Published on January 14, 2014 by Amy
Noted Cree singer Gordon McGilvery passed away recently. Born April 30, 1942 in the community of Saddle Lake, Alberta, Canada, Gordon McGilvery sang for over fifty years.
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Gordon was inspired to sing by his father, Peter McGilvery (also born in Saddle Lake), who, when Gordon was eight, gave away a horse to local Cree leaders asking them to pray that Gordon become a good singer. As Gordon grew into a young man, his father taught him the traditional ways of the Cree, to love and respect the songs he sang, the drum he sang with, and the people he sang for.
Gordon was a ceremonial singer for many of the Plains Cree ceremonies including the sun dance, chicken dance and give-away. He was well respected in the pow-wow circle and as a round dance singer, composing many songs for both gatherings. He journeyed to all parts of western Canada and the United States attending pow-wows and singing at round dances in the winter.
Gordon fasted at Chief Mountain in Montana so that he could pass on the spiritual teachings and traditions, and encouraged young people to learn, respect and carry on the traditions and teachings in the proper way. Gordon was honored by the many young singers who approached him seeking guidance about singing. He reminded them to never take the songs and drum for granted and to never abuse their sacred nature through the use of liquor and drugs. Likewise, he asked dancers to respect their dance outfits, especially taking care of eagle feathers.
Gordon urged singers to get along with other singers (as well as dancers), for when they sing together they pray together. He wanted singers to remember that they are healers in the ceremonies, round dances and pow-wows. He reminded lead singers that when they are given tobacco as an invitation to sing at a round dance, they must go unless sickness prevents them. Gordon reminded singers that they always sing for the people because they may need healing and their spirits may be lifted by the songs.
Gordon gave great thanks to the Creator for allowing him to travel Mother Earth, and sing in different parts of the country. He gave special thanks to his wife Judy for encouraging him to sing again after he’d taken a break. Gordon wanted people to know, “I take singing very seriously. I hope my words have not offended any singers or dancers. If so, I am truly sorry.”