|Posted by J.A. on
March 01, 1998 at 14:02:16:
Hi, I'm always wondered what the term "porcupine" and "49" mean in Native music. Thanks.
Posted by Arlie Neskahi
on March 03, 1998 at 02:50:02:
I believe you are talking about the Porcupine Singers from Porcupine, SD. They were one of the very influential drums of the 60's and seventy's. It is common for singers to have drum names from the communities to which they belong. They have composed many songs over the years and you may have heard someone refer to a song as a Porcupine song.
As for the "49", it is a term to describe a late-night gathering, usually after a powwow, where the men and women get together and sing love songs. These are songs with or without words, many with english lyrics. They are a form of "Native Blues", in that they speak of longing, heartbreak, lovesickness and a lover's betrayal. They are fun to sing and the men try to compose songs that will catch a lady's ear and make her smile.
There are many stories of the origin... I was told that it was common for the men and women to gather on the eve of war to be together, maybe one last time... One story is that the term "49" came from a war party of 50 who left camp and only 49 returned...
I was told by an elder from the Shoshone Bannock tribe that the forty-nine is a goodbye tradition for warriors, and that one should not stay out too late... He had witnessed many fights and other trouble around these gatherings, which usually includes alcohol, and he said "these young people do not realize what they are playing with when they do this." These fights and violence are the result, he said, of the warrior spirit coming upon them and creating havoc. So, there is the fun party side of the 49 where guys and girls are out to "snag". And the serious side which is in respect to the warrior traditions...
There are many singers,
especially from the southern singing tradition who will only sing these
songs in a respectful atmosphere in deference to what they were taught
about the connection to the warrior ways. And there are others who sing
them just to enjoy the music and get a pretty girl to smile and maybe even
take a late night walk... Here is one of the lyrics from one of my "49"
The last time, you held me in your arms, far away.