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Essential Song

Three Decades of Northern Cree Music

By Lynn Whidden
Subjects Music, Indigenous Studies
Series Indigenous Studies Hide Details
Hardcover : 9780889204591, 192 pages, May 2007
Paperback : 9781554586134, 192 pages, May 2017
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554588190, 192 pages, May 2017
Ebook (PDF) : 9781554581443, 192 pages, May 2017


Audio Files located on Soundcloud Essential Song: Three Decades of Northern Cree Music, a study of subarctic Cree hunting songs, is the first detailed ethnomusicology of the northern Cree of Quebec and Manitoba. The result of more than two decades spent in the North learning from the Cree, Lynn Whidden’s account discusses the tradition of the hunting songs, their meanings and origins, and their importance to the hunt. She also examines women’s songs, and traces the impact of social change—including the introduction of hymns, Gospel tunes, and country music—on the song traditions of these communities.
The book also explores the introduction of powwow song into the subarctic and the Crees struggle to maintain their Aboriginal heritage—to find a kind of song that, like the hunting songs, can serve as a spiritual guide and force.
Including profiles of the hunters and their songs and accompanied (online) by original audio tracks of more than fifty Cree hunting songs, Essential Song makes an important contribution to ethnomusicology, social history, and Aboriginal studies.


  • Short-listed, Margaret McWilliams Medal, Manitoba Historical Society 2007
  • Winner, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, Bronze Prize, Music Category 2007