2/25: bring to class a partial draft – this needs to be at least a page and a half – it can be the Intro and one body paragraph – or just body paragraphs, or a body and conclusion – remember I don’t care what “order” you write the paper in as a draft. We will workshop the papers in groups.

2/27: I’ll be discussing and modeling the use of sources & citations in your paper. How to use speaker tags, how to fit your quoted or paraphrased material into your text smoothly.



3/4 : Rough Draft Due / Peer Review. Bring completed draft to class for Peer Review and discussion.

3/6: Final paper due: Turn in Final draft, rough draft (s), and Peer Review sheets in your folder.

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