Off-campus South Dakota State University users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your South Dakota State University ID and password.

Non-South Dakota State University users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis through interlibrary loan.

Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology

First Advisor

Donna J. Hess


The purpose of this research was to fill-in a gap within powwow literature: little has been written on one of the main ingredients, the drum singers. What is the significance of this role in the singer's life, and how does he adapt contemporary American life responsibilities with a traditional American Indian roles? In this exploratory study, twenty eight traditional powwow singers were interviewed during the powwow season, summer 1999, in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. A role theory perspective, especially focusing role making and role taking, provided the theoretical framework that guided this study. Qualitative methods were used in this study. In-depth interviews, observation and participant observation were used to gather data. The data revealed that the role of a traditional singer is complex, time consuming and without pay. Additionally, major findings showed that drum singers sing to enhance self esteem, and the role affects other family members, communities and tribes. The data show that the vast majority of these men are married, in stable homes with four children. Employment for this group mostly accommodates their role as singer. Tribal traditions are important to them and the continuation of tribal culture.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Drummers (Musicians)
Indians of North America -- Attitudes
Indians of North America -- Social life and customs
Social role




South Dakota State University