Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Passamaquoddy Ceremonial Songs

Passamaquoddy Ceremonial Songs: Aesthetics and Survival

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Passamaquoddy Ceremonial Songs
    Book Description:

    Based on extensive research across several disciplines, this book examines the songs and dances involved in public ceremonies of the Wabanaki Confederacy, a coalition of five Algonquian First Nations that figured importantly in the political history of New England and the Maritimes from the seventeenth century on. Ethnomusicologist Ann Morrison Spinney analyzes these ceremonial performances as they have been maintained in one of those nations, the Passamaquoddy community of Maine. She compares historical accounts with forms that have persisted to the present, showing how versions of the same songs, dances, and ritual speeches have continued to play a vital role in Passamaquoddy culture over time. A particular focus of the study is the annual Sipayik Indian Day, a public presentation of the dances associated with the protocols of the Wabanaki Confederacy. Spinney interprets these practices using melodic analysis and cultural contextual frameworks, drawing on a variety of sources, including written documents, sound and video recordings, interviews with singers, dancers, and other cultural practitioners, and her own fieldwork observations. Her research shows that Passamaquoddy techniques of song composition and performance parallel both the structure of the Passamaquoddy language and the political organizations that these ceremonies support.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-046-8
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xx)
  4. Glossary
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  5. ONE Identity, History, Tradition
    (pp. 1-22)

    Peskotomuhkatiyikare the people living inPeskotomuhkatik, the region where there are plenty of pollock fish, now called Passamaquoddy Bay.¹ This area of deep bays, high tides, and many small islands—only one part of their traditional homelands—is shared between the United States and Canada. The bay itself is fed by several rivers, along which the people traveled in small bands to their inland hunting grounds in the winter, returning for fishing in the spring and fall, and gathering on the coast in the summer.Peskotomuhkatiyikare one regional group of a people who identified themselves aswskicin,² a...

  6. TWO Sources
    (pp. 23-52)

    Written sources constitute the materials for historical study, which may employ a variety of interpretive tools (chapter 1). Tradition, conventionally contrasted with history because it is not written, may reside in orally transmitted repertories or in the practices of living as a member of a group. Other methods, principally those of ethnography, help observers to understand and analyze tradition. When data from written documents, orally transmitted repertories, and lived traditions are combined, as they are in ethnohistory and ethnomusicology, the differences among these sources are obvious. But even though tradition and history are constructed differently and accomplish different purposes, they...

  7. THREE Overview of Passamaquoddy Songs
    (pp. 53-66)

    There are two way to define the music of any contemporary community: by all the music that is made and used within it, or by the style identified with that community wherever it is made and used. I have chosen the latter, because Peskotomuhkatiyik have maintained their social ties and their culture despite conditions that caused migration and dispersal throughout Native North America. The definition is predicated on the assumption that there is a Passamaquoddy musical style, and this chapter provides an outline of it. Such an enterprise is academic to those who live the culture, but it is a...

  8. FOUR Musical Instruments
    (pp. 67-94)

    The Passamaquoddy community today is affected by global musical influences, like the culture of the United States as a whole. A wide variety of musical styles is available over the airwaves, and instruments from around the world may be purchased a short distance from the reservations. The reservation communities themselves are magnets for multicultural artists.

    As the previous chapter outlined, many musical genres coexist in Peskotomuhkatik, and have for some time. Even adhering to the limited definition of Passamaquoddymusicas a style associated with the specific community of Passamaquoddy people, one could find a wide range of instruments used...

  9. FIVE Welcoming Ceremonies
    (pp. 95-114)

    Every school child in the United States has heard a story of how the Pilgrims were welcomed by Native Americans when they landed at Plymouth Rock: meetings were held between their leaders; treaties were signed; the Pilgrims were taught to plant corn; and it all culminated in feasting at the first Thanks-giving. These stories have achieved the status of foundational myths (Ceci 1990:83 n15).

    In fact, welcoming ceremonies involving both formal greetings between leaders and feasting were historically, and remain, an important part of the ceremonial life of all the Wabanaki communities. In these ceremonies songs, dances, speeches, and other...

  10. SIX Ceremonies of Peace and War
    (pp. 115-144)

    Historical records of European interactions with Peskotomuhkatiyik and their allies indicate that ceremonies of welcome, alliance, and warfare were related as part of the protocols for political conferences. They appear together in the Wampum Records of the Wabanaki Confederacy. Connections between the welcoming ceremonies and those of peace and war are explicitly made in contemporary performances of the wampum protocols by using the Greeting Chant to accompany the War Club Dance. Other less obvious connections linking these ceremonies emerge from the detailed analyses to be presented in this chapter.

    Recent work interpreting North American pipe ceremonialism provides a suggestive parallel...

  11. SEVEN The Marriage Ceremony and Social Dances
    (pp. 145-171)

    Protocols for marriage are included in the Wampum Records of the Wabanaki Confederacy, underscoring the interpretation of marriage as a kind of alliance. Historically, this was often the case. Marriage was at the least an alliance between two families, creating bonds of honor and ultimately of blood between them. Since political allegiance within the Wabanaki communities for centuries has tended to be formed along family lines, marriage can be understood as having a political aspect. This interpretation is borne out in the historical record with examples such as that of Jean Vincent d’Abbadie, Baron de Saint-Castin, a lieutenant at the...

  12. EIGHT Aesthetics and Survival
    (pp. 172-190)

    Performances of the ceremonies of the Wabanaki Confederacy at the Sipayik Indian Days are contrasted throughout this study with performances of the same protocols in other contexts. The Indian Day presentations differ from other contemporary performances in that they are reconstructions for a general audience, with a primary purpose of educating outsiders about Passamaquoddy and Wabanaki traditions. Adaptations are made for this purpose and to accommodate the public.

    Some elements in the Indian Day context, however, are similar to the primarily ceremonial tribal occasions on which the same protocols are used, and there are demonstrable connections between the Indian Day...

  13. Appendix: Transcriptions
    (pp. 191-220)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 221-236)
  15. References
    (pp. 237-250)
  16. Index
    (pp. 251-258)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-260)