Happy Native American Heritage month - Day 29!
Wow. We’re nearly done! I can’t believe I’ve done 29 consecutive posts about my culture. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without you guys and your support. Your messages (published and privately answered) have been amazing, and I thank everyone who has been interested with the posts. Let’s hope my last post will be a fantastic ending to this equally fantastic journey.
Today I thought I’d show something that is special to the Southern California tribes, and to me personally. Although our creation stories are different from each other’s we have one main element that is the same: birds.
In each of our respective creation story, Creator sent us a bird to give us songs that would let us tell our stories and act as a moral guide. Many of our stories first state that Creator sent us a black bird who was stingy and did not give up the songs so a humble, yet beautiful hummingbird was sent to give us our songs.
To this day, bird singing is still a traditional element of Southern California tribes. The SoCal bird singing heard today is usually sung in Cahuilla, but there are other tribes that have their own songs in their own languages.
These are social songs, so anyone who knows the words is allowed to sing. Another social aspect of the songs is the dancing. Generally the men will sing the songs while sitting or standing, but may also leave the group to dance in front of the women. The women will stand in front of the men and dance in a half-circular shape doing quick hops with their hands place out.
Sometimes the women may honor a man who is singing by dancing up to him. This could be a sign of appreciating his singing ability or as a sign of courtship.
The songs are mostly kept under 5 minutes, but the length and lyrics is up to the singers. Traditionally they were sung in cycles for many hours, repeating the same lyrics over and over.
Bird singing is complicated though. Each singer must make his own rattle by picking seasoned gourds and preparing them carefully so that when filled, will make a good rattling sound. The singing also takes practice, so often times the men singers will have young boys beside them trying to get a feel for the singing.
Not only is bird singing beautiful to listen to, it is a tool for us to keep our languages and stories alive so that younger generations will not be outcast from their culture like their ancestors were forced to abandon it.
We’re still here, and we shall forever remain through our songs.