XVI. Ethnobiology Through Song
XVI. Ethnobiology Through Song
In honour of Kwaksistalla Wathl’thla Chief Adam Dick
This session will explore the role of songs in transmitting and maintaining biocultural knowledge amongst Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities from all over the world. We seek a range of contributions with different scholarly perspectives, approaches, and orientations. First, we invite papers providing the theoretical foundations of the study of songs in ethnobiology, reviewing the history of scholarship, including key methods, subdisciplines, approaches, and findings. Second, we welcome case studies highlighting the role of songs in the intergenerational transmission of biocultural knowledge and traditional ecological management practices, as well as in cultivating a sense of place and fostering emotional connections with the land. Third, because traditional songs encompass a diversity of relational values, including reciprocity, kinship, and responsibility, contributions are sought that delve into the role of songs in promoting paradigms of respect towards the natural world. And fourth, we encourage submissions reviewing examples of biocultural revitalization through song, as well as case studies of how global change, and more specifically climate change, is influencing music-making in many communities around the world. All contributions are encouraged to consider how songs reveal conceptualizations of nature-culture interactions that differ substantially from Western epistemologies, and how the use and applications of songs and music could push forward the research agenda of modern-day ethnobiology.
Building on earlier research, we recently conducted field-work and interviews with traditional Aboriginal knowledge-holders from language groups across central Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. During one of our meetings, two senior members of the Dalabon language group made an impromptu performance of a song from the Lorrkon, a funerary ceremony once widely practised across Arnhem Land. That song records and celebrates the central role of Garrkany (the Brown Falcon, Falco berigora) in the Lorrkon ceremony and reveals the importance of Garrkany to local knowledge holders and land managers.
We will present video and audio recordings of the Garrkany song performance and related knowledge with a brief analysis of the role that the bird plays in the Lorrkon ceremony and fire cultural traditions across Arnhem Land.
Tlingits of Alaska are known for oratory and singing, which are often combined to achieve important social ends. Matrilineal "clan songs" are deployed at memorial potlatches and other ceremonial occasions, the audience for which includes guests of the opposite moiety and even ancestral and other-than-human spirits, who balance them with reciprocations. In contrast to these heavy songs are "happy songs," which help transition from the mourning part of the memorial potlatch to the celebratory succession stage. These songs may also convey important events on the land. Mary Sheakley's song, featured here, is among this corpus for the Chookaneidí clan of Glacier Bay. It was remembered and sung by a descendant of the singer, Amy Marvin, near the place it was composed a century prior. This paper analyzes the ethnobiological and broader cultural context for Amy Marvin’s recalling, orating, and singing Mary Sheakley's song on a 1996 berry picking trip to Glacier Bay National Park.
Randy’s of West Coast NuChaNulth ancestry through his father, Coast Salish Clallum ancestry through his mother. Born in 1943,his grandmother raised him in Kyuqut village as an Ooshtikay, in the language, cultural, spiritual and healing traditions of his ancestors. Randy experienced living as a demonized ‘Indian’ in a Christian village; having an unskilled mother with no permission to love her “Indian” child; blessings and abuses at Residential School. “It was my language and deep connection to Creator that gave me strength to endure”. Coast Salish Longhouse and NuChaNulth Dance traditions bless him. His journey home and abroad gifted countless opportunities to assist Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples and communities. West Coast NuChaNulth History has over 3,000 years of travelling and coming together to share legends and songs. Randy has a vast repertoire. Respect towards the natural world remains a fundamental belief. Randy is grateful his cousin Chief Adam Dick is honored.
In western Mongolian alpine forests and grasslands, resident Kazakh mobile pastoralists move seasonally seeking grazing land for their livestock. They rely on diverse resources available in this protected area, part of the Altai Sayan Ecoregion known for its rich biodiversity. Sound practices that engage them with the landscape and its resources, along with songs shared in tightly constructed social settings, contribute to maintaining ecological knowledge and valuing conservation. While devastating ecological, economic, and social changes have occurred in recent years, rupturing ecosystems and family structures, efforts to sustain pastoralist lifeways continue, in part due to information in songs shared at local gatherings. This study focuses on songs that use sensory, ecological, and social information to embrace the shared roles of people, livestock, wildlife, and plant life and, in conjunction with other narrative information, reveal Kazakh pastoralists’ attitudes toward human and environmental health and wellbeing.
Group hunting is a productive subsistence activity for many Indigenous peoples with adequate access to territorial and game resources. Indigenous Xavante hunters in the Brazilian cerrado communicate over long distances with hunting calls that encode rich ethnozoological information. Based on recordings provided in 2006 by the late Xavante elder and leader Tsidowi Wai'adzatse', we explore the range and depth of information communicated by Xavante hunting calls. Our data address vocal expressions used to coordinate efforts involving the pursuit, sharing, and carrying of giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus), tapir (Tapirus terrestris), and white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari). These calls communicate deep and contextually variable cultural information about animal movements, hunting cooperation, meat sharing rights, and social responsibilities. This paper seeks to respond to concerns expressed to us by Tsidowi Wai'adzatse' that these calls be remembered.
In the Aru Islands of eastern Indonesia, Batuley villages hold a ‘tambaroro sea ritual’ to open the pearl diving and sea cucumber collection seasons. A sea-side all-night festival of song, drumming, and dance preludes offerings made in the sea and on land. Some songs must be led by expert song leaders in correct sequences. Many lyrics seem simple, but reference complex biocultural and historical knowledge held by elders and transmitted accurately over centuries. In the course of documenting the Batuley language, the authors filmed a tambaroro event and interviews with elders about song meanings. A 45-minute documentary film, Tambaroro, is being released in 2019. In our conference presentation we discuss ‘songs as teachings’ in the transmission of Batuley biocultural knowledge and practices through ‘cryptic lyrics’, which do not openly tell the story, yet bridge in-community differences and vitalize local culture.
Very few works have analyzed the biocultural knowledge transmitted through song. In this presentation, we examine the role of traditional songs in transmitting Indigenous Knowledge amongst the Tsimane’ of Bolivian Amazonia. We use the corpus of traditional Tsimane’ songs compiled by J. Riester in the 1970s and our ethnographic work on the area to examine the content and context of traditional Tsimane’ songs in relation to wildlife and hunting. Fifty-two of the 140 songs compiled by Riester speak about wildlife and/or hunting, featuring a total of 28 different wildlife species. Songs include either rich descriptions of wildlife characteristics or information about hunting social practices. Ritual songs help regulate human-animal interactions and teach about inappropriate behaviors to wildlife. Many of the songs examined reveal conceptualizations of nature-culture inter-relations differing substantially from Western epistemologies. We conclude discussing options to revitalize traditional music-making amongst contemporary Indigenous Peoples exposed to rapid sociocultural changes.
Throughout North America, Indigenous groups have used turtle shell rattles since at least the Archaic period (ca. 8000–1000 BC). Many North American Indigenous groups have foundational, cosmological beliefs about turtles, such as the world was formed upon the Turtle’s back. These beliefs provide a greater understanding of why turtles are incorporated into ceremonies and dances and why they are used as rattles to keep rhythm, which in turn provides a basis for spiritual energy and experience. Here, I present a comprehensive analysis and review of the turtle shell rattle music culture across the contiguous United States. Indigenous groups have used and continue to use turtle shell rattles in song and dance, which are manifested in many ways across the United States. Evidence suggests that turtle shell rattles are related to spiritual concepts of sound and carry symbolic meaning, which reveals important insights into the musical knowledge of prehistoric communities.
American Roots Music includes traditional music from Appalachia, New England, Midwest, Texas, Ozarks, and other regions/microregions. Significant in this style of music are connections to place and multi-species living beings. Knowledge of the non-human natural world is encoded in lyrical content, sounds of birds & animals can be replicated harmonically, and instrumentation is largely acoustic, with the use of wood-based stringed instruments being predominant. The 21st Century “revival” of ARM can be seen in part as a desire to rekindle connection to place and place-based knowledge, and to lifeways more centered on a localized system of engagement with landscape and communities of multi-species beings. We analyze a variety of ARM, both historical and contemporary, situating it within ethnomusicological and ethnobiological theory, and suggest that the types of music that humans play and listen to both reflects their socioecological setting and has potential and ongoing contributions to conservation practice.
“Clam gardens” represent a keystone Northwest Coast resource management tradition. Called luxw’xi’wey in Kwak’wala, they were constructed by moving rocks in the intertidal zone, creating cultivated clam beds. The technology was nearly forgotten as children were forced into residential schools. The academic rediscovery of this technology emanates from the teachings of Clan Chief Kwaxsistalla, Adam Dick. Hidden at Deep Harbour in the Broughton Archipelago, B.C. – a place encircled by naturally formed clam gardens – receiving years of specialized training in chiefly knowledge, resource traditions and values. Kwakwaka’wakw ecological knowledge was often transmitted through children, songs serving as a key mechanism. Trained in this way, Chief Kwaxsistalla first revealed the location and meaning of this special place by sharing the luxw’xi’wey song. With such knowledge, Chief Kwaxsistalla launched a rediscovery of the clam gardens – showing how the power of song, even throughout precarious times, sustains such sacred knowledge.