In what will undoubtedly be seen as a blow to American Indian musicians in New Mexico, the Recording Academy announced Wednesday that there will no longer be a Grammy Award for Native American music.
The move is part of a major consolidation of Grammy categories announced in Los Angeles. Instead of the 109 categories awarded this year, next year there will be only 78 categories.
“It ups the game in terms of what it takes to receive a Grammy and preserves the great esteem (in) which it’s held in the creative community, which is the most important element,” Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
“This is really disappointing,” said Harlan McKosato of Albuquerque in a telephone interview Wednesday. McKosato, who writes a column on Indian issues for The New Mexican but is best known for hosting the syndicated radio show Native America Calling, has served on the committee that screens entries for the Native American Grammy.
“The Native American category was always in peril,” McKosato said. A major problem was that sometimes there were barely enough entries in a year to qualify, he said. (The minimum was 25 albums.) Only “traditional” Native music was eligible, so Indian rock, blues or jazz bands didn’t qualify, McKosato said.
Native American fishermen harvest salmon in 1937 at Celilo Falls. (Ray Atkeson Image Archive)
Marv Ross’ “The Ghosts of Celilo,” is described by Oregonian reporter Marty Hughley as “an innovative and moving work of musical theater.”
The play, which chronicles the loss of Celilo Falls after The Dalles Dam roared into existence in 1957, is coming back to Portland this year after debuting there in 2007.
Several years ago, a Native American elder suggested that a ghost must have gotten ahold of Ross and was compelling him to tell a story about the loss of Celilo Falls and the way of life centered there. Ross is best known as the songwriter and guitarist for Quarterflash, a Portland pop band that scored platinum records in the 1980s, and the guiding force behind folk-music favorites the Trail Band. But beginning in the 1990s, he spent a decade obsessively developing what would become “The Ghosts of Celilo,” an innovative and moving work of musical theater that premiered in September 2007 at the Newmark Theatre.
But then, Ross says, a familiar feeling returned.
“During rehearsals, it started crawling up the back of my neck and now it’s got me by both ears again.”
This ghost brings with it a particular anxiety. There are the usual worries about artistic quality and execution (and musicals, believe it or not, are about as complex and tricky as it gets on those counts). But Ross, though he early on enlisted Native American collaborators on the project, also feels an outsider’s burden of responsibility to the subject’s cultural sensitivity.
Native American Rock Opera group to audition for “America’s Got Talent”
Brule, a Native American rock opera group, is stopping by the Colorado Indian Market this weekend. Then, they’re off for another stage.
In two weeks, the ensemble will audition for America’s Got Talent. Producers of the NBC show spotted the group as the performed their ongoing show in Branson, Missouri.
This weekend, the Native American dancers, singers and musicians will bring their talents to the stage at the Colorado Indian Market.
“I think it’s one of the best showcases of Native American talent and artistry in the country,” LaRoche said of the event.
Tracing tribal heritage through DNA questioned
It may be true that an Arizona company can tell if a person is Cherokee through blood tests – but does that really make them Cherokee?
The Tahlequah Daily Press reports that one Cherokee Nation representative noted DNA doesn’t necessarily make them a true Cherokee.
“Cherokee is a cultural, social and political designation,” said Julia Coates, at-large Cherokee Nation tribal councilor. “There is no biological definition of ‘Cherokee.’ There are several large biological populations in the American hemisphere, but to my understanding, each contains numerous distinct cultural groups.
Census Bureau expands Oneida reservation to 300,000 acres
New lines drawn by the Census Bureau have hugely expanded the Oneida Reservation in New York. The expansion, in fact, blew up the reservation from 32 acres to more than 3,000, Syracuse.com reports. It’s unclear when the new boundary lines were drawn and government officials are wondering if they’re right.
As of last June, the Oneida reservation on Census Bureau maps was just a 32-acre dot in Madison County. By October, the reservation had sprawled across all or part of at least 18 towns, five villages and three cities. The new map follows the boundaries of the 36-year-old Oneida Indian land claim, which was tossed out of federal court just last week.
The Census Bureau can adjust boundaries of Indian reservations if tribes submit documents showing the change. If there is any controversy, the bureau will seek an opinion from the Department of Interior. County officials say they’re trying to find out if the Oneidas asked for the change and whether Interior, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, weighed in.
An Oneida nation spokesman did not return phone calls Wednesday. An Interior Department spokeswoman said she had no information yet.
According to OIN Spokesman Mark Emery, this isn’t a new issue or a recent amendment to the map.
“The map, which is prepared by the United States, properly reflects the United States’ longstanding position on the Oneida Nation reservation,” he said in a e-mail statement. “Any previous maps that suggested a different reservation were inaccurate legally, factually and historically, and corrections are appropriate. . . “
Renowned Native violinist Arvel Bird will perform twice during the Honoring Traditions Eastern Woodland Celebration powwow in Lancaster, Ohio, this weekend.
Anywhere from 20 to 30 Native nations are expected to show up to the annual event, according to the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette.
“People have been asking us to get him to come to our celebration every year,” Everhart said. “But we couldn’t until this year.”
Bird was born in Idaho and raised in Utah. Originally trained as a classical violinist, he was inspired by Appalachian, bluegrass and Celtic styles. He is also a Native American flutist.
Today he blends his classical training and Native American roots into his own songs, Everhart said.
Arvel will perform his well-known blend of Native American, Celtic, and Folk music throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday from his award-winning CDs,– Animal Totems, Animal Totems 2, Rakish Paddy, Red River Jig and Ride Indian Ride, his website said.
The Rapid City Journal has this story about South Dakota’s Native Americans’ Day celebration. Click on the link to see a schedule.
CRAZY HORSE, S.D. — “The Lakota Music Project” presented by the Porcupine Singers [see video above] and South Dakota Symphony Chamber Orchestra will highlight the 21st Native Americans’ Day celebration at Crazy Horse Memorial on Monday, Oct. 11.
Also, Jim Shaw of Rapid City will emcee the 10 a.m. program that will feature the Crazy Horse Educator of the Year, American Indian singers and dancers and recognition of the “Year of Unity” effort in South Dakota.
Native Americans’ Day is special at the nonprofit Crazy Horse Memorial that honors North America’s Indian people.
The 1990 South Dakota Legislature established the holiday, now the oldest official observance of its kind in the country. State lawmakers, at the urging of several citizens, replaced Columbus Day for “the remembrance of the great Native American leaders who contributed so much to the history of our state.”
R. Carlos Nakai, described here as the premier Native American flutist in the world, will perform tomorrow at the International Native American Flute Convention at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Given that description, it’s a little surprising to learn that Nakai, who is Navajo and Ute, was originally a classically trained trumpeter. He actually thought his musical career had stalled, until he discovered the Native American flute.
“It was sort of like a godsend,” Nakai told Troy Espe of the Leader-Telegram in Wisconsin during a telephone interview. “All of the sudden the flute appeared, and I started applying different music principles to it.”
As Espe writes:
Nakai, who co-founded the International Native American Flute Association, has released more than 35 albums since 1983. He has sold 4 million copies, achieving gold status for the albums “Canyon Trilogy” and “Earth Spirit.”
Nakai has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. His music has appeared in movies “The New World” and “Geronimo: An American Legend.”
Nakai has a master’s degree in American Indian studies from the University of Arizona. He’s performed with more than 15 symphonies and chamber orchestras, leads a jazz quartet and has played with Japanese, Tibetan, Hawaiian, Jewish and Arab musicians, Espe writes.
His msot recent album is “Dancing into Silence.”
The newly composed “Wissahickon Scenes” – a piece that blends Lenape tribal melodies with a traditional violin concerto – was showcased this week at a concert by the Philadelphia Classical Symphony.
It will be heard again tomorrow night as part of a larger program in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns, here.
The piece is by Maurice Wright, a Temple University faculty member, and incorporates Lenape field recordings made available to Wright by the American Philosophical Society.
The piece featured the solo work of violinst Hirono Oka.
As Stearns writes:
Violin solist Hirono Oka (Paul Arnold photo/Philadelphia Inquirer)
Native American melodies also have a lot of repeated notes that don’t meld well with Euro-based, goal-oriented functional harmony. Wright’s solution was aesthetic coexistence; it felt fairly natural in our post-postmodern age, while also maintaining a contrast suggestive of the different universe Native Americans inhabited.
The three movements of Wissahickon Scenes had extramusical significance: The first was full of pleasure dances, the second the infamous Trail of Tears along which the defeated tribes were pushed west, and the third embodying the culture’s spirituality.
Fueled by considerable inner impetus, the piece makes a good case for itself, with second and third movements that are particularly entrancing. “Trail of Tears” avoids cliched operatic pathos with a cumulative impact from numbing, plodding rhythms and gray string coloration. In the third movement, Wright gave the violin soloist a traditionally spectacular cadenza, but also incorporated a field recording of a Native American voice on tape in a melody that’s said to be a prayer. Such spirituality is reflected in Wright’s music not with anything typically beatific, but with inner steadiness that no doubt helped the tribe to emotionally survive genocide.
Navajo comedian Vincent “Muttonman” Craig dies
Family members posted a note on Vincent Craig’s Facebook page thanking friends and family for their support as the legendary Dine comedian and singer-songwriter battled cancer, according to the Navajo Times, here. He was only 59. The note was posted late last night and the Times promises updates.
Supreme Court nominee Kagan falls short on Native issues
That’s the assessment by the legal experts quoted in this story by Indian Country Today’s Rob Capriccioso. He writes that “her positions on tribal and Indian legal issues are unknown, and she has lacked engagement on some major Native topics.” And, he reports, that when Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, she failed to hire a permanent scholar to fill the Harvard Law School’s Oneida chair, largely funded by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.
Tohono O’odham police arrest 10 in huge bust of alleged coke smuggling ring
Anonymous law enforcement photo of law enforcement officers from Tohono O'odham Police, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the FBI executing warrants at homes in Sells on Saturday morning that resulted in the arrest of 10 people in connection with a cocaine smuggling ring.
It was, according to this Tucson Arizona Star report, the largest drug enforcement operation in the history of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Nine tribal members and one other person were arrested yesterday in an early-morning sweep in Sells, Ariz.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle tells the Star that the arrests marked the culmination of a five-month, multi-agency investigation led by the Tohono O’odham Police Department.
And, it marked the first time tribal police officers have executed federal warrants on the Tohono O’odham Nation. It was part of an effort that saw tribal officers trained by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs so they could makes arrest on federal charges, which carry more severe penalties than tribal ones.
Pine Ridge principal on tap for Obama administration post
Robert Cook, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who is principal of Pine Ridge High School, is expected to be appointed to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education, according to this Rapid City Journal story. Cook recently completed a term as president of the National Indian Education Association.
POPcorn No. 5 by Stephen Wood (Heard Museum photo)
Native pop art in new Heard Museum show
Not just niche art is how the Heard Museum is describing its new exhibit by Native American and other pop artists. ” ‘Pop! Popular Culture in American Indian Art,’ ” reminds us, if we need reminding, that Indians also are participants in the culture at large, and that Native American art is not merely a niche art: It is part of the global art conversation,” writes Richard Nilson of the (Phoenix) Arizona Republic, here.
The show features work by iconic pop artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, but also works by Native artists such as Fritz Scholder and T.C. Cannon.
In fact, Ryan Singer has a riff on Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup can, with is painting, “Sheep Is Good Food,” of a mutton stew can.
As painter Jaune Quick-to-See Smith says in the exhibit, “I appropriate Pop Art because it is symbolic of the American mainstream culture.”
Award-winning tribal rock musician and flute-maker Robert Mirabal is performing tonight at the Jeanne Dini Center in Yerington, Nev.
Mirabal’s flutes are world renowned and have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of the American Indian, according to this story from the Reno (Nev.) Gazette Journal.
Mirabal was twice named the Native American Music Awards’ Artist of the Year, and received the Songwriter of the Year award three times. He was featured in Grammy Award winning album, Sacred Ground – a Tribute to Mother Earth, in 2006 for Best Native American Music Album.
The Walker River Paiute Tribe EDC and the Yerington Paiute Tribe are among those sponsoring the performance by Mirabal, who is from Taos Pueblo.
In contrast to the sadness and anger of the previous story, here’s one filled with beauty. It’s about Radmilla Cody, who began her singing career outside her grandmother’s sheep corral on the Navajo Nation.
“When you’re way out in the middle of nowhere, and you’re herding sheep, and you’re spending time jumping over the salt bushes and sitting around listening to all the beautiful sounds of nature, something’s going to make you open your mouth,” Cody tells National Public Radio here:
Cody’s voice is bicultural. Her mother was Navajo, her father African-American. Now, she sings folk songs in the language of her Native American ancestors — with a twist.
Her mom was just a teenager when Radmilla was born, so she was raised by her Navajo grandmother. There was no electricity or running water, and young Radmilla Cody lived a very traditional life, learning to herd sheep, spin wool for clothing and cook meals using only what they grew or raised.
That traditional Navajo foundation was augmented by one additional cultural factor: Cody’s grandmother was Christian.
“I always remember one particular time, the church had this choir from I don’t recall where,” Cody says. “But man, they sounded so good. And I remember thinking in my mind, ‘That’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to sound like!’ “
So her albums contain both traditional songs as well as ones written by her uncle, Herman Cody, that are secular interpretations of traditional songs.
“We’re going to make these albums just as grandpa would walk behind the hogan, sit down, start making a moccasin,” Herman Cody says. “And then, he just goes at it.”
He calls his niece’s work “Navajo soul.”
Says Radmilla: “I think the soul comes in from the black side, and with the Navajo [side], just the beauty and the language in itself.”
In addition to the video above, check out this link to Cody singing the National Anthem in Navajo.