Indigenous Music from Wounded Knee to the Billboard Charts

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This lesson on Indigenous music explores the following question: "In what ways did the music of Native Americans mark them as outsiders from the developing narratives of 'American-ness' in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and how did the federal government attempt to use music as a tool to force assimilation?"

In this lesson, students are introduced first to Pat Vegas and Redbone by way of interviews and music from RUMBLE, a critically-acclaimed documentary starring "the Indians who rocked the world". They then look back to the late 19th century to consider the significance of Redbone’s success. Students will use clips from the film, as well as a set of seven source documents to assess the U.S. government’s attempt to control Native American populations by way of culture, particularly music. The documents, which include letters, acts of Congress, testimony, and newspaper articles, introduce students to legislation and the Federal Indian Boarding School system from the perspectives of both government agents and Native Americans.

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Enjoy this Indigenous music resource?

Check out more free lesson plans and resources in Share My Lesson's Indigenous Peoples Collection or the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation partner page.