For Native Americans, music and history are tightly interwoven – heritage is told and retold through oral traditions that link the generations and preserve culture and tradition. Bird singing and dancing have, in particular, been an important part of culture for tribes in Southern California for centuries and continue to be actively passed on. Bird songs tell stories about the lessons learned during the migration throughout the seasons – the origin, journey, and return home. This migration parallels the movement of people through territories and these stories intend to instruct, inspire, guide, preserve, and disseminate lifestyles and traditions.
Songs and stories were exchanged among groups and although the source of songs were acknowledged, practices were often shared, given to or adopted by others. The original bird songs are composed of an allegorical cycle of approximately 300 stories, sung in a precise order, begun at dusk and ending at dawn. These days, however, protocol is less strict in structure, and although high standards are maintained, the traditional way of performing bird songs and dance have been adapted to present day. Bird singing and dancing remains the centerpiece of most social and cultural events; men and women participate – singing and dancing respectively while accompanied by the metered beat of rattles. This tradition provides an important linkage between neighboring tribes and generations, and is the heart of a growing revitalization movement.