Joanne Shenandoah, a Grammy-winning Native American musician and one of the granddaughters of one of the Mohicans of the Plains Indians, has died, according to an announcement by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. She was 64.
Shenandoah won a Grammy Award in 1988 for her bluegrass debut album, “Autumn in New England.” It also won in 1988 for her debut album, which has since been certified gold. Other honors included a BAFTA Award, three Grammy nominations and a Redbone tattoo, according to Rolling Stone. She was the only woman Native American to receive an Emmy in the category of Art Direction for a Miniseries or a Movie.
“This is a monumental loss for everyone in the music community and Native American world,” her family said in a statement, via Rolling Stone. “Joanne was as much a fine musician as she was a scholar, environmental activist, and strong leader for many Native American artists. She was a giant in her time and will be remembered for years to come.”
Shenandoah’s music also was accompanied by a voice that could say a lot but could also be as quiet as a whispering moth, and that often spoke volumes. In an interview with NPR, she explained that she thought of music as a medium for speaking – and on her albums, she often did speak, but in stilted English and often jumbled sentences.
She later said that for Native Americans, understanding nature is an important tool to understand their culture and language.
Shenandoah had been critically ill in recent weeks. She died early Wednesday at a hospital in Shakopee, according to Rolling Stone.