The Original Locals

Native American Music Fest Celebrates First Peoples’ Music

by Hudson Hornick

Oftentimes we forget what it means to say we’re “local.” Sure,
we’ve got our claims to this neighborhood, that bar, or some surf
break, but fundamentally we’re all transplants from somewhere. And
while we see many a rock band claiming to be homegrown, it’s rare
that we’re presented with a chance to see the original locals play
their traditional music.

Well, the Santa Ynez band of Chumash Indians seek to change
that, so they’re sponsoring an event this Sunday, July 16, in the
Fleischmann Auditorium at the Santa Barbara Natural History museum
to remind us what the first American musicians sound like. Spawned
from a desire to remind humans of their interconnectivity with
nature, the Chumash have booked more than 15 different Native
American performers of music, dancing, and the like to celebrate
what they’re calling The Three Levels of the World: Sky Eagle,
Coyote, and Lizard
. Moderating them all will be Chumash
storyteller Alan Salazar, who will help narrate us through this
musical journey with stories and anecdotes from the peoples who
first called Santa Barbara home.

One of the featured performers is Bill Neal, a k a Elkwhistle, a
Cherokee who plays the plains-style cedar flutes of the Lakota,
Kiowa, and Comanche Nations and the river-cane flute of the Choctaw
and Cherokee lands. Elkwhistle performs more than 300 times per
year at various powwows, schools, libraries, and special events of
all types. For his rich, soulful flute, he was recently honored
with the name Mah-na-che-a-shun, which means “He Sings with His
Heart” in the Tongva language.

Another regular on the powwow circuit making a stop up at the
museum are the Wild Horse Singers, a multi-generational big-drum
group that claims Saskatchewan as home. Their 2001 album Let It
 — full of their heavy bass percussion and melodic
baritone voices — was nominated for a Canadian Aboriginal Music
Award. Like Elkwhistle, their expertise is in the music of the
Great Plains.

Also playing on Sunday is Carlos Reynosa, whose album For
the People
was nominated for best Native American album for
2005 after hitting Billboard’s Top 10 for new age music. Known for
his contemporary flute music, Reynosa is also adept at vocals and
the guitar. Employing long, dramatic pauses amid his instrumentals,
Reynosa provides a soothing sense of space, perfect for the
museum’s oak tree-lined setting.

But like music, dance is an integral part of Native American
life, too. The Hale family, under the direction of Benjamin Hale,
is slated to perform as the Eagle Spirit Dancers. Representing the
Southwest, Northwest, and Great Plains areas of the United States,
the dancing group interprets distinct cultures through dance, but
they also utilize storytelling and song. The Hale family will do
its best to show what many heritages looked like before the
intrusion of Columbus and the ensuing 500 years of injustice. Not
many of us have a chance to get in touch with our roots. America
has always been known as a melting pot and because of it we all
hail from varying backgrounds. But we come from somewhere, our
people are somewhere, and for those of us “locals” who claim this
area as sacred, let’s remember that original inhabitants thought so
first. Now we get a chance to not only be a part of that culture,
but to support it as well. Come support the music of the land we
all love so much and remind yourself that you’re not just part of
the City of Santa Barbara, you’re also part of the Santa Barbara
land too.

4-1-1 The Three Levels of the World: Sky
Eagle, Coyote, and Lizard
is an afternoon of Native American
music that happens this Sunday, July 16, at 2 p.m. in the
Fleischmann Auditorium at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural
History. Call 682-4711 or see for more


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