Indiana University Bloomington

Standing Rock Reservation. Kayla Gahagan for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Date Created - 20161004. Image Cropped. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Standing Rock Reservation. Kayla Gahagan for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 20161004. Image Cropped. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

March 21, 2018

The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, announced the 2017 additions to the National Recording Registry which includes a collection held at Indiana University's Archives of Traditional Music (ATM). A collection of 195 wax cylinder recordings made in 1928 at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Fort Yates, North Dakota, is one of 25 historically and culturally significant recordings added to the registry this year. Initiated in 2002, the Registry was one result of the creation by Congress of the National Recording Preservation Act. The purpose of the Act is to maintain and preserve sound recordings and collections of sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. With this year’s announcement, the total number of recordings on the registry list reaches 500 recordings. Other recordings on this year’s list include “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets, “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac, and “My Girl” by the Temptations.

The Standing Rock collection consists of recordings of songs sung by seven middle-aged and elderly men who lived in the Fort Yates area for most of their lives. The singers include Edward Afraid-of-Hawk (born c. 1874), Two Shields (born c. 1873), Joe No Heart (born c. 1846), Jerome Standing Soldier (born c. 1880), Has Tricks (born c. 1867), Fred Luis (born c. 1883), and Watċíbidiza (born c. 1853). The scholar George Herzog made an effort to record both old and new songs that the men knew and thus documented changes in expressive culture that happened after the Lakota were moved into the reservation system. Originally part of the Great Sioux Reservation established by the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868, the Standing Rock Reservation was created in 1889 when the US Congress reduced the Great Sioux Reservation and divided it into six separate smaller reservations. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council oversees the reservation and governs under the constitution they established in 1959. The Standing Rock Sioux Nation has been in a protracted dispute with the US Army Corps of Engineers over the Dakota Access oil pipeline which crosses Great Sioux Nation treaty land, sacred sites, and the reservation water supply.

The Lakota language heard on these recordings is today spoken fluently by only 5,000 people, making it a language that linguists consider endangered and at risk of extinction. Key dialects of Lakota and Dakota have much smaller numbers of fluent speakers. For example, there are no more than 50 fluent speakers of the Iháŋktȟuwaŋna (Upper Yanktonai) dialect. However, several organizations are active in Lakota language revitalization and some have argued that the number of Lakota speakers is increasing. Early recordings like those in the collection made by George Herzog are valuable to tribal members for both language and cultural revitalization efforts.

George Herzog

Hungarian-born scholar George Herzog (1901-1983) studied with some of the best scholars in his field, including the father of American Anthropology, Franz Boas, pioneering anthropologist Ruth Benedict, and the great American linguist, Edward Sapir. Herzog was considered by many who knew him to be a genius and his work blended the fields of anthropology, linguistics, folklore, and what today we would call ethnomusicology. Hired by Indiana University in 1948 as a professor of anthropology, Herzog brought with him thousands of field recordings which became the basis for what is now the Archives of Traditional Music. At the time the Standing Rock recordings were made in 1928, he was a recent émigré and a twenty-seven-year-old doctoral student at Columbia University working on his Ph.D. This particular research trip was sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History. Herzog subsequently worked with the native Yanktonai scholar and fellow Boas student, Ella Deloria, on the translation of the song texts. Herzog taught at Columbia and Yale between 1932 and 1948 and was the first person to teach comparative musicology in the United States. He was responsible for establishing the study of ethnomusicology at Indiana University through his courses in comparative musicology, folk music, and music-centered anthropology.

MDPI preservation engineer Melissa Widzinski demonstrates the cylinder transfer process to graduate assistants from the Archives of Traditional Music.

As part of a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities, in 2017 Indiana University digitized this collection of 195 cylinders directly from the source for the first time. In a partnership with Indiana University’s pioneering Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative (MDPI), the Archives of Traditional Music is working to digitally preserve and provide better access to the nearly 7,000 wax cylinders in the ATM’s holdings. Cylinders were the first viable recording technology and were quickly adopted by scholars wishing to document and study the sound of musical activity in ways they could not previously. The cylinders in the ATM’s collections are unique ethnographic records of music and language from all over the world, with the earliest dating from 1893 and the latest from 1938. Recordings of Native Americans make up more than half of the cylinder recordings and include over 170 different tribal groups, and the digital preservation of these recordings will facilitate improved access for tribal organizations and researchers. MDPI is a partnership between IU and Sony’s Memnon Archiving Services and it is the first (and only) university initiative in the United States committed to preserving media holdings on a massive scale. After several years of planning by library and preservation experts, IU President Michael McRobbie dedicated significant resources to digitizing 280,00 audio and video recordings by the year 2020. This past year, the digitization of 12,500 hours of film was added to the initiative. The media preservation work has expanded beyond the Bloomington campus to include preservation-worthy media on IU’s regional campuses as well.

The Archives of Traditional Music is one of the largest ethnographic media archives in the United States with over 100,000 field, broadcast, and commercial recordings in its holdings. The collections at the ATM are international in scope and are closely connected to the fields of ethnomusicology, folklore, anthropology, linguistics, and popular culture. Holdings at the ATM include, among many others, the Hoagy Carmichael collection, the earliest recordings made in China, and recordings of the first rock music festival held in Afghanistan. With the addition of the Standing Rock collection to the Registry this year, the ATM has the distinction of six unique recordings/collections from its holdings on the National Registry. Having long played a prominent role in national and international media preservation efforts, the ATM is proud to be a part of the US effort to highlight the critical need for the preservation of our diverse cultural legacy on sound recordings.

The catalog description for this collection can be found in the IUCAT library system. In addition to the original phonograph cylinders, the ATM holds fieldnotes and transcriptions by George Herzog, along with comments on the song text translations by Ella Deloria.


Sample 1: Song of the Spider in the story about Spider and the Ducks. Sung by Watċíbidiza (75 year old Yanktonai). 1928. United States, North Dakota, Fort Yates, Standing Rock Reservation (SCY 3244).


Sample 2: Song for the kaxómini dance, from the Crow. Sung by Edward Afraid of Hawk (age about 42). 1928. United States, North Dakota, Fort Yates, Standing Rock Reservation. (02:13).  This song was a new song for the Yanktonai at that time, coming from the Crow about three years prior. It was very popular at the time (SCY 3248).