Posted by RB on July 06, 1998 at 09:59:19: 

I have some questions about two types of songs which are typically sung at the opening of a northern style powwow; the Flag song and Victory song. I have noticed some drum groups lately that use a song originally composed as an honor song as a flag song. My questions are: Should Flag songs and Victory songs be composed as such and used only for that purpose? Who has the right to compose these songs? Arlie, this message is directed mainly to you but I would appreciate anyone else who would care to comment. 

Posted by Arlie Neskahi on July 08, 1998 at 09:41:42: 
In Reply to: Flag and Victory Songs posted by RB on July 06, 1998 at 09:59:19: 

Hey there Robert, Glad to see your post. 

     Well, the protocol is basically that any song originally composed as a flag song is used only for that purpose. And yes, I have seen some groups using an honor song as a flag song at times. If the honor song is appropriate, i.e., honors the traditions or people's history, then it will probably be seen as proper use. But family honor songs, or individual honor songs, are usually not a good idea. The lead singer takes the chance of getting a sound verbal lashing for using such a song inappropriately. 
     What may be happening is that the singers have not found a mentor from whom they can acquire these songs. It would be good for them to take tobacco to a singer they admire and who is knowledgeable and make a humble request for these songs. I remember I was about 18, when I made my first requests on behalf of my drum. I took tobacco to two singers from the Lakota Nation who were living in my area and asked them for some of these songs for our drum. The first was Tyrone Head and then later Howard Badhand a very well-known singer and composer. 
     As far as the Victory Songs, it has been pretty much established that a drum sing a veteran song at this time. "Veteran Songs" over the years have come to mean several types, for example; old songs about a tribe's or individual's war exploits in tribe to tribe battle--these are very rare and old songs and some are still sung today, songs about our battles with the U.S. calvary as in the Lakota Little Bighorn song, songs about Native soldiers in every U.S. war since WWI to modern times, warrior songs that contain words encouraging bravery and victory over the enemy, and such songs as 'horse stealing' songs that recall the days when young men would measure their prowess by how many they could steal from adversary tribes. There are many songs that are used as veteran songs that have no words but are established as such. The lead singer must know which of these songs belong to that category. 
     So, in answer to your question, Flag songs generally should be used only for that purpose and Victory Songs are usually veteran songs that are picked for the moment. I have not heard to this day of someone composing a Victory Song that is used only for that occasion, though one may exist. 
     As for who has the right to compose these, that varies from tribe to tribe. Some tribes only recognize the elder singers as proper composers of these songs. Nowadays, because so many young men and women have taken up the singing road, the singing world has been welcoming the "bringing out" of new songs in these categories. For example the "Soldier Boys" song by Blacklodge that has gained wide acceptance, though it was composed when they were still in their teenage years. 
     There is no firm protocol about who can compose these songs, as in, you have to be a vet to bring one out. Some have been composed by young persons, wives of singers, mothers and sisters of veterans, and fathers, brothers, and uncles of veterans. 
     Hope this helps, and if the any of these singers would like to discuss with me more by phone, they can call me here at Rainbow Walker... 

Arlie Neskahi 

Posted by RB on July 09, 1998 at 10:39:53: 
In Reply to: Re: Flag and Victory Songs posted by Arlie Neskahi on July 08, 1998 at 09:41:42: 

Thank you for your response. I really appreciate the fact that you take the time to answer questions in so much detail. I have to say that I greatly admire you knowledge and ability. I understand the value of this information and that these things are learned through a lifetime of experience. You mentioned the importance of a mentor. I agree with you and know that it is true. In my own experience, time and distance have made this a tough problem. But, I've been thinking about it a lot and I know I'll find a way. I'm sorry I missed you at Red Earth. I had planned to go but last minute things came up and it didn't work out. 

See ya...