Frances Densmore (May 21, 1867 – June 5, 1957) was an American ethnographer and ethnomusicologist, both being divisions of study within anthropology. She was born in Red Wing, Minnesota, and specialized in Native American music and culture.
As a child Densmore developed an appreciation of music by listening to the nearby Dakota Indians. During the early part of the twentieth century, she worked as a music teacher with Native Americans nationwide, while also learning, recording, and transcribing their music, and documenting its use in their culture.
She helped preserve their culture in a time when white settlers were encouraging Native Americans to adopt Western customs.
Densmore began recording music officially for the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of American Ethnology (BAE) in 1907. Many of the recordings she made on behalf of the BAE now are held in the Library of Congress. While her original recordings often were on wax cylinders, many of them have been reproduced using other media and are included in other archives. The recordings may be accessed by researchers as well as tribal delegations.
Some of the tribes she worked with include the Chippewa, the Mandan, Hidatsa, the Sioux, the northern Pawnee of Oklahoma, the Papago of Arizona, Indians of Washington and British Columbia, Winnebago and Menominee of Wisconsin, Pueblo Indians of the southwest, the Seminoles of Florida, and even the Kuna Indians of Panama.
Densmore frequently was published in the journal American Anthropologist, contributing consistently throughout her career. She wrote "The Indians and Their Music" in 1926. She also was a part of "A Ventriloquy of Anthros" in the American Indian Quarterly along with James Owen Dorsey and Eugene Buechel.
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