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Among the most important components of contemporary social pow-wows is a series of "fancy dance" contests featuring separate competitions for men (18 and over), women, and children. "Fancy dancers" perform in highly decorated traditional regalia and employ elaborate dance steps. This performance of a fancy dancers' contest song was recorded on Sunday August 14, 1983. The performers are listed as "Host Drum" (i.e., drummers from the Omaha Tribe sponsoring the pow-wow). Recorded for the American Folklife Center by folklorist Carl Fleischhauer.
In 1979, the American Folklife Center launched the Federal Cylinder Project, a nation-wide initiative to preserve, document, catalog, and disseminate the information contained on thousands of original, one-of-a-kind wax cylinders containing ethnographic material recorded in the field from 1890 through the 1930s. Most of these wax cylinders were of American Indian music.
In addition to cataloging and making "preservation copies" of these priceless recordings for use at the Library (with tribal permission), the Library made cassette-tape copies and repatriated them (gave them back) to the tribes of origin. In some cases, these recordings included material that had been lost or forgotten by tribal members.
Wax cylinders from the Nebraska Historical Society were included in the Federal Cylinder Project, and in August 1983, American Folklife Center folklorists Maria La Vigna and Dorothy Sara Lee attended the 153rd Annual Omaha Tribal Pow-Wow in Macy, Nebraska, to participate in a repatriation ceremony. While there, the team also documented the four-day pow-wow for our archives. Select this link to view photographs related to this selection. Rights and permissions.
This flute song was performed by Kenny Blackbird during the Honoring Ceremony at the 153rd Annual Omaha Tribal Pow-Wow held in Macy, Nebraska, in August 1983. Honoring ceremonies generally acknowledge the successes of members of the community.
Displays of patriotism play an important role in all powwows. Past and present members of the United States armed forces are acknowledged and honored by fellow tribal members. Historically, American Indians have fought in all American conflicts: more than twelve thousand American Indians served in the U.S. military in World War I; six hundred Oklahoma Indians, mostly Choctaw and Cherokee, fought in France with the 142nd Infantry of the 36th Texas-Oklahoma National Guard Division. During World War II, more than 44,000 Americans Indians, out of a total Native American population of less than 350,000, served in the European and Pacific theaters, and an additional 40,000 Indian people left their reservations to work in ordnance depots, factories, and other war industries on the home front. Select this link to view photographs related to this selection. Rights and permissions.
Track 4: Flag Song: "When You Went Overseas, You Made a Stand so that the Flag Could Be Raised." Omaha Indian Music. [AFC 1986/038: sr 0621] [mp3]
The flag song is performed by the Host Drum, (i.e., drummers from the Omaha community sponsoring the powwow). This patriotic number was recorded on Sunday afternoon, August 4, 1983, at a ceremony held during the 153rd Annual Omaha Tribal Pow-Wow in Macy, Nebraska. It is also described as a "quitting song" and is usually performed at the end of a program. Select this link to view photographs related to this selection. Rights and permissions.
Track 5: Flag Song: "When You Went Overseas, You Made a Stand so that the Flag Could Be Raised." Omaha Indian Music (concert version). [AFC 1985/015: sr 0703] [mp3]
Compare Track 4, a 1983 powwow version of "When You Went Overseas," with this 1985 concert performance of the same song recorded at a special concert on the Library of Congress's Neptune Plaza. It was performed by James Walker and Rufus White, members of the Omaha's Hethu'shka Society. Historically, the Hethu'shka Society was a warriors' society, but in modern times, it has become a veterans' society concerned with the tribe's social and cultural well-being. A comparison of the two recordings reflects how much performances of Omaha songs can vary depending on the venue and audience. Select this link to view photographs related to this selection. Rights and permissions.
Track 6: Omaha hand-game song. Recorded 1969, Lincoln, Nebraska, by folklorist Roger L. Welsch, Nebraska Wesleyan University. April 27, 1969. [AFC 1969/001: AFS 13574] [mp3]
In 1969, the well-known Nebraska folklorist, humorist, and commentator Roger Welsch recorded three 7-inch reel-to-reel tapes of Omaha hand-game songs. The hand game is a traditional and popular Native American competition and many tribal communities have hand game teams. While specifics may vary from place to place, generally one row/team of drummer-singers sit facing the other team, drumming and singing while attempting to discretely pass a small item — such as a bead or a carved stick — from one person to another. Players in the opposing row/team must guess who is holding the item. To make the guessing more difficult, and to confuse the opposing team, drums and drum sticks are also exchanged between members of the team hiding the object. Teams take turns, and participants and onlookers sometimes wager on the results. This recording was made by Welsch on April 27, 1969, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Rights and permissions.
Track 7: "Waltz" composed and performed by Ben Drake. Recorded October 2, 1973, in Humboldt, Nebraska, by Chris Delaney. [AFC 1973/026: AFS 16989] [mp3]
In 1973, Chris Delaney, a young folk musician with a special interest in fiddle music, launched an ambitious three-month-long recording expedition to document fiddle tunes by performers in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. His efforts captured a trove of wonderful fiddle tunes that are now a part of the American Folklife Center's archive. Delaney made a number of recordings in Arthur, a small town in west-central Nebraska, and Humboldt, a slightly larger community at the south-eastern tip of the state. On October 2, 1973, he recorded twenty-three fiddle tunes played by 82-year old Ben Drake. Delany noted that Drake was of "Scotch Irish descent, a farmer's son from Nebraska with strong engineering tendencies," and that he made many of his farm tools and machinery from odds and ends. Delaney also noted that Drake had started to play the fiddle as a boy, was self-taught, was still an active fiddler, and played in many contests. This waltz is one of Mr. Drake's own compositions. Used by permission of Mr. Robert Drake Rights and permissions.
Track 8: The River Boys. "Dutch Hop Polka Music of the Germans from Russia from Scottsbluff, Nebraska and Northeastern Colorado." Webcast of American Folklife Center Homegrown Concert. June 21, 2006. [video]
Dutch Hop is a form of dance and music brought to the United States by Volga Deutsch (German-speakers living in Russia's Volga River region), who migrated to the Great Plains in the 1870s. It remains popular in the Volga German communities of western Nebraska, southeastern Wyoming, western Kansas, and northern Colorado. The dance is much like a polka, but includes a characteristic "hop" that makes it especially lively. A mainstay of an "authentic" Dutch Hop band is the hammered dulcimer (hackbrett). Early Dutch Hop bands also included a string bass, clarinet, and violins; modern bands often feature other instruments popular in polka bands, such as accordions, pianos, guitars, or trombones — but a hammered dulcimer is always present, too.
The Scottsbluff Dutch Hop musician and hammered dulcimer maker, Albert Fahlbusch (1925-2005), was honored as a National Heritage Fellow in 1984 by the National Endowment for the Arts. The American Folklife Center archive also holds a major collection of Dutch Hop music recorded in 1986-87 by Michael A. Gowen in Colorado. [AFS 1988/020]
This track documents a June 21, 2006 performance by The River Boys at the Library of Congress, presented as part of the Center's HomeGrown Concerts series. The band is led by accordionist Bob Schmer, from Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and also includes Dave Beitz on hammered dulcimer, Jerry Hergenreder on trombone, and Steve Deines on base guitar. Rights and permissions.
Tracks 9 and 10: Nebraskan folksinger Charles Scudder Jr., interviewed about his life and singing experiences by Mary Bamesburger for StoryCorps, 2007. [Storycorps ID # MBY 002741]
Singing for food [mp3]
Learning folk music [mp3]
This selection contains excerpts from a 2007 interview with Charles Scudder Jr., a seventy-five-year-old folk singer raised in Hastings and Juniata, Nebraska. Interviewed by his friend Mary Bamesburger, Mr. Scudder recalls his early singing experiences and his introduction to folk music. The first excerpt is a humorous story about singing for food at a church picnic with his friend Donnie Jones; in the second, he talks about learning folk music from records that his new bride, a folk song enthusiast from New York, brought with her to Nebraska, as well as his first meeting with Pete Seeger.
These oral history interviews are recorded by StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization whose mission is "to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives." The American Folklife Center is proud to be the repository for the StoryCorps Collection. Since its founding in 2003, StoryCorps has facilitated more than 30,000 interviews. Using specially designed recording booths and MobileBooth trailers that travel to cities and towns throughout the United States, StoryCorps invites pairs of people, (usually family members or lifelong friends), to interview each other about their lives and experiences. Excerpts of this interview were selected and produced by the staff of the American Folklife Center. Used by permission of Storycorps. Rights and permissions.
Track 11: Army Air Force veteran Victor Cerny describes his experiences as an aerial photographic reconnaissance specialist during WWII for the American Folklife Center's Veterans History Project. 2007. Victor Cerny Collection [AFC/2001/001: AFS 24120] [audio via the Veterans History Project site]
WWII veteran Victor Cerny describes his unit's transports across the Atlantic, his memories of landing on European beaches only a few days after D-Day, and his experiences providing aerial photographic reconnaissance to the Third Army, including a demanding General Patton.
In October 2000, the U.S. Congress passed a law directing the American Folklife Center to collect and preserve oral histories of America's wartime veterans. With this mandate, the American Center's Veterans History Project enlisted volunteers throughout the nation to interview veterans according to American Folklife Center guidelines. These interviews were then submitted to the Library to become part of our national record. To date, volunteers have conducted over 70,000 interviews. Go to the Veterans History Project web pages for more information and to hear thousands of interviews online. Used by permission of Mr. Victor Cerny. Rights and permissions.
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