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Aboriginal Melodies: a Look into the Music of Those Who Came Before

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Social Studies +1 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

There were hundreds of different native communities, and with each, there was a distinct history, language, and musical culture. Musical culture played a vital role in the life of Native Americans. It was used for recreation, healing, expression, and ceremonial purposes.

Music was the foundation of Native American culture that worked its way into rituals, customs, and daily life. Much of the foundational personality and uniqueness of Native music that is known, originates from the instruments themselves, most notably, drums, rattles, and flutes/pipes.

Originating in the 1500's and ending in the 1700's Native Americans adopted and adapted many European instruments. However, before learning of the European instruments, the natives already had many of their own. Even though their instruments weren't as advanced as those of the Europeans, they had what they needed which were these beautiful percussive and woodland instruments. Still, when borrowing and adapting European instruments, the Native Americans managed to make these them their own by decorating them. 

Decorations would often have some sort of spiritual significance, or could oftentimes refer to sacred narratives. However, it is not only the decorations that tell stories. Usually, the names of the instruments themselves reflected some sort of symbolic significance. Also, some instruments are thought to be sentient and require special treatment. 

There are several techniques that are employed in making these instruments. One of the most abstract being the art that was often carved, painted or placed on these instruments. Some devices would take an hour or two to make and were able to be built by practically anyone in their tribe. However, some instruments were so complex that only certain tribe members could make them and it could take up to weeks to finish. 

Unlike the Europeans, instruments were much more than just instruments to the Native Americans, they were spiritual symbols and carried a lot of cultural significance for their individual tribes. 

Native Americans put a lot of work and effort into these devices, and even though they didn't have the modern tools and knowledge that we have today, they had what was necessary for their practices.