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Americans Old and NewMidwestern CrossroadsSouthern FusionLouisiana, Where Music is King
Chippewa Nation

Chippewa Nation is part of a renaissance of Native American music taking place throughout the United States and Canada. A group of eight Ojibwe men from the Leech Lake and Red Lake reservations in northern Minnesota, it performs in the contemporary powwow drumming style, mixing Ojibwe rhythms and songs that have been passed on orally from generation to generation with songs and styles adapted from other Native American groups. Chippewa Nation (Chippewa is an alternate spelling of Ojibwe that is now largely out of favor, but still widely familiar) was formed some four years ago by Pete White and Randy Kingbird, and its members are all in their twenties and thirties. They travel to powwows throughout the northern midwest, performing in the central "drum arbor" while colorfully-garbed dancers circle, stamping and twirling.
       The members of Chippewa Nation are not professional musicians. Their music is a spiritual expression of their heritage and their day-to-day interactions with each other and with the natural world. Along with the dance songs and the quiet, courting songs performed in River of Song, the members sing many pieces that are considered too sacred to be captured on film or recorded. The Ojibwe of the Leech Lake region came to the area more than 300 years ago, and they have been able to retain many aspects of their traditional way of life. For many years, these traditions were suppressed by the dominant Anglo culture, but since the 1960s they have been seeing a dramatic resurgence. The powwow movement is particularly strong, ranging from competition powwows modeled on western rodeos to smaller, more traditional events like the annual powwow in the small community of Inger, where River of Song filmed. Here, Chippewa Nation is in its element, and, every time it takes its turn in the drum arbor, people flock to the dance ground.

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