American Indian Music

Throughout the Americas music and dance have always been an essential part of the spiritual, cultural, and social lives of Native peoples. Native people have also been involved in various forms of popular music—from jazz and blues to folk, country, and rock.

Music Stories

Martha Redbone with drum Martha Redbone: “Drums”
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Quetzal Guerrero Quetzal Guerrero
National Museum of the American Indian
Stevie Salas  (Ann Johansson) The Pop Charts' Native Roots
Smithsonian Magazine

Collections Sampler

Circle of Dance

October 6, 2012–October 8, 2017
National Museum of the American Indian in New York


Consistent across time and cultures is the use of the body to communicate and express—to tell stories, participate in the cycles of nature, mourn, pray, and celebrate.

Visit the online exhibition.

Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture

August 4, 2012–August 11, 2013 
National Museum of the American Indian in New York

July 1, 2010–January 2, 2011
​National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Highlights Native people who have been active participants in contemporary music. Russell "Big Chief" Moore (Gila River Indian Community), Rita Coolidge (Cherokee), Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree), and the group Redbone are a just few of the Native performing artists who have had successful careers in popular music.

Visit the exhibition page for related content.