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The Power of Kiowa Song
A Collaborative Ethnography
By Luke E. Lassiter
266 pp. / 6.00 in x 9.00 in / 1998
Paper (978-0-8165-1835-7) [s]
Related Interest
  - Indigenous and Native American Studies
  - Anthropology

Many Kiowas believe that song is a gift from God. Its power, argues Luke E. Lassiter, rests in the many ways that community members hear, understand, and feel it: "Song has power. As I begin to
Some musicologists might say that although the book explains history, contexts, cultural dynamics, and the sociology of the Kiowa powwow event it does not include anything about the music. However, the book focuses on what really matters to the Kiowa about their music—the experience of powwow singing for individuals and the group. . . . This book is a valuable contribution to the understanding of music, and there is nothing quite like it.

—2000 Yearbook for Traditional Music

He reveals singing as a powerful, orienting practice that pervades Kiowa life. . . . His collaborative methodology and narrative style ensure this book's value to the academy, while also making it accessible to a popular audience.

—Religious Studies Review

His overall portrayal of day-to-day Kowa life, and the place of music in it, make his friends real to the reader, and their lives jump from the page in vivid detail.


understand what this means for my mentors, I am just beginning to understand what this means in my life. They are not just singers. They are vehicles for something greater than all of us. Indeed, I now understand that I am not just a singer. But . . . I will sing until I die." As a boy, Lassiter had an early fascination with pow wows. This interest eventually went from a hobby to a passion. As Lassiter made Kiowa friends who taught him to sing and traveled the pow wow circuit, serving many times as a head singer, he began to investigate and write about the pow wow as an experiential encounter with song. The Power of Kiowa Song shows how song is interpreted, created, and used by individuals, how it is negotiated through the context of an event, and how it emerges as a powerfully unique and specific public expression. The Power of Kiowa Song presents a collaborative, community-wide dialogue about the experience of song. Using conversations with Kiowa friends as a frame, Lassiter seeks to describe the entire experience of song rather than to analyze it solely from a distance. Lassiter's Kiowa consultants were extremely active in the writing of the book, re-explaining concepts that seemed difficult to grasp and discussing the organization and content of the work. In a text that is engaging and easily read, Lassiter has combined experiential narrative with ethnological theory to create a new form of collaborative ethnography that makes anthropology accessible to everyone. This book is designed for anyone interested in Native American studies or anthropology, and it also serves as a resource written by and for the Kiowa themselves.

Hear the Power of Kiowa Song

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