This book and an accompanying compact disk offer a rare glimpse into Native American sacred traditions of song and dance. Arising from a unique exhibit and live performance at the Northwest Folklife Festival, Spirit of the First People is a collection of personal narratives, stories, and essays on the music of the First People in the region that now encompasses Washington State. From tribe to tribe and reservation to reservation across the state, a wide range of musical genres and individual styles have developed, including social dance songs, game songs, and hymns.
Skagit elder Vi Hilbert, a principal adviser to the tribal council and the one who gave the book its name, introduces the collection. Contributors include Bruce-Subiyay Miller (Skokomish), Cliff Sijohn (Spokane, Coeur d'Alene), Jeanette Timentwa (Okanogan) and Rebecca Chamberlain, Virginia Beavert-Martin (Yakima), Brycene Neaman (Yakama), Linda Goodman and Helma Swan (Makah), Loran Olsen, and Willie Smyth. Their narratives provide rich detail about tribal music and its significance, past and present. Roberta Haines (Wenatchee) establishes the historical and political background, noting how spiritual traditions were nurtured by dance and song under conditions of government suppression. Song traditions in the Indian Shaker Church are explored by Pamela Amoss and James Everett Cunningham. Appendixes by Laurel Sercombe, Judith Gray, and William Seaburg outline the work of past ethnographers and describe current efforts to preserve and disseminate the music.
This book and compact disk are the result of a multi-year collaboration among the members of Washington State's tribes, Jack Straw Productions, Northwest Folklife, and the Washington State Arts Commission's Folk Arts Program. 54 illus.