December 22, 2006

Fort Mojave's patriotic band

A Sousa band of IndiansA century ago, dozens of Indian tribes nationwide had bands that played the music of John Philip Sousa and other patriotic anthems. The bands were an outgrowth of government-run boarding schools that sought, brutally at times, to erase Indian cultures, religions and languages in the name of assimilation. Only a few bands survive. The Fort Mojave tribe's is thought to be the oldest.

Through the decades, the band has weathered forces that killed others—poverty, an exodus of young people and opposition from Indians who saw marches as symbols of oppression, music to which their ancestors were slaughtered.

"A lot of tribes dropped their bands because they were symbols of the boarding school experience," said Melissa Nelson, an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University. "The Mojave made it their own music and it helped them survive.... It's an incredible story."
Comment:  See a video of the Fort Mojave band here.

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