Joanne Shenandoah ~ Iroquois

Published on January 21, 2011 by Amy

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Joanne Shenandoah
Joanne Shenandoah (Musician: Singer/

Joanne Shenandoah is an Iroquois singer, composer and acoustic guitarist. She is a member of the Wolf Clan of the Oneida Nation, of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Her music is a combination of traditional songs and melodies with a blend of traditional and contemporary instrumentation. She has recorded more than 14 albums and won a multitude of awards, and given an Honorary Doctorate of Music by Syracuse University. She was awarded a Grammy Award for her part in the album Sacred Ground with Walela featuring Rita Coolidge.

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Shenandoah is the daughter of the late Maisie Shenandoah, Wolf Clanmother of the Oneida Nation, and the late Clifford Shenandoah, an Onondaga Nation chief. She is the direct descendent of John Skenando (Skenandoa, Shenandoah) after whom the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia is named. A compatriot of George Washington, Shenandoah played a key role in rallying some Iroquois to support the rebels during the American Revolution. John Shenandoah was the co-founder of the Hamilton-Oneida Academy which later became Hamilton College.


Joanne Shenandoah wrote a symphony called “Skywoman” which premiered with the Syracuse Symphony in 2002. She is featured in the documentary “Dancing on Mother Earth” (released in 2003 and broadcast on PBS). She also stars in the feature film “The Last Winter” (released nationwide in 2007) and plays the role of Jikonsasay in the Discovery Channel’s “First Nations: The Iroquois” scheduled for broadcast in November, 2008. She has collaborated in her songwriting with such artists as Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, Bruce Cockburn, R. Carlos Nakai, Bill Miller and Mary Youngblood. Included among her more prominent performances are concerts in Barcelona, Spain; Cape Town, South Africa; Woodstock 1994; the White House; the Kennedy Center; Carnegie Hall; the National Museum of the American Indian; the Skydome in Toronto; Lambeau Field, Green Bay Wisconsin; the 1992 and 1998 US Presidential Inaugurals; a private performance for former USSR Chairman Mikail Gorbachev; Earth Day at the National Mall; Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, NM; Nuremberg, Germany; Seoul, South Korea and Ankara, Turkey. She is scheduled to be the featured artist at the 2009 World Parliament of Religions in Melbourne, Australia. Ms. Shenandoah released her 15th album “Bitter Tears: Sacred Ground” on December 31, 2008. The album features Cherokee Nation singer Michael Bucher and features six songs from the Johnny Cash album “Bitter Tears” issued in 1964 along with seven ballads by Bucher and Shenandoah. The album is a tribute to Peter Lafarge, Johnny Cash and Floyd Red Crow Westerman.


Shenandoah has 15 albums and three Grammy nominations and one Grammy award (Sacred Ground – Songwriting and vocals). She received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Syracuse University in 2002, the first ever given to a Native performer. She has received more Native American Music Awards (13 to date) than any other artist including a “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2008. She is the author of the book “Skywoman”. She has also received numerous Syracuse Area Music Awards (SAMMYS) and was presented with the Grand Prize by the Native Film Festival in Montreal, Canada for her soundtrack in the documentary “Our Land Our Life” in June 2008.


She is married to Doug George-Kanentiio, a co founder of the Native American Journalists Association. She lives in Oneida, New York.

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