School of Music


Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology (MA)


John Benham


Monacan, music, communicative arts genre, Virginia Indians, Ethnomusicology


Anthropology | Music


This study considers the current communicative arts practices of the Monacan Indian Nation, an Indigenous Virginia tribe of approximately 2500 people located in Amherst County, Virginia. Historically the tribe was a large nation that extended from the falls of the James River near Richmond, Virginia to the Southwestern portions of the state near Roanoke and now the Monacan Indian Nation homeland is at Bear Mountain in Amherst County, Virginia. The study was conducted through interviews and observations at tribal events such as the annual Powwow and culture class, as well as consistent attendance and participation as a musician at St. Paul’s Episcopal Mission Church at Bear Mountain. Early Monacan music, dance, language, and traditional art forms were largely undocumented or lost, and this study examines how current Monacan ethnic identity is expressed over multiple generations showing continuity within these forms. The study includes concepts about Monacan identity through the lenses of multidisciplinary fields and incorporates a table comparing artistic communication genres, a model developed by Brian Schrag and Kathleen Van Buren (2018). This approach assisted in demonstrating an ethnomusicological approach to Monacan identity expression through the various communicative arts genres within the community.