The Power of Kiowa Song: A Collaborative Ethnography (Religion in America)

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Many Kiowas believe that song is a gift from God. Its power, argues Luke E. Lassiter, rests in the many ways that community members hear, understand, and feel it: "Song has power. As I begin to understand what this means for my mentors, I am just beginning to understand what this means in my life. They are not just singers. They are vehicles for something greater than all of us. Indeed, I now understand that I am not just a singer. But . . . I will sing until I die." As a boy, Lassiter had an early fascination with pow wows. This interest eventually went from a hobby to a passion. As Lassiter made Kiowa friends who taught him to sing and traveled the pow wow circuit, serving many times as a head singer, he began to investigate and write about the pow wow as an experiential encounter with song. The Power of Kiowa Song shows how song is interpreted, created, and used by individuals, how it is negotiated through the context of an event, and how it emerges as a powerfully unique and specific public expression. The Power of Kiowa Song presents a collaborative, community-wide dialogue about the experience of song. Using conversations with Kiowa friends as a frame, Lassiter seeks to describe the entire experience of song rather than to analyze it solely from a distance. Lassiter's Kiowa consultants were extremely active in the writing of the book, re-explaining concepts that seemed difficult to grasp and discussing the organization and content of the work. In a text that is engaging and easily read, Lassiter has combined experiential narrative with ethnological theory to create a new form of collaborative ethnography that makes anthropology accessible to everyone. This book is designed for anyone interested in Native American studies or anthropology, and it also serves as a resource written by and for the Kiowa themselves.

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About the Author:

Luke E. Lassiter is an assistant professor of anthropology at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

From Library Journal:

Lassiter (anthropology, Ball State Univ.) presents a revised version of his 1995 Ph.D. dissertation. He begins his narrative with an account of his experiences in the Order of the Arrow, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America, examining the influence of the Order's teachings on his conception of Indian culture. Then Lassiter details his evolution as he goes from powwows sponsored by hobbyists to contact with Kiowa Indians in Southwestern Oklahoma, where he travels the powwow circuit and sometimes performs as a head singer. In the book's second half, Lassiter focuses on the dance tradition known as the Gourd Dance and the Kiowa song associated with it. The power of the song, referred to in the title, comes from the way the members of the community hear and respond to it. The book works both as a personal and anthropological journey. The second half should be particularly valuable to scholars. This belongs in anthropology and folklore collections.?John Burch, Hagan Memorial Lib., Williamsburg, KY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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