The Musical Backdrop

By Jade Williams, features editor

For the United Houma Nation, music represents history. The songs of the tribe are about the lands and the waters. They are also about tribal leaders who were here long ago.

“Some of the songs we sing are about the culture and about some of the stuff my people went through,” says August Creppel, chief of the UHN. “Most of the songs we sing though are Native prayer songs.”

Some of the songs that the tribe sings are in English, Choctaw and some are in French. These songs are tribal songs that were passed down from elders.

According to an article Ten Native American Music Traditions, singing is popular in Native American cultures and is integral to the storytelling purpose of many Native American songs as well as helping preserve Native American languages.

Native American tribes all use the same instruments like drums, flutes, rattles and whistles, but the  construction and sounds of their instruments vary. The drum is the oldest instrument and is significant to Native American music.

“I use a hand drum, ” Creppel says. “We use big drums that we make out of different skins like elk skins  We use regular keyboards and things like that.”

Creppel says they play music with those instruments at ceremonies like weddings, before meetings and at powwows. He says that before the virus, there would be powwows held every March, but recently they had to shut all of that down.

Creppel says he and his wife would also travel all over the country and go to festivals and culture centers, but all of that is also shut down.

Outside of music being played at ceremonies, music has also had a huge impact on some of the tribal members when they were growing up.

Roxanna Foret from the tribal council says she remembers delivering food boxes to people during Christmas time where she could smell the food and hear swamp pop music playing from people’s homes.

“That for me, the old swamp pop music playing, just growing up, that is something that I remember a lot of like in a home like on Saturdays, just that type of music,” Foret says. “Or the French music. That’s something too on the radio. Like my grandpa, he would be up so early and the French music would be playing and there would be coffee brewing.”

Lanor Curole, another tribal member who grew up in Golden Meadow, says she remembers waiting for the bus in morning as a child where they would listen to the KLEB radio station’s French program.

“It was all French music and they only spoke French, and that French program would play every morning and they would do birthday wishes to people and it was so exciting if they wished you a happy birthday,” Curole says. “But that’s what we grew up hearing.”

Curole says their people were traditionally stomp dancers and that there is some very distinct music that goes along with the ceremony stomp dancing.

“Our people were traditionally stomp dancers and there are some very distinct music that goes along with the ceremony stomp dancing,” Curole says. 

“Our generation, that’s what we grew up listening to and hearing from our parents and grandparents.”
chief creppel on

hand drums

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