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Music & Native American Heritage Month

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Image: DCM 1383-Anonymous, North American Indian (Haida) / Vertical Duct Flute (Music Division, Library of Congress)
Image: DCM 1383-Anonymous, North American Indian (Haida) / Vertical Duct Flute (Music Division, Library of Congress)

The Library of Congress, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, maintains an exciting web portal for Native American Heritage Month. This web portal aggregates digital resources (exhibits, digitized print resources, audio and video) from all of the involved agencies to highlight the important role that Native American culture has had in the United States, both historically and in the present.

Music provides an excellent starting place for understanding the diverse tribal cultures and traditions that exist throughout Native American communities. The American Folklife Center, Music Division and Prints & Photographs Division can serve as great starting points for studying Native American music. Of note is a recent Music Division presentation, “The History & Reconstruction of Native American Flutes,” which featured Barry D. Higgins (White Crow). Higgins appeared at the Library of Congress in November 2012 to discuss his research in the Library’s Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection. The webcast of his presentation is available here.

The Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection contains nearly 1,700 flutes and other wind instruments, statuary, iconography, books, music, trade catalogs, tutors, patents, and other materials mostly related to the flute. It includes both Western and non-Western examples of flutes from around the world, with at least 460 European and American instrument makers represented. Items in the collection date from the 16th to the 20th century.

Barry D. Higgins (White Crow), based in Greenfield, Massachusetts, is a nationally-renowned Native American instrument-maker and performer. He came to flute-making following experiences with flutes made by Coyote Oldman, Hawk Littlejohn, Ken Light and Scott Loomis. His craftsmanship is informed by his mixed Anglo/Native (Pennacook-Abenaki) heritage. Higgins is retired from a long career in the healthcare industry.

Learn more about Native American music and culture through Library of Congress webcasts:
Dineh Tah Navajo Dancers
Ellen Brazill Grant sings a “Konomihu lullaby”
Hoop Dancing, Rosebud Sioux and Crow Creek Sioux
Louis Pigeon sings “Manabus Tells the Ducks to Shut Their Eyes”
Medicine song — Glacier Park Indians (Blackfoot Tribe)
Omaha Indian Music
R.Carlos Nakai: American Indian Flute Music from Arizona
Sioux and Mandan Hidatsa Storytelling and Music
Tim Tingle and D.J. Battiest-Tomasi: Oklahoma Choctaw Storytellers and Flute Players
Wayne Newell and Blanch Sockabasin: Traditional Passamaquoddy Music From Maine
White dog song — Glacier Park Indians (Blackfoot Tribe)
Yup’ik song about a vision of a sailing ship in 1777

Additional Library of Congress Resources:
American Folklife Center
Library of Congress Online Catalogue
Music Division
Performing Arts Encyclopedia
Performing Arts Reading Room
Prints & Photographs Catalogue
Recorded Sound Reference Center

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