Shoshone - Chief Pocatello - Shoshone Sun Dance Songs

Peace | View Score

War | View Score



Native American Flute in A, Native American Flute in E, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, 4 French Horns, Trumpet, 2 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Bass drum, Suspended cymbal, Tam-tam, Crash cymbals, Strings


Native American Flute in E, Native American Flute, Piccolo, Flute, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 French Horns, 2 Trumpets, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Timpani, Bass drum, Crash cymbals, Suspended cymbal, Tam-tam, Pow-wow drum ensemble, Native American Rattles, Shakers, Rainstick, Strings


Chief Pocatello of the Shoshone was understandably opposed to the growing influx of American emigrants into his tribe's ancestral territory during the middle of 19th century. He carried out raids against early settlers in an attempt to halt the confiscation of his tribe’s land. Eventually the U.S. Army intervened and Chief Pocatello was forced to concede defeat and move the Shoshone to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation at the request of the U.S. government. Surprisingly, at this point, the tribe is documented as helping the new immigrants across fords and finding lost cattle. Yet, the tribe continued to endure difficulty and suffering - the U.S. government rarely provided the $5000 in annual supplies it had promised. 

Given this background, I felt his peace theme needed to have a deep sense of sorrow intermixed with a dignified peacefulness. The war theme would bring out a stern fierceness. 

The source melodies come from an LP of actual Shoshone songs first released in 1954: Music of the American Indians - Great Basin: Paiute, Washo, Ute, Bannock, Shoshone from the Archive of Folk Culture, recorded and edited by Willard Rhodes (AFS L3S).

Here are liner notes for the Shoshone songs on the LP:

The Shoshone was the northernmost division of the Shoshonean family. They were horse and buffalo Indians and ranged far and wide over territory now incorporated in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Nevada. The life of the people was dependent on the land and varied accordingly. None of the southern bands were agriculturists and were dependent for food on fish, which they supplemented with rabbits, roots, nuts, and seeds. In the sagebrush country they lived in brush shelters, but in the north and east they used the tipi. 

The Washakie Shoshone were closely associated with the Bannock, and the two tribes were settled on the Fort Hall Reservation after 1868. Chief Washakie had his people aid immigrants across fords and help find their strayed cattle. He is reported to have received a testimonial to his kindness signed by nine thousand immigrants. 

The Shoshone developed a mild version of the Plains Sun Dance. 

Here are links to listen to the three Shoshone Sun Dance Songs included on this LP:

Sun Dance Song 1
Sun Dance Song 2
Sun Dance Song 3

And, the liner notes for the songs:

The first two songs, band B7, are prayer songs from a set of four, each of which is sung four 
times. They constitute an important part of the ceremony and contrast with the following song 
(B8), which is accompanied with drum and an eagle bone whistle and sung in the context of 
dancing. The women's voices sing the final phrase. 

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