My folks have told me I have been singing my whole life. From the time I was very small, no matter what I was doing or feeling, I sang it out. That’s what they tell me. I can remember jumping up in a first grade classroom and singing out because I saw my mother out in the hallway, looking in. So no matter if I was happy or sad, whatever I was doing I sang it out. I remember hearing songs in the leaves of the trees, and singing along or singing back to them as I hid with my bow waiting to pounce on unsuspecting people below.
My grandmother recognized me right away, and she said I would be a singer. As a teen I remember elders coming and looking for me, as if they were expecting me. They would say: “that one, the little one with the voice”. It seemed like I never really had friends my own age because I was always hanging out with the adults. Folks would sing songs to me, and then ask me to sing them back to them, and that’s how I learned. To me, I was just hanging out with these elders, and it was awhile before I realized they were teaching me all these songs. We just sang together. When I think about it, that’s the heart of oral tradition, because you can’t communicate pitch, tone, sound, timbre, feeling, intention on flat paper.
Through song they were teaching me moments, experiences, an environment that is spherical, vibrational— not static. They were waking up my original memory, the knowledge in my cells of experiencing Mother Earth all around us, of experiencing my relationship with everything that is alive. And make no mistake: everything is alive…
Where I’ve come to is the place of carrying these songs – all songs, no matter where they come from – in a good way, so that they can be sung whenever they are needed. That’s what Kanogisgi or “Song Carrier” means. It also makes you responsible to wherever a song is from and means you have to be available when that song needs to be sung. A lot of elders put a lot of time and energy into me; I have to honor that. So I’d say that I’ve come to a place now of focusing on moving the songs out into the world, and listening for the ones that are emerging at this time, in order to bring them forth, eh? –because the Songs thread the people together, to one another and to the Earth. Songs make a living web. (~Joan Henry)
The Joan Henry “Alligator Dance” (music dance video documentary) is being posted here for NO COMMERCIAL PURPOSES.
Joan Henry, at her Blue Deer Center Concert, teaches the Alligator Dance to attendees. The Alligator Dance, as Joan explains, teaches the power of relationship, and is an example of native american call-and-response social dancing.
The Joan Henry “Heart and Mind” (music video documentary) is being posted here for NO COMMERCIAL PURPOSES.
Ms. Henry is both hahesh’kah (lead drummer) and dekanogisgi (traditional song-carrier), and a Native Women’s Traditional dancer. Encouraged by her elders, she founded acclaimed traditional drum group Mothers of Nations Singers & Dancers (later known as Sky Woman Singers) — the first women’s drum ever invited to the National Native American Veterans Powwow in Washington DC and the first to preside at Indigenous Peoples’ Day Opening Ceremonies for the United Nations — where Ms. Henry has since presented on healing & spirituality among First Nations women and offered opening prayers & song for the International Day of Peace and the World Indigenous Forum. Here she tell a wonderful story about coyote.
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