Having travelled to 49 of the 50 states in North America, I have realised the amazing diversity amongst its people. In fact the Americas (North and South) are home to over 1000 indigenous languages. And what amazing musical sounds and styles from the second line drumming of New Orleans, Inuit throat singing known as katajjaq from Quebec to Brazillian samba and Guyana calypso. What stands out artistically amongst the indigenous people of these lands is their visual arts – their pottery, paintings, jewellery, weavings, basketry, beadwork, carvings and sculptures.
It is said that history books are written by those who win wars! This short video tells the story of the pilgrims from a Wampanoag perspective. Ships had been trading with Native Americans for fish, furs and people for 100 years before the pilgrims arrived to set up camp. Squanto, a Wampanoag, amongst many others was kidnapped and taken into slavery 6 years before the pilgrims arrived. He was taken to Spain and then became an interpreter on an English boat, eventually escaping back to his people – sadly, returning to his people, he found his village Patuxet, and everyone he knew, dead, from a plague and he ended up becoming a type of servant with another tribe. When the pilgrims arrived he became their interpreter and guide, and helped negotiate a treaty with the most powerful local Native American confederation, a peace that lasted more than 50 years.
After a morning of recording in San Diego we went to my favourite Mexican restaurant to find a wonderful group of six girls and one guy playing wonderful mariachi music. The group is called Mariachi Divinas worth checking out if you are in the area.
Whilst on the island of Kaua’i, a friend Kaplan Bunce invited me to the Powwow in Paradise, a cultural event and a traditional Native American powwow for the community . Many tribes and Pacific nations were represented and much dancing and drumming – this exert is the amazing hoop dancing.
The high pitched chant and the sound of the drum filled the arena, as tribes from California slowly filled the sacred circle (a space that had been blessed) in reverence to the Great Creator. Each dancer carries stories, woven into symbols and colours on their distinctive regalia (Native costume) and for some, as they dance, each individual dance step is offered up as a prayer. Read More
It was an honour to be invited to a gathering of tribes on the Santa Ynez Chumash reservation. A people group that numbered tens of thousands along the islands and coastline of Santa Barbara yet are now down to the last couple of hundred. Sadly, through missions and the European settlement, the Chumash started to speak Spanish and even took Spanish names trying to hide their Indian identity. The last fluent Samala speaker died in 1965. Read More
A wonderful afternoon at Barona reservations 7th annual Gathering listening to traditional bird singing and watching the dancers. Unlike many other tribes, where the drum is the instrument of choice, a gourd or tortoise-shell rattle filled with native palm seeds accompanies the Kumeyaay bird songs. Read More
A bit of a road trip on the way back to San Diego from Monterey down the Pacific coast highway. We had been invited to play in Monterey with some musicians we had met just a couple of weekends ago. Not only did we play some wonderful music but we stayed in amazing log cabins, shared a fantastic meal and enjoyed wonderful conversation and laughter. If that wasn’t enough we then had a wonderful couple of days, wandering southwards, enjoying the amazing rocky coastline. A very thankful boy!
Pictures …….. Read More
This weekend I heard a story about how whilst driving in a Hopi reservation, a wrong turn was taken and a group of people found themselves in a cul-de-sac. As they turned around to retrace their tracks they noticed what seemed like eagle sculptures on each of the 5 house roofs. On closer examination, they were astounded to see that they were in fact live Golden eagles! Apparently the Hopi people in years past used to bind their prayers to their feet, a bird that flies higher than any other, in order that they would carry their prayers closer to God. They would risk climbing cliffs and the attacks of the mother birds in order to catch chicks, which they would then raise and train for this special tradition.
Thanks Bonnie Low for passing on this video which tells the story of a photographers journey amongst the Oglala Lakota Nation. It changed his life. What encouraged us is that through the building of relationships and hearing their stories, his reason for taking pictures suddenly takes a back step as he starts to look at the deeper issues of life on Native American Indian reservations. Well worth a watch.