The reason we should strive to eliminate stereotypical, inauthentic “Native American” music from the teaching repertoire is because these pieces tend to portray Native Americans as “primitive” – past and present. In doing this, we continue to oppress a people even in our contemporary, striving-to-be-more-enlightened world. Native American culture today is modern and contemporary. Native American people participate in the arts, sciences, education, medicine, engineering, technology, fashion, and pop music.
(Check out the website for the Native American Music Awards: https://nativeamericanmusicawards.com/pop).
When we educate students about Native American culture, we should actually start here!
Now, Native Americans have older traditions, yes, just as other cultures have older traditions. When we teach older traditions, those traditions should be presented as authentically as possible; they should be honest, they should portray the cultures mostly in a positive light, and they should not contain stereotypes. For example, it is both dishonest and unfair consistently to portray traditional white European and American men as forward-thinking, capable, inventive, happy, modern, winning in battle (with all the songs that go with these presentations), and then too-consistently to portray traditional Native American and other minority people as primitive, on the losing side, child-like, being taught by missionaries, ponderous, weak and sad, even mistreated, sidelined, separatist, old-fashioned, uninterested in the modern world.
I love folk music, and I believe we should teach students all kinds of folk music. But, real folk music! Not trite stereotypical music invented by dominant-society composers for the purpose of educating dominant-society students, ignoring the real culture and people, then and now. So when we include Native American folk music, it should be as authentic as possible and not derived from “Hollywood-inspired” misrepresentations. And we should credit the Native American culture, and thank them for the music they passed down, and acknowledge their ongoing contributions to contemporary and popular music.
One more thing: Want to have open-fifth drum beats in a song? Almost every culture uses drums! Let’s use some of those other cultures and not uncouthly stereotype one group!
Here are a few pieces that strive to be more authentic of Native American tradition, for beginners (could be late beginner, could be taught partly by rote, or full reading, and they have some technical things that could be worked on with students).
Also, here’s a song with a drum beat that is Scottish!
Bebi Notsa (Baby Sleep) (Creek), Song of Happiness (Navajo), Macochi Pitentzin (Aztec), Aiken Drum (Scottish). Here are links to my website and also to Sheet Music Plus.
Order from Presto! It’s Music Magic Publishing website:
Order from Sheet Music Plus website:
Bebi Notsa (Baby Sleep) (Creek)
Song of Happiness (Navajo)
Macochi Pitentzin (Aztec)
Aiken Drum (Scottish)