This historic and highly celebrated event will commemorate and honor a growing music movement being lead by the country's First Americans.”

— Italian Voice

The Music Industry's Largest and Only Membership Based Organization for the advancement of Native American Music Initiatives & Expressions Around The World



“To me this is just a sign of the times, a sign of the acceptance of Native music out in the world like never before.
And this is just the beginning.” 

Robbie Robertson 
“We’re Still Here. We’ve Survived All This.” 

R. Carlos Nakai 
“I am here again because I was very moved last year.” 

John Densmore, The Doors 
“This is truly heart medicine” 

John Trudell 
“This is more important to me than being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."

Rickey Medlocke (Blackfoot/Lynyrd Skynyrd) 
“I just know Jim and my husband are just Tooty Fruity Stomp Dancing up in heaven because of this award.” 
Floy Pepper (Mother of the late Jim Pepper)



We celebrate our survival through music and dance. With the increasing popularity of today’s Native American music, The Native American Music Association is helping Native societies transform as our music provides a continuing capacity for community renewal and cultural enrichment.

#NAMA #NativeAmericanMusicAssociation

#20years #Nativemusic #NativeMusicAwards



The Native American Music Awards & Association (N.A.M.A.) celebrates the rich cultural heritage of our nation’s first people and promotes cultural preservation and renewal on a national level through new music initiatives. We aim to raise the awareness level and appreciation of Native American culture to the public at large, both nationally and internationally.

Our logo is a satellite picture of all of North America and the tip of South America, therefore we honor Native American artists from those territories. 
- The Native American Music Awards logo features a music note with an Eagle Feather as the cleff and Mother Earth's Turtle Island as the base of the note surrounded by the four directions.


N.A.M.A. began in 1998 as a grass roots initiative among music industry professionals and record labels and others to prove that there was a viable music industry. Members from those companies, their artists, various communities and tribal radio stations and media personnel served as our first Advisory Board membership. We launched our Awards show with their endorsements and 56 annual recordings.
Today we receive over 200 national recordings each year.

As the first of its kind, our awards ceremony was modeled from other local and national music awards shows. In fact we created the first written proposal for the Native category in the Grammys* and were invited to do so by its Vice President.  Our awards honors and pays tribute to Native American authored music which can range various genres.
Native American, American Indian and Canadian Aboriginal music is the original roots music of the  North Americas. Originally a traditional music which was an integral part of Native American life and tribal identity, Native American music has grown to encompass many contemporary genres such as; rock, pop, blues, hip hop, country, and new age as well as have created some unique genres that remain distinctly indigenous such as; Waila or Chicken scratch, and Native American church music.  All the music, whether lyrically or by genre, distinctively retains its cultural identity and offers cultural renewal. 

We are a music industry organization first and foremost and an all-volunteer organization. Our national and international membership and media coverage allows us to maintain a high level of credibility as a professional music industry organization.

Without NAMA there would be no recognition of Indian music initiatives on a national and professional level. The artists and their record companies enter their music recordings to receive greater exposure and awareness. After over a decade and a half, we have broken new ground with an ever expanding international audience.

This show was inspired by the Black Elk prophecy and a band from the Rosebud Reservation called 7th Generation. Its founder, Ellen Bello, was a mainstream music industry executive with over 20 years of experience and one who was previously involved with the MTV Music Video Awards, New York Music Awards, SPIN Magazine and more. Before NAMA was launched, it was merely an inside wish whispered on the reservation, became a vision, and then a realized dream. It embraced and required the support of music industry peers and Native community members who all gave it its blessings and approval and remain involved to date.


· Each year the annual Awards program features over one dozen mesmerizing and dynamic performances by some of today’s leading Native American artists along with 30 awards presentations including; Lifetime Achievement and Hall of Fame.
· The Awards show is an extraordinary and unprecedented celebration of today’s best contemporary and traditional music.
· The Awards program is an innovative, visually advanced production using prerecorded music of the nominees, voice over, live presentations and performances, and large screen imaging. This critically acclaimed Music Awards show and its high production values have been featured in Billboard Magazine, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, NY Times, Boston Globe, and CNN.


· The highly anticipated annual awards show program debuted in 1998 at Foxwoods in Connecticut and drew its first audience of 1500 people in the Northeast. It has since been held throughout the country in cities such as; Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Ft Lauderdale, and Buffalo and has drawn its largest audiences in the Southwest and most recently in the Northeast
· Based on ticket sales, an estimated 43 % of our audience travels from all across the country to attend our shows.
- The first annual awards show featured 56 national recordings with a mission and obligation to showcase and bring music from the reservations to larger audiences. Today, over 200 national recordings are submitted each year.


· The Awards show honors national recordings by Native American artists that have been released in the previous calendar year. Nominees are submitted and selected by our national Advisory membership consisting of individuals directly involved in recording, manufacturing, distributing and promoting Native American music nationally.
· Winners are selected by a combined vote by our national Advisory membership and the general public who can listen and vote to the tracks of our nominees on our website Native American Music Awards Inc.
- Our Annual Awards show event involves over 200 plus artists who submit recordings for nomination consideration.
- Over one million people from around the world will participate in our national voting ballot campaign by visiting our website where, both membership and the general public will listen to music tracks of our featured artists in over 30 categories and vote on their favorites.

Today, we are the World's Leading Resource for Contemporary and Traditional Native American Music Initiatives consisting of over 20,000 registered voting members and professionals in the  field of Native American music. We hold the largest Native American Music Library in the World with a national archive featuring a collection of over 10,000 audio and video recordings in all formats housed since 1990.

The Annual Native American Music Awards continues to proudly honor the outstanding musical achievements of Native American artists from across the country in over 30 Awards categories. Since our inception in 1998, NAMA continues to honor our songmakers, foster pride, provide national exposure and celebrate their gift of music with others around the world. 

It has been our personal and volunteer contributions, not to mention, our determination and dedication, that continually creates this magical evening of pride and musical excellence. 

None of this would be possible if not for our tireless volunteer staff, our national membership 
and the support of our sponsors. To all of you, we thank you.


*By request of the Grammys, we also assisted in the creation of a Native music Grammy category in 2000 (see Report below) which has now been merged with a Regional Roots music category.

January 2000


Ellen Bello, President & Executive Producer

Donald Kelly, Executive Director

Joseph Bello, Music Director

Robert Bello, Stage Manager

Kae Kotarski, PA, Talent Coordinator

Sharyn Fogelman, Talent Coordinator

Andy Anderson, Video Director

Robin Comey, Teleprompter, Assistant to Directors

Ed Koban Band, House Band, Assistant Music Director

Kim Acosta, Red Carpet Director, Photographer

Leon Thompson, PA

Cody Blackbird, Segment Producer

Keelynn Kelly, PA, Assistant to Director

Ilene Miklos, Travel & Accommodations Coordinator

Billie Artichoker, PA, Merchandise

Cassandra Artichoker, Award Presenter, PA

Shallon Bordeaux, Awards, PA

Butch Artichoker, PA, Spiritual Consultant

Janelle Boucher, Photographer

Rosemary Fernandez Armstrong, PA

Rob Armstrong, Photographer

Mike Mietlicki, Photographer

Brett Maybee, Voice of NAMA



“I would like to thank NAMA for putting on a great show this year. The performances were amazing, and the stage, lights and sound were outstanding. We watched as the NAMA and Seneca staff busted their backs to put everything together. The NAMMYS brings honor to native people everywhere. And hope to our children by providing an credible outlet for role models and recognition of native talent. Please accept my gratitude for the honor of Artist of the Year for my rock flute CD ‘The Looking Wolf Project’. Congratulations to all of the entrants, nominees, and winners this year. The Unity shared by all has deeply touched many hearts and provided inspiration for our next project which will reach out to native youth drug prevention programs through a new rock CD and music video.

Truly NAMA’s voice rings clear – WE ARE ALL RELATED!”
Jan Michael Looking Wolf
2009 Artist of the Year
Native American Music Awards

Chi miigwech for the opportunity and honor of participating in and being selected the "best traditional recording" in this years' Nammys. We were thrilled and humbled to have been chosen. Thank you so very much! Please let me know if there is anything we can do or need to do for the organization. It's our first award of such distinction. But we are very appreciative.
Chi Miigwech, miinwaa!
Lyz Jaakola & Oshkii Giizhik Singers

The midnite express singers would like to thank all our relatives friends and powwow families for all their support. Also special thanks to Bear Traks for making this album possible. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to be where were at today and we could not have done it without the guidence of our elders and teachers. We dedicate this award to the remembrance of our late brothers jerry dearly jr and randy tawawino.
Aho migwitch
Midnite Express

I want to pass along my thanks and congratulations to you and your staff for
a successful NAMA weekend. It was an honor to be involved and Shane was
thrilled to win an award.
Best Regards,
Louis O'Reilly
Manager for Shane Yellowbird

I was able to speak with Mario a couple hours ago and Sam late yesterday, regarding their trip to Niagara Falls for the NAMA event. Mario, Irma, Sam, Harry and Mike want to thank you for honoring Ritchie for HOF induction and allowing Mario's band to participate in this historic event. Irma was having such a great time at the show, she grabbed a nearby mike and sang, "La Bamba" as Backyard Blues Band jammed on stage. Mario, Irma, Sam, Harry and Mike said that NAMA organization is a class act and the event was spectacular. My regret was not being able to attend, due to business matters here in LA. The band and Irma would also like to thank Rosemary for her hospitality, friendship and were pleasantly surprised when she greeted everyone at the airport. We all agree that we have a new friend in you Ellen and are hopeful to be part of NAMA, down the road.
Our Best,
Brian J. Arra, Agent
Black River Entertainment

Thanks again for a memorable and exciting musical experience!! Just to be amongst so many talented Native artists was an honor in itself. To be among the winners of the night was a gift that we will never forget. Thank you very much.
Thanks for being so professional and easy to work with. Your correspondence throughout the nomination period was greatly appreciated as well. Have a nice day.
-Charly Lowry
Best Video

What a fantastic job you and Don did with the Nammys.
I have heard nothing but good things about the show.   Again, great job!
Jody Roberts
 Rep for Gil Birmingham


It was a great adventure and a fun weekend. It is a truly great event you have built. You and Rose are both like energizer bunnies, and there is a lot of positive energy and camaraderie surrounding the whole event. I can't even imagine trying to organize something of that size. 
Y'all are always welcome at our Backyard Blues campfire.
Love and Respect,
Backyard Blues Band
Ritchie Valens Tribute

We heard the news last night as we were traveling home from our concert. Paul and I want to thank you for this, it really means a lot to us and we felt bad that we couldn't be there in person. I'm sure all went well and that you had a successful night.
Group of the Year

Well you did a wonderful job. I have heard nothing but good things about the event from everyone.
Darryl Tonemah
Performer & Best Folk Nominee

Thank you all for your votes and appreciation of my music. It was such an honor for me to receive the "Best New Age" award for the "Deep Within" CD on Oct.3, 2009 @ the Native American Music Awards Ceremony in Niagara Falls. This was a wonderful time to become acquainted with other artists' work and to renew former connections with friends too.
Bless each of your lives with peace.. Sincerely,
Tony Redhouse.
Best New Age Recording

Hi its Jace Martin. I just wanna say how much fun I had performing at
this years Nama' was so great.
Jace Martin
Debut Artist Nominee & Ritchie Valens Tribute Performer

Congratulations on yet another successful Native American Music Awards
Show. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.
Ms. Bo Johnson, Producer & Host
KRFC, Fort Collins, CO


Words cannot express my gratitude and appreciation for the phenomenal show you put on this year. From the moment I arrived the warmth, care, support and welcoming spirit from everyone made me feel right at home. The music, the venue, the performers, and everyone involved in the show touched my heart and nourished my spirit. I am deeply honored to have been able to participate in the Native American Music Awards this year as a nominee and presenter. Winning the Nammy in the Native Heart category was a dream come true.
The whole experience was a great gift I will treasure the rest of my life.
Michael Brant DeMaria

On behalf of our performing artists; Michael Bucher and Wind Spirit Drum, we send a heartfelt thank you for all you do for Native American people, culture and music industry. It is a sincere honor to receive the awards.
With much respect,
Studio West Management

I want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to perform, most importantly all the other indigenious artists in our nation that are so talented. I was so proud to see such an array of talent in Indian Country. I also made some new friends and inspired in my own musical endeavors. It was a pleasure to work with the crew, meet everyone, and experience something new. I'm used to singing with pianos with no mics in auditoriums and the stage and monitors were a whole new experience for me.  Wonderful growing experience for me. I'm so used to performing here in Oneida that is nice to spread my wings and meet so many wonderful people during my travels. Again, thanks for the opportunity, sincerely appreciate it.
Jennifer M. Stevens
Soprano from Green Bay! :)


Arriving at this wonderland event is the start of a memory for a lifetime. It was almost dreaming -- here to rehearse and hob-nob with some of the big names in Native American music. There I was, a 76-year-old composer about to be on stage. As a representative of the Mohawk Community of Tyendinaga, I was greeted with traditional greeting words, embraces, and well-wishes. I began to walk proudly among the many Native Nations in attendance. There was so much absolute brotherhood at this event -- everyone happy to be a part of this historic happening. Soon other Mohawk were coming to me to greet me and to wish this "Ista" (aunt) the best. Astikyonke from Akwesasne greeted me and I him--"we are one people" he said to me. Later in the evening he was awarded his NAMY for-Best Folk Recording--and still he came to The soprano, JENNIFER M. STEVENS, an Oneida-Lakota from Green Bay Wisconsin sang and I accompanied her at the keyboard in the aria: "But, What of My People?" from my opera Molly of the Mohawks.(the opera was up for an award in the category: Best Historical CD). Her clear soprano voice soared and the words of the aria reached the audience -- the powerful message of the song -- "But What of My People?" Later that night and even the next day, so many people came to her and myself to praise the performance and the song's meaning -- The message had been delivered!!! A door opened and we knew that the Native world heard our call -- Molly had asked --"who hears our plea? and what of our people?" ---Here the NAMA was telling the world--music is the great healer. Tonight an Oneida and a Mohawk had delivered that message.

--Willow Wind (Augusta Cecconi-Bates) October 5th, 2009

Send Us Your Photos & Comments

"Music lies at the heart of Indian Country. From birth to death,
all of life's events and occasions are celebrated with Song."


Music In Native American Culture

Generalizations about the relationship between music and culture in Native American communities are gleaned from musical concepts and values, the structure of musical events, and the role of language in song texts. Musical concepts and values encompass ideas about the origins and sources of music, as well as musical ownership, creativity, transmission, and aesthetics. Each community’s musical concepts and values develop over time through complex social and cultural processes. These concepts and values reflect broader ways of thinking and therefore offer important insight into general patterns of culture. Native peoples differ in the degree to which they discuss musical concepts. But even for the peoples who do not verbalize musical ideas, underlying conceptual structures exist and may be perceived by observing musical practice. Despite the great diversity of American Indian peoples, general features of Native American musical concepts and values may be summarized.

Native Americans trace the ultimate origin of their traditional music to the time of creation, when specific songs or musical repertories were given to the first people by the Creator and by spirit beings in the mythic past. Sacred narratives describe the origins of specific musical instruments, songs, dances, and ceremonies. Some ritual repertories received at the time of creation are considered complete, so that by definition human beings cannot compose new music for them. But many occasions are suitable for new music; this music may be received in a variety of ways. For example, shamans and other individuals may experience dreams or visions in which spirit beings teach them new songs, dances, and rituals. (See alsoshamanism.) Many Indian communities learn new songs and repertories from their neighbours and have a long history of adopting musical practices from outsiders. Yet in every case, the music is a gift that comes from beyond the individual or community.

Some Native Americans consider songs to be property and have developed formal systems of musical ownership, inheritance, and performance rights. On the northwest coast of North America, the right to perform ancestral songs and dances is an inherited privilege, although the owner of a song can give it away. Peoples of northwestern Mexico believe that certain songs belong to the shaman who received them in a dream, but after his death those songs enter the community’s collective repertory. Other communities believe that specific pieces of music belong to an ensemble or to the entire community and should not be performed by outsiders without specific permission. Music has intrinsic value to individuals, ensembles, and communities, and performance rights are granted according to principles established by the group through long practice.

New music is provided each year for specific occasions in some communities. An individual may have a vision or dream in which he or she learns a new song; the song may be presented to the community or retained for personal use. More often, however, musical creativity is a collective process. For example, members of native Andean panpipe ensembles compose new pieces through a collaborative process that emphasizes participation and social cohesion. Certain musical genres, such as lullabies or songs for personal enjoyment, are improvised. Where new ceremonial songs are not composed because the repertories are considered complete, individual song leaders exercise musical creativity by improvising variations on traditional melodies or lyrics within accepted parameters. The creation and performance of music are dynamic processes.
Musical transmission involves the processes of teaching and learning that preserve songs and repertories from one generation to the next. Native Americans transmit music primarily through oral tradition. Some genres, such as social dance songs, are learned informally through imitation and participation. Other genres require more formal teaching methods. For example, the Suyá people of Brazil teach boys how to sing certain songs as part of their initiation; the boys learn and practice songs under adult supervision in a special forest camp a short distance from the village. Songs for curing rituals are often learned as part of a larger complex of knowledge requiring an apprenticeship; the student receives direct instruction from an experienced practitioner over the course of several years. Some communities have developed indigenous systems of music notation, but these are used by experienced singers as memory aids, not as teaching tools. In the 21st century, it is common for Native Americans to supplement oral tradition with the use of audio and video recordings for teaching, learning, and preserving traditional repertories.

Aesthetics, or perceptions of beauty, are among the most difficult concepts to identify in any musical culture. Native Americans tend to evaluate performances according to the feelings of connectedness they generate rather than according to specifically musical qualities. Some communities judge the success of a performance by how many people participate, because attendance demonstrates cultural vitality and active social networks. Where musical performance is meant to transcend the human realm, success is measured by apparent communication with spirit beings. Where music and dance represent a test of physical strength and mental stamina, success is appraised by the performer’s ability to complete the task with dignity and self-discipline, demonstrating commitment to family and community. Regardless of the specific criteria used to evaluate performance, musical designs that employ repetition, balance, and circularity are appreciated by American Indians because they resonate with social values that are deeply embedded in native cultures.

Musical events

Native American performances integrate music, dance, spirituality, and social communion in multilayered events. (See Native American dance for further discussion of dance and dance-centred events.) Several activities may take place simultaneously, and different musicians or ensembles sometimes perform unrelated genres in close proximity. Each performance occasion has its own musical styles and genres. Although the organization of Native American performances may seem informal to outside observers, in actuality each event requires extensive planning, and preparations may extend over months or even years. Preparations include musical composition, rehearsal, instrument making or repair, and the assembling of dance regalia. The hosts or sponsors of an event must prepare the dance ground, which symbolizes concepts of sacred geography and social order in its layout. The hosts also prepare and serve food to participants and guests, and they may distribute gifts to specific individuals. In addition, participants prepare themselves spiritually in a process that may involve fasting, prayers, and other methods of purification. Native American ceremonials may last several days, but the different musical components are interconnected in various ways.

The roles of musicians, dancers, and other participants in a Native American performance are often complex and may not be apparent to an outsider. Everyone who attends the performance will participate in some way, either through active involvement in music and dance or by witnessing the event. Performances may be specific to one community or may involve several communities or even different tribes and nations. In addition, unseen spirit beings are usually thought to take part. Lead singers and dancers may be political as well as spiritual leaders, who have an important voice in decision making and are influential in the community. Musicians performing in collective ceremonies do not expect to receive applause or verbal response from the audience; their role is to serve the community. Native men and women have complementary musical roles and responsibilities. Among native Andeans, men play instruments while women sing; in the Southeastern United States, men sing while women shake leg rattles. Some South American Indians hold separate events for men and women.

Humour is essential to many native ceremonial events. Some ceremonies include ritual clowns, with their own songs for entering and exiting the dance arena; their antics serve the dual purpose of keeping people lighthearted while reinforcing social values by demonstrating incorrect behaviour. Certain song genres may feature humorous lyrics that poke fun at people or describe comical situations.

Music and language


Traditional music plays an important role in perpetuating Native American languages, some of which are no longer spoken in daily life. American Indian song texts constitute a genre of poetry in terms of structure, style, and expression. Native Americans often perform songs as part of traditional storytelling; these songs may illuminate a character’s thoughts and feelings. Song texts may employ the traditional language, although words are modified by adding or eliding syllables to accommodate the music. Song texts usually refer to local flora and fauna, specific features of the landscape, natural resources such as water, or aspects of the community. Sometimes archaic words appear in ceremonial songs, and many communities use words or phrases from foreign languages; these practices tend to obscure the meaning of the text, distinguishing it from everyday language. In certain regions, Native Americans developed lingua francas in order to facilitate trade and social interaction; in these areas, song texts may feature words from a lingua franca. Many Native American songs employ vocables, syllables that do not have referential meaning. These may be used to frame words or may be inserted among them; in some cases, they constitute the entire song text. Vocables are a fixed part of a song and help define patterns of repetition and variation in the music; when used in collective dance songs, they create a sense of spirituality and social cohesion.

Native American Musical Styles And Genres

Aspects of style

The following discussion of styles and genres by region addresses a number of characteristics of music and how they are produced. It is possible to speak of musical regions because, although each Native American group has distinctive musical styles and genres, certain musical similarities exist between those who are roughly neighbours. However, musical boundaries continually shift and change as people from different cultures exchange musical ideas, repertories, and instruments.

Generally, in each regional category a description of the music encompasses vocal style, melody, rhythm, phrase structure, use of text, typical instruments, and occasions for music. Vocal style may be said to be tense (requiring greater muscular effort) or relaxed to varying degrees, depending on the use of the throat, tongue, mouth, and breath. Higher notes for a particular voice type often sound more tense than notes in the middle of a singer’s vocal range. The sound may be nasal or not. Men especially may use falsetto voice, for a higher timbre than is available using full voice. Vibrato is a rapid, slight variation in pitch that may be ornamental and is often part of the aesthetic of musical performance. When people sing together, they may perform the same melodies in very nearly the same way (blended unison) or without attempting to sing exactly together (unblended unison). Choral singing may also entail the simultaneous performance of separate musical lines (polyphony). Scales may be described by the number of discrete pitches used, as well as by the intervals between those pitches. Melodies form contours as they move higher or lower in pitch, proceeding by relatively large or small intervals. Rhythm encompasses the underlying musical pulses and how they are organized (i.e., metre)—often into groups of two or three (i.e., duple or triple metre)—as well as how the melody relates to that structure with its varying durations of notes and syncopations that contradict the regularity of the beats. Melodic and rhythmic units organize into larger phrases and then into phrase patterns that involve repetition, variation, and contrast. Meaningful text and vocables may be sung in varying combinations.

Each region uses characteristic musical instruments, sometimes without voices, and each uses music in identifiable ways—e.g., private and public, social and ritual, or as pure song and as accompaniment to dance.

North America

North American Indians (i.e., those in present-day Canada and the United States) emphasize singing, accompanied by percussion instruments such as rattles or drums, rather than purely instrumental music. North American musical genres include lullabies, songs given to individuals by their guardian spirits, curing songs, songs performed during stories, songs to accompany games, ceremonial and social dance songs, and songs to accompany work or daily activities. Music, dance, and spirituality are tightly interwoven in a worldview that perceives little separation between sacred and secular. Six musical style areas—which differ somewhat from anthropologists’ designations—exist in Native North America: Eastern Woodlands (including Northeast and Southeast Indians), PlainsGreat BasinSouthwestNorthwest Coast, and Arctic.


  • MORE ABOUT Native American music

    Disclaimer: Reference herein to any specific products, process, or service, does not necessarily constitute or imply our endorsement, recommendation. The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein are expressly those of the administration and membership of the Native American Music Awards & Association, Inc.

    google-site-verification: googled00cd634b8c67155.html
    All Rights Reserved

    Copyright Native American Music Awards Inc

    The Native American Music Awards is a registered trademark. In the United States trademarks are protected by both Federal statute under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1051 - 1127, and states' statutory and/or common laws.