'Indian blues': American Indians and the politics of music, 1890-1935
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Various Native American individuals and communities effectively utilized the practice of music as a political catalyst between 1890 and 1935 to both reshape federal Indian policy and to develop new, modern expressions of tribal and Indian identity. I focus primarily on three performative arenas: reservations (mostly Lakota), offreservation boarding schools, and professional public venues such as theatres, concert halls, and Chautauqua circuits. The contests over the practice of music by American Indians in these arenas serve to thematically join the dissertation chapters. Chapter one examines the ways in which the Lakota manipulated tropes of citizenship and patriotism through dance in order to reinvigorate their Lakota identity in the midst of assimilation and allotment policies. The next chapter investigates the impact of the press and trends in popular culture on federal policy as many American Indians protested loudly over the renewed efforts of the OIA to suppress dancing on a national scale in the mid 1920s. Chapter three focuses on the boarding schools, where the music education curricula initially focused on regimentation, cadence, and discipline. I examine the implications of what forms of music school officials deemed appropriate, and how the students responded to the instruction. The following chapter maintains a focus on the schools. While the marching bands, string quartets, and vocal lessons ostensibly served the OIA to inculcate particular Anglo cultural tastes, many teachers and superintendents also engaged in a movement to teach the students through musical instruction how to become, on their terms, "proper" Indians. I investigate the relationship between these agendas and the impetus behind the movement. The final chapter explores the lives of several alumni who utilized their musical training on a professional level. They crafted modern constructions of Indian identities in part through the performance of Indianness before the public, in defiance of the era’s assimilation policies. With an education rooted in the dismemberment of their tribal identities, they engaged the market economy and the public on their own terms, celebrating their difference and often advocating for change in federal Indian policy through the public platforms that their musical talents provided.