Serrano and Cahuilla Dragonfly Song

Main Piece:

I: It’s called the Dragonfly Song, it’s like a lullaby kind of song– so you sing it, and like if your heart is good, and it’s like– you don’t have anger or resentment or like bad feelings, or revenge, or any of those things– but like basically if you have good intentions like a good heart and you sing it dragonflies will come to you and they’ll sit on you. And like it’s really neat to like see it happen, like– they’ll fly around you and then they’ll come fall on you. And, they’ve never like… landed on me because (indicates that she is referring to the good intentions) but like I’ve seen like them go to other people. And so it’s like a really neat– I think people do it with hummingbirds too, but like it’s– so, it’s a lullaby that repeats the 4 verses over again, but the lullaby verses are like “Ooshkana ooshkana oh oh, ooshkana oosh” (these lyrics are typed out phonetically). And it repeats in different variations four times and you have to sing it in verses of 4.


My informant is a good friend from high school. She is a part of the Cahuilla and Chippewa Indigenous Nations and explains that she learned this Dragonfly Song from a Serrano elder, though it was not the first time she had heard it. She believes that her mother might have sung this lullaby for her when she was a baby. She explains that her parents were actively involved in Indian Country, working with Native children in the community, and her father was the director of a foster care agency that was specifically for Native Youth but also worked with rehabilitating families. She says it was probably during one of their group sessions with the youth where Ernest Siva, the Serrano elder, was a guest and sang this song. This song is meaningful to her because of the symbolism of the dragonfly as a messenger from the spirit world.


This is a transcript of a conversation between my friend and me over the phone. I have talked to her a few times about my folklore class and explained the collection to her. She was happy to help and talk about some of her traditions.


My friend and I have talked often about our respective traditions with each other, but there are so many that we have not talked about in detail. This is the first time I learned about the Dragonfly Song and thought it was beautiful. She explained to me that in Cahuilla culture, the dragonfly is thought to be a messenger from the spirit world, and thus, is the connection of the physical world to the spirit world. The need of having a good heart and good intentions in order to attract dragonflies when singing this song illustrates how the spirit world is regarded in Cahuilla culture: healing and nourishing. Its purpose as a lullaby also indicates the importance of children and the youth, as being able to sing this song and attract dragonflies (proof of having a good heart and good intentions) to soothe a child transfers the positive energy and intentions to them.

For more on the Dragonfly Song, see:

Siva, Ernest. Voices of the Flute: Songs of three Southern California Indian Nations. Ushkana Press, 2004.