Bird Song

Singing the Birds (Wikitmallem Tahxmuweh):

Bird Song & Dance Festival 

On Saturday, February 4, 2017, Agua Caliente Cultural Museum will present Singing the Birds (Wikitmallem Tahxmuweh): Bird Song & Dance Festival in Palm Springs High School gymnasium at 2401 East Baristo Road from Noon to 7:00 p.m. This free public event hosted by Michael Mirelez (Desert Cahuilla) celebrated traditional Native American bird singing and dancing.


Also, preceding the festival on the evening of Friday, February 3, the Museum will hold Bird Singing: Perspectives on Indian Social Song & Dance -- a panel discussion with distinguished bird singers and dancers. Panelists will discuss aspects of traditional bird singing and dancing past and present, traditional regalia, and what the future holds for this unique performance practice. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Auditorium of University of California, Riverside of the Palm Desert Campus. Admission is free.

The Bird Song & Dance Festival features honored bird singers and dancers from California and Arizona. It is estimated that 535 bird singers, dancers, and other guests attended last year's festival. Native food and craft vendors will be present, as well as Tribal representatives who will display educational resources and other information.  

The event will include a free-standing exhibition about the tradition of bird singing, with a special tribute to past Tribal elders who kept alive the tradition of bird singing by their teaching of bird songs to succeeding generations of Tribal members. This photographic display with accompanying text will be presented on a series of large vertical panels that highlight the rich cultural heritage of Cahuilla bird singing and dancing.

34Through the ages, bird singing and dancing have been an important part of Native culture for tribes in southern California and other regions of the Southwest. Birds inspired the Cahuilla people to migrate after the death of their creator, Mukat. They saw birds come and go throughout the seasons, and thought they must be going somewhere better. The people followed the birds but lost their way, not knowing where to find water or food. They were caught in snow storms and many people died before they made their way back home. Bird songs are social songs that tell stories about the lessons learned during this migration. A completely oral tradition, they were sung in a precise order that accurately accounted for the chronology of the migration, and depended on their transference from teacher to student. Men and women both participate in singing and dancing while accompanied by the metered beat of rattles.

For additional information, call 760-833-8174.