Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language: Essays in Honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp

By Dan Isaac Slobin; Julie Gerhardt et al. | Go to book overview

31
THE NEW OLD LADIES' SONGS: FUNCTIONAL ADAPTATION OF HUALAPAI MUSIC TO MODERN CONTEXTS

Leanne Hinton
University of California, Berkeley


1. INTRODUCTION

The topic of this paper is a new genre of song developed in the Hualapai school (Peach Springs, Arizona)1 as a tool for teaching Hualapai language and culture. It is a genre which bears many traits of traditional Hualapai songs but also has characteristics and functions that are not traditional at all. The new genre has been influenced strongly by non-Indian culture. The songs bear features adopted from Western music, and features that reinforce modern western values; yet at the same time, the new songs express love of Hualapai land and history, and Hualapai pride and social unity. The result, then, is a form of syncretic music -- a new kind of music that arises at the interface of cultures in contact.


1.1. Background

In the last two decades, there has been a flowering of school programs in Native American communities aimed at maintaining the viability of Native American languages and cultures. In some of these programs, songs in the native language are used as one means of increasing native language use among the children. For various reasons, traditional songs are usually inappropriate for this function: Often the traditional songs are sacred and not to be sung out of their appropriate context. In other cases, the songs contain few or no real words; they are still taught to children for their cultural value, but they are not of direct use as a language teaching tool. A fairly common practice in many communities is to translate common nursery songs and Christmas carols into the native language,

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1
The Hualapai Indians are a uman tribe, closely related to the Havasupais who live nearby. Before the present day tribal designations were established, there were seven loosely-associated bands that were linguistically close to identical and had social relations, but went to different locations to plant their summer gardens. Six of these seven bands now share the Hualapai reservation, and one band became the Havasupais. Even now, the tribes have close kinship ties and sing the same kinds of songs.

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