“A Native American music revival has been taking shape, with releases, sales and airplay increasing substantially... and the New York-based Native American Music Association have lobbied the recording academy for a Native American category since the mid-1990s. ”
— Knight Ridder Newspapers
AWARD WINNING BLUES PLAYER SKYLAR WOLF WALKS ON
In a week already pummeled by profound losses, the Native American Music Awards sadly shares the news of the sudden passing of Award winner Skylar Wolf. Accomplished Rock and Blues musician, slide guitarist and harmonica player, Skylar Wolf, Navajo, won Best Debut Artist at the Eleventh Annual Native American Music Awards in his original hometown of Niagara Falls, New York. He was born & raised in Huerfano, New Mexico, had also lived in Los Angeles, and at the time of his passing was reportedly living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
At the Eleventh Annual Awards ceremony, Skylar won Best Debut Artist for his debut recording entitled, “Devil’s Son”. He gave a mesmerizing solo performance playing both steel and acoustic guitar at the Awards ceremony. He then gave a dueling performance with classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala. “It was great to collaborate with Skylar during that one performance. We broke stereotypes that night as Indigenous artists” Ayala recollected. “He was a very talented artist and I”m truly disappointed that we never crossed paths again.”
“He had the power and roar of a musical freight train” recalls Native American Music Awards President Ellen Bello. “His talent and intensity were undeniable.” Skylar was personally committed to helping the less fortunate especially children and teens. During the holiday season he would hold toy fundraisers and give free concerts to benefit children and children’s hospitals. His message was always one of hope and redemption. “A life free from addiction and suffering is a life of beauty and harmony” Skylar was once quoted as saying. May Skylar continue to walk in beauty and harmony among his ancestors. The Native American Music Awards extends their deepest condolences and sorrow to the friends and family of Skylar Wolf.
AWARD WINNING FLUTE PLAYER AND HOOP DANCER
KEVIN LOCKE JOURNEYS ON
The Native American Music Awards regrets to inform our members of the passing of two time award winner, Kevin Locke. A world famous Hoop Dancer and preeminent player of the Northern Plains flute, Kevin was also a traditional storyteller, cultural ambassador, recording artist and educator. He was 68 years old. Of Lakota and Anishnabe heritage, Kevin's Lakota name was, “Tokaheya Inajin” which means “First to Rise”. Born in Southern California, Kevin moved north with his family at the age of five and later settled in South Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation. It was from his mother, Patricia Locke, his uncle Abraham End-of-Horn, mentor Joe Rock Boy, and many other elders and relatives that Kevin received training in the values, traditions and language of his Lakota Sioux culture which he shared with the world. For 40 years, he performed live to hundreds of thousands of people in over 90 countries at various performing art centers, festivals, universities, national parks, powwows and concerts.
His special joy was working with children on the reservations to ensure the survival and growth of indigenous culture. His goal was to empower today’s youth in culture and “raise awareness of the Oneness we share as human beings.” His belief in the unity of humankind was dramatically expressed in his traditional Hoop Dance which illustrated “the roles and responsibilities that all human beings have within the hoops (circles) of life”. “Through my music and dance, I want to create a positive awareness of the Oneness of humanity,” he reflected.
Since 1982, Kevin has recorded twelve albums of both music and story-telling, including; “Earth Gift” which was awarded Record of the Year in 2009 and “The First Flute” which was won Best Traditional Recording” in 2000 by the Native American Music Awards. “Earth Gift” was a breakthrough recording and produced by two-time Grammy winner Tom Wasinger. It featured traditional Lakota songs played on flute by Kevin and arranged in a vibrant contemporary world music setting. “First Flute” was recorded outdoors at Sitting Bull’s camp on Standing Rock Lakota Reservation. The album has been described as “the ultimate presentation of American Indian flute, heard as it first was among the birds, wind, and waters of the Dakotas.”
Kevin’s live performances usually consisted of flute playing and singing Lakota songs, as well as demonstrations of the Sioux hoop dance, using 28 wooden hoops. Of his performances, Locke has said "I see myself strictly as a preservationist. I base my repertoire on the old songs. I try to show younger people what was there, and maybe some of the younger people will pick up from there and compose new music."
Locke served as cultural ambassador for the United States Information Service since 1980, was a delegate to the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil and was a featured performer and speaker at the 1996 United Nations Habitat II Conference in Turkey. In 1990, he won a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest award granted to such traditional artists. In 2009, he won the $100,000 Bush Foundation Enduring Vision Award. Only three weeks ago, Locke performed at Marian Auditorium on the campus of Mount Marty University in Yankton, South Dakota.
On his passing, flute player and hoop dancer, Tony Duncan commented, “The world will not see his likes again. Be with your ancestors now." John Two Hawks said, “Kevin Locke was an icon in the Native American flute world, and was one of the earliest players to introduce the instrument to non Native society. Kevin was also a prolific hoop dancer, who shared lessons of history, culture and healing wherever he went.” Singer/songwriter and flute player Cody Blackbird gave Locke credit for his own artistry and one of his great influences on why he performs and records today. “He’s a huge piece of all of this for me. What he did for our communities, our language and our culture, well, that’s a whole other story,” Blackbird stated. “He had a simple humility and love for the people.” Cody Blackbird will be leading a tribute for Kevin Locke at this year’s Native American Music Awards on November 19th in Niagara Falls, NY.
Kevin Locke was undoubtedly one of the greatest flutists, hoop dancers and teachers the world had ever seen. He will be greatly missed. The Native American Music Awards would like to extend their deepest condolences and sorrow to his family.
Award Winning Musician and Visionary Founder of Eagle & Hawk and Indian City Vince Fontaine, Journeys On
Musician, composer, and producer, Vince Fontaine died suddenly this week of a heart attack. Seemingly vibrant and healthy, Fontaine was last publicly seen performing live in a video of the song, “Star People” for a friend just one day prior to his death. His passing has left the North American Native American music community in shock. The visionary co-founder of Eagle & Hawk and the folk-rock group Indian City. died this week after suffering a heart attack, confirmed Jay Bodner, his bandmate of 25 years. Fontaine was 60 years of age. On Sunday, January 16th, a celebration of life ceremony was held in his honor in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with performances by the Walking Wolf Singers and some of Vince’s vast musical family. “Vince was an incredibly talented and highly influential musician and a kind person who befriended many. Our entire North American Music Community is greatly impacted by this loss,” stated Ellen Bello, Native American Music Awards President and Founder. Fontaine’s lifelong career is celebrated with accolades of awards and recognition. Fontaine founded two multiple award-winning bands; Eagle & Hawk, and a second collective group, Indian City. He was awarded a total of four Native American Music Awards; two for Best Rock Recording with Eagle and Hawk in 2006 and again in 2009; and with Indian City for Best Instrumental Recording (2011); and Best Music Video Performance (2018). To date, Eagle & Hawk has received a total of 75 nominations and over 30 wins at other awards ceremonies including a prestigious Canadian Juno Award. In 1994, guitar player Vince Fontaine, teamed up with Winnipeg’s Troy Westwood, to form the basis of what would become one of the most celebrated and internationally recognizedIndigenous-rooted rock band, Eagle & Hawk. Their debut album, The Dream, was released in 1997. However, Westwood left the band as he was unable to balance the band's touring commitments against his work as a football player for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was replaced by Jay Bodner who would remain the band's frontman and lead singer for the rest of the band’s career. Other musicians associated with the band have included; keyboardists Gerry Atwell, Jaylene Johnson, Will Bonness, and Rena Semenko; bassists Randy Booth, Jeff Monkman, Clint Adams, Lawrence "Spatch" Mulhall, D.J. St. Germain, and Tik Mason; and drummers Mike Bruyere, Brent Fitz, Steve Broadhurst, Kevin Radomsky, Marty Chapman, and Rich Reid. Eagle & Hawk has released multiple albums in the U.S. and Canada; including their debut album, The Dream (1997), Indian City (1999), Eagle & Hawk (2000), Mother Earth (2004), Life Is... (2005), Sirensong (2008), 20 Years Best of (2018), Liberty (2019), Sundancer 21 (2020) and most recently, Code Red, which was released just this past October. Eagle & Hawk have toured Europe and played some of the largest stages in North America including Capital Hill and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Vince Fontaine also used his many years of entertainment industry experience to become Festival Manager for the 2002 North American Indigenous Games Opening Ceremonies in Winnipeg and the Symphony Orchestra's Indigenous Festival. In 2011, Fontaine released his first solo effort entitled, Songs for Turtle Island, a record exploring Indigenous stories and themes alongside a fusion of Indigenous, contemporary and classical instrumentation. Continuing his own development as an artist, Vince Fontaine’s Indian City, featured new sounds, and incorporated elements of contemporary pop, rock and electronic music alongside traditional Indigenous themes. He collaborated with other artists including; Don Amero, William Prince, Pamela Davis, and Neewa Mason for his collective project. Their 2012 album, entitled, Supernation, fused traditional aboriginal music with experimentally tinged folk rock. The album earned a Native American Music Award for Best Instrumental Album. Indian City’s third album, Here & Now, was released in 2017 and the song from the album, “Through the Flood” won Best Music Video Performance from the Native American Music Awards. Later that year, Fontaine celebrated a licensing deal with APTN, Showtime and Sony Music. Vince Fontaine was a known champion of indigenous music and an avid supporter of other artists in Winnipeg, Manitoba and beyond. Fontaine’s drive was propelled by his passion for sharing the beauty of Canada’s Indigenous culture. Always with intent, his songwriting carried Indigenous stories, imagery and spirituality and connected traditional ideals with audiences of today. In addition to his musical presence, he has been recognized as a supportive community leader. Fontaine was also a regular in the annual JUNO Cup where NHL greats and Canadian musicians face off in a fun, competitive, non-contact hockey game in support of the music education charity, MusiCounts. But he will be most known as an Anishinaabe man and a member of Sagkeeng First Nation who loved his culture, his people, his family and his fellow musicians with strong traditional values of: honesty, love, courage, truth, wisdom, humility and respect. "It turns out the things that are important are still the same," Fontaine recently said. "Life will carry on. Vince's love for music was only outshone by his love and devotion to his family, friends, and community. Vince was predeceased by his father Henry (Manish); his sisters, Sharon, Shirley, and MaryCarole; and nephew Chauncey. Vince will be incredibly missed and his memory held dearly by his mother Nora (Nan); his wife and partner of 36 years, Dodi; his children, Aleah, Gabrielle, Joe; his brother, Larry; his nieces and nephews, Nahanni, Tonya, Talia, Shauna, Naomi, Robert, Justin, Zeb, Zal, and Zoe; his siblings-in-law, Steve and Nancy, Faith and Randall, and all of the Bell family.
COUNTRY SINGER/SONGWRITER SHANE YELLOWBIRD GONE AT 42
Award winning Country Singer/Songwriter, Shane Yellowbird, has died at the young age of 42. He was a two-time Native American music award winner for Best Country Recording. In 2011, he won for his debut recording, “Life Is Calling My Name” and in 2012, he won for his second album, “It’s About Time”. His music video entitled, “Barefeet On The Blacktop” was also nominated for Best Music Video in 2009. He performed live at the 11th Annual Native American Music Awards hosted by actor Gil Birmingham.
Shane Yellowbird (Cree) was born on July 7, 1979 in Hobbema, Alberta Canada. To overcome his stuttering problem, Shane was encouraged to sing in sentences. His talent and vocal art soon launched a musical career. Louis O'Reilly, of O’Reilly International became his manager and signed Shane to his record label in 2003.
"He had a tremendous voice and a tremendous charisma, and kind of a shyness and an 'aww shucks' bashfulness that people saw in him and gravitated to him for that reason," O'Reilly said. O'Reilly learned of Yellowbird's death Tuesday morning. The manager knew his former artist had epilepsy and sometimes suffered seizures, but he did not know how Yellowbird died. Tributes have been posted on social media since news of Yellowbird's passing.
In addition to his Native American Music Awards, Yellowbird won the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Rising Star Award in 2007, and that same year he was nominated for a total of five awards. He was also nominated for a Juno in 2008 and would win three more CCMAs in his career. In Canada, Shane was best known for his song "Pickup Truck", which made him an immediate Canadian star. He was named Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year at the Aboriginal People's Choice Music Awards and had one of the 10 most played country music songs of the year.
No official word has been released as to the cause of his death. The Native American Music Awards & Association extends our prayers and condolences to his fiance, family and fans.
THE MOST HONORED AND CELEBRATED MUSIC MATRIARCH
JOANNE SHENANDOAH JOURNEYS ON
Native America’s Musical Matriarch And Peace Maker Dies
It is with deep sorrow and profound sadness that the Native American Music Awards & Association (NAMA) share in the outpouring of grief of our beloved friend, Lifetime Achievement honoree, and 14 time Award winner, Joanne Shenandoah, following the announcement of her passing.
On Monday, November 22nd approaching midnight EST, Joanne Shenandaoh died at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona following complications of abdominal bleeding and suffering a cardiac arrest. She was surrounded by her husband, Doug George-Kanentiio and daughter Leah.
A member of the Wolf Clan of the Oneida Nation, of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, Joanne Shenandoah was the most critically acclaimed and honored Native American singer since her debut recording in 1989 with, Joanne Shenandoah. She went on to record a total of 15 albums with numerous more collaborations. She has won a multitude of awards, including 14 Native American Music Awards, the most ever awarded to a singular artist, and a GRAMMY for her contribution on Sacred Ground: A Tribute to Mother Earth. She has earned two Grammy nominations for her albums, “Covenant” and “Peacemaker’s Journey”, an Emmy nomination for the PBS special “Native America,” was inducted into the Syracuse Area Hall of Fame, and received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Syracuse University in 2002. She was also an original board member of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge, which operates in partnership with Syracuse University.
Just this year, Joanne released her last full length recording entitled, Oh Shenandoah available on Amazon.com. The 12 track recording features a collection of country infused songs along with a poignant dedication to Missing Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), “Missing You.” Joanne, with her daughter Leah and sister Diane, delivered an emotive and moving live performance with “Missing You”, at her final appearance at the 19th Annual Native American Music Awards. As the Awards most decorated and honored artist with 14 Native American Music Awards, Joanne’s accolades include: Best Children’s Recording, Best Traditional Recording, Best Music Video, Best Producer, as well as multiple awards for; Best Female Artist, New Age Recording, Best Compilation, Artist of the Year, Best Compilation. She also sang backing vocals on a new song by singer/songwriter Jimmy Lee Young called, “Precious Light.”
Over her five decade plus career, whether performing solo or with her musical trio featuring her daughter Leah and sister Diane, Joanne has graced the stages at; The White House, Carnegie Hall, Presidential Inaugurations, Madison Square Garden, The Smithsonian, Woodstock ’94 and participated in the celebration of the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Roman Catholic Native American saint in Rome, Italy. As a humanitarian and peace advocate, Joanne met and performed for such noted leaders such as his Holiness the Dali Lama, and Nelson Mandela.
Joanne’s beautiful embellishing voice, strong Iroquois traditions, unequivocal elegance and courteous grace made her a prominent role model and highly respected musical Matriarch among Native American communities as well as the mainstream music community at large. She sang with deep roots from her ancestors and flawlessly incorporated her oral traditions into contemporary Folk, Country and Americana formats. She captured the hearts of audiences all over the world and always took time to encourage and inspire younger musicians in her travels. She made an incredible impact on this earth and has paved paths for so many. The Native American Music Awards will continue to best ensure and preserve her legacy. She will be greatly missed.
She is predeceased by her parents Clan Mother Maisie Shenandoah, Father Onondaga Cheif Clifford Shenandoah, predeceased by one brother Gerald Schenandoah, survived by her daughter Leah Shenandoah, grandson Ryder Shenandoah, husband Doug George, four sisters Wanda Wood, Diane Schenandoah, Victoria Schenandoah and Danielle Schenandoah and numerous nieces and nephews. Our sincerest condolences to her family.
Visit our photo gallery of Joanne's life in pictures at: https://nativeamericanmusicawards.com/galleries/896190/in-loving-memory-of-joanne-shenandoah-1958-2021
His last post stated....
TAKE THIS SERIOUS. DON’T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED. LET’ US ALL PRAY TONIGHT - Fred Kaydahzinne
Fred Kaydahzinne was a full blooded Mescalero Apache composer, singer and storyteller who resided on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Fred along with his son Bo Kaydahzinne and Sherman Blake are all descendants of the Great Apache Chief Cochise. Fred was an Apache Medicine Man known for his traditional songs. His medicine songs were popular on the Mescalero reservation and in Indian Country. Many of Fred's songs have been passed down through the generations from the great Apache warriors Geronimo, Cochise and Naiche. They have never been recorded before. Fred Kaydhzinne was also featured in the NAMA award-winning documentary special entitled, Homeland Nation hosted by Rickey Medlocke (Blackfoot and Lynyrd Skynyrd) and also featuring Houston Geronimo among others .
Apache Actor Jay Tavare who appeared in Street Fighter, Into The West, and CSI Miami said, “ The Apache Nation lost a priceless gem today.... his Medicine songs were in demand on the Mescalero reservation and Indian Country for feasts almost daily. Freddie was an artist, singer and musician, a historian of his culture and a great husband and father. My deepest Condolences to Bo, his son and wife, Edith Kaydahzinne and all his immediate family. I share your pain. You are all in my prayers”.
On November 9th, Fred Kaydahzinne’s last social media post asked everyone to pray to fight COVID. He stated: “My Dear Tribal Members:. This virus is hitting us hard. We lost some people. I am asking each family to be in prayer tonight. Get together with your family and let them know we are losing our people, some are struggling and fighting for their lives in different hospitals. The virus has hit my home. I am praying. We also lost Harlyn Geronimo. I lost an aunt (Beverly). Take this serious, don't take it for granted. Let's us all pray tonight. Please share,”
We express our sincerest condolences to Fred’s family and pray as he journeys on. In honor of the late Fred Kaydahzinne, we urge everyone to heed his last words. Please pray for him and all those fighting COVID.
Maestro Xavier Quijas Yxayotl Walks On
Xavier Quijas Yxayotl, the world’s preeminent indigenous composer and musician of prehispanic Aztec & Mayan music, has passed away due to complications from surgery. Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico and of Huichol heritage, Xavier’s indigenous name, pronounced (e-shy-oat) ‘Yxayotl’ is Nahuatl for ‘tears’.
Xavier Quijas Yxayotl moved to the mountains of Jalisco and Nayarit, Mexico to live with his Huichol relatives and the Tepehuane people in the 70’s. There, he studied and learned to play pre-Columbian instruments while participating in ceremonies and rituals. The knowledge he acquired enabled him to make museum quality instruments, such as, Mayan and Aztec drums, flutes, turtle shell drums, rainsticks, log drums, rattles, and gourds. Yxayotl spent most of his life constructing and playing these instruments and performing all over the world.
In 2004, he performed at the opening ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize event in Rome giving blessings to the Dalai Lama, Michael Gorbachev and Jimmy Carter. He also performed at the United Nations Gala in New York City in 2005. In 2006, Mel Gibson purchased Yxayotl’s clay flutes to be used in the soundtrack for the movie ‘Apocalypto”. Andre 3000 did a traditional flute apprenticeship under master flutemaker Xavier. His extensive knowledge and wisdom in music and the ways of the ancient Americas, also led him to consult the History Channel. His music can be found on Amazon, Pandora and Spotify and on YouTube where he has over one million and half subscribers.
Xavier was honored to have had six of his seven CD releases nominated by the Native American Music Awards - two of them for Flutist of the Year. He performed at the Fifth Annual Native American Music Awards along with the international dance group, “Call For Peace”.
One of the nominated recordings was the landmark album entitled, Crossroads, which he collaborated with award winning artist Robert Tree Cody on Canyon Records. For the first time ever, the music of the native people of the Great Plains were recorded with the ancient music of Mexico into 12 amazing songs. Crossroads was a colorful blend of indigenous Native American, Mayan and Aztec flutes pulsing drums and ancient chants.
A visionary, Xavier Quijas Yxayotl, will be remembered as "The Maestro," and the foremost global authority on traditional Mayan and Aztec instruments. His expertly crafted flutes, Death Whistles, and ocarinas, made according to ancient manuscripts, will remain unmatched. He leaves behind a legacy in the way of ancient Mesoamerican music. Despite all his enormous accomplishments and an unfillable void his passing creates, this gentle, kind, generous and humble man will be greatly missed.
Wes Studi has become the first Native American actor to receive an Oscar. There have been Native American acting nominees - Graham Greene in Dances With Wolves, Chief Dan George in Little Big Man, but no one singular Native American has ever won for acting. Until Wes.
Wes Studi received an Oscar “on October 27, 2019 to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences." The Honorary Award is not called a lifetime achievement award by the Academy, but it is often given for a life’s work in film.
NAMA Award winner and U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo and Christian Bale presented Wes Studi with his honorary Oscar for Life Achievement Watch it on twitter: https://twitter.com/i/status/1188656850859749376
Buffy Sainte-Marie, First Nations, Cree in Canada was the first Indigenous musician to receive an Oscar for a song. Sainte-Marie, along with her husband Jack Nitzche and W. Jennings were awarded as a songwriters for Best Original Song in 1983 for "Up Where We Belong" that was performed & recorded by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes in the movie, An Officer And A Gentleman. Here's the 1983 Award presentation by Olivia Newton John.
https://youtu.be/YMRP0HVD63g Ten years prior, most famously, back in 1973 Marlon Brando turned down his Oscar award for “The Godfather” because of Hollywood’s stereotypical treatment of Native peoples. Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather, Apache, in his place to explain the reasons for his rejection.
The Native American Music Awards would like to Congratulate Wes Studi on this high honor. Wes Studi graced us with his participation at the First Native American Music Awards. He has continued to make multiple appearances and host our events over the years.
NAMA Lifetime Achievement Recipient & Gospel Legend Johnny Curtis & Young Pop Singer Kelly Fraser Journey On
Condolences to the families of 26 year old Inuk singer, Kelly Fraser and Apache Gospel legend, Johnny Curtis. Kelly's passing is receiving coverage from CNN & People Magazine. Johnny Curtis was a NAMA Lifetime Achievement recipient and a nominee in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Recognition of these two great talents continue as they journey on.
The Native American Music Awards is proud to introduce the newest member of the Native American Music Awards House band from Six Nations, Please welcome.....Dwayne LaForme!!!
Wes Studi Presents Military Tribute at The Oscars
One of the most distinguished American Indian Actors, Wes Studi, recently presented an Oscars Military Movie Tribute at the 90th Academy Awards.
Studi who served as a soldier in the Vietnam War. stated, “I’m proud to have served there for 12 months with Alpha Company of the 39th Infantry... As a veteran, I am always appreciative when filmmakers bring to the screen stories of those who have served. Over 90 years of the Academy Awards, a number of movies with military themes have been honored at the Oscars. Let’s take a moment to pay tribute to these powerful films that shine a great spotlight on those who have fought for freedom around the world.”
Studi closed his presentation by reintroducing the montage by speaking in his Native Cherokee language. American Sniper, The Hurt Locker, Saving Private Ryan, and Zero Dark Thirty were among some of the clips featured in the montage.
Wes Studi has appeared in numerous movies and roles including; Hostiles (2018), Dances with Wolves (1990) and The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and in the Academy Award-nominated films Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) Other films he's appeared in are Heat, Mystery Men, Avatar, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and the television series Penny Dreadful.
Wes Studi was a presenter at the Inaugural Native American Music Awards in 1998 and has was the host of the 12th Annual Native American Music Awards where he also performed.
Watch his Oscar appearance here.