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Medicine Fiddle

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Medicine Fiddle

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Medicine Fiddle


This beautiful ethnographic film explores the music and dance heritage of the Fur Trade among Native and Métis families on both sides of the U.S. and Canadian border in the area of the northern Great Plains. The film features Michigan and Ontario Ojibwa, Wisconsin Menominee, Manitoba Metis, North Dakota Metis, and Ontario Ottawa fiddlers and dancers.

Fiddling and step (clog) dancing was introduced to Native peoples by French fur traders in the late 1600s and a century later by Irish, Scottish, and Scots-Irish trappers, lumberjacks, and homesteaders. Over the past two centuries, in the confines of family gatherings on remote reservations, this music has survived and has permeated the cultural memory of mixed-blood descendants. Some of the music and dance has absorbed a Native musical influence, and a Native spiritual culture sustains it.

Much of the dancing shown is free-form clogging but there are also fine examples of four-couple square dances. Above all, the viewer gains a deep sense of the way that music and dance is embedded in this culture.

Information about filmmaker Michael Loukinen can be found here.

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