Songs of Power and Prayer in the Columbia Plateau explores the role of song as a transformative force in the twentieth century, tracing a cultural, spiritual, and musical encounter that upended notions of indigeneity and the rules of engagement for Indians and priests in the Columbia Plateau. In Chad Hamill's narrative, a Jesuit and his two Indian "grandfathers" - one a medicine man, the other a hymn singer - engage in a collective search for the sacred. The priest becomes a student of the medicine man. The medicine man becomes a Catholic. The Indian hymn singer brings indigenous songs to the Catholic mass. Using song as a thread, these men weave together two worlds previously at odds, realizing a promise born two centuries earlier within the prophecies of Circling Raven and Shining Shirt. Songs of Power and Prayer reveals how song can bridge worlds: between the individual and Spirit, the Jesuits and the Indians. Whether sung in an indigenous ceremony or adapted for Catholic Indian services, song abides as a force that strengthens Native identity and acts as a conduit for power and prayer.
A First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies book.
Chad S. Hamill is an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at Northern Arizona University, where he serves as Co-Chair for the Commission for Native Americans. Of Spokane and non-Indian descent, he has also served as Associate Director of the Plateau Center of American Indian Studies at Washington State University.