November 23, 2006

Bird songs of the first Californians

Tribes' origin talesIndians inhabited the lands here for thousands of years before European explorers and settlers showed up, and over the course of that time, they established their own histories. Stories of their origins were passed down orally from generation to generation, taking the form of long cycles of melodic chanting sometimes called bird songs--not because the songs are about birds, but because the movement of the Indians through their lands often corresponded to the migration of the birds.

Bird songs are typically performed at funerals and at one special ceremony during the year dedicated to the dead. Traditionally, it takes three nights for the entire cycle to be completed, telling the whole creation story.

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