As in many Native American communities, people on the San Carlos Apache reservation in southeastern Arizona have for centuries been exposed to contradictory pressures. One set of expectations is about
conversion and modernization—spiritual, linguistic, cultural, technological. Another is about steadfast perseverance in the face of this cultural onslaught. Within this contradictory context lies
the question of what validates a sense of Apache identity.
Samuels offers fresh ideas in a heart-felt writing style that should appeal to ethnographers, anthropologists, and anyone interested in the many functions music performs in human societies
—Journal of the West
This book fills a gap in the anthropology of contemporary music in Native North America
Samuels offers a nuanced account of the centrality of ambiguity to identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
—Western Historical Quarterly
—Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
For many people on the San Carlos reservation, both the traditional calls of the Mountain Spirits and the hard edge of a
country, rock, or reggae song can evoke the feeling of being Apache. Using insights gained from both linguistic and musical practices in the community—as well as from his own experience playing in
an Apache country band—David Samuels explores the complex expressive lives of these people to offer new ways of thinking about cultural identity. Samuels analyzes how people on the reservation make
productive use of popular culture forms to create and transform contemporary expressions of Apache cultural identity.
As Samuels learned, some popular songs—such as those by Bob
Marley—are reminiscent of history and bring about an alignment of past and present for the Apache listener. Thinking about Geronimo, for instance, might mean one thing, but "putting a song on top of
it" results in a richer meaning. He also proposes that the concept of the pun, as both a cultural practice and a means of analysis, helps us understand the ways in which San Carlos Apaches are able to
make cultural symbols point in multiple directions at once. Through these punning, layered expressions, people on the reservation express identities that resonate with the complicated social and
political history of the Apache community.
This richly detailed study challenges essentialist notions of Native American tribal and ethnic identity by revealing the turbulent complexity
of everyday life on the reservation. Samuels's work is a multifaceted exploration of the complexities of sound, of language, and of the process of constructing and articulating identity in the