NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - Some of Indian country's best-known musicians were present at the ninth annual Native American Music Awards celebration at the Seneca-Niagara Casino & Hotel Oct. 6 to perform, present or receive awards. Up-and-coming musical acts added to the evening's variety and took home several prestigious awards.
Members of the Wisconsin-based drum group Pipestone took home the evening's top award - Record of the Year - for the album ''Good Ol' Fashioned NDN Lovin''' and became instant celebrities. Pipestone received its NAMMY accompanied by ear-cracking applause and, when the ceremony was over, its members were swarmed by fans requesting photographs and autographs.
Mike Sullivan, who was among the six Pipestone members who made the trip to the NAMMYs (the group has 14 members), said they were completely shocked.
''We were the underdogs,'' he said, still in disbelief moments after the win. ''This was the one we didn't even think we had a chance at winning. We got dogged out of the other categories.''
Pipestone is mostly comprised of Ojibwe males from the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Reservation in the northern part of Wisconsin. The group performed at the NAMMYs and showed the audience why their music is so popular: the songs are a mixture of traditional tunes with an upbeat rhythm, and an occasional line or two of English thrown in to earn laughs from the audience.
A popular central New York band, Corn-Bred, earned the NAMMY for Best Blues Jazz Recording for its self-titled album. The award was the group's first career NAMMY.
''I was absolutely surprised, I almost fainted,'' said Corn-Bred lead guitarist Morris Tarbell.
Corn-Bred, a Syracuse-area band, features four Onondaga men: Jerome Lazore, Lenny Printup, Curtis Waterman and John ''J.B.'' Buck, along with Tarbell, who is Mohawk. The band earned widespread attention when they performed at the 2005 American Indian Inaugural Ball.
Performances through the evening were as diverse as the crowd itself, from Jan Michael Looking Wolf's gentle flute-playing or the traditional beat from pow wow performers Young Gunz, to the lyric-powered singing of Digging Roots or the powerful hip-hop/rap performance from Nightshield.
Susan Aglukark needed no introduction for audience members hailing from north of the border. Her Inuit-based music has earned her a reputation as one Canada's leading Native music acts. The winner of three Juno awards throughout her career, she earned a NAMMY this year for Best Female Artist.
Two of the evening's awards captivated fans and nominees alike. NAMA awarded Lifetime Achievement awards to Joanne Shenandoah and Bill Miller.
Shenandoah, Oneida, is called ''one of the most acclaimed Native American recording artists of her time.'' The widespread love of her contemporary and traditional recordings have taken her across Indian country and to Carnegie Hall, the White House, Woodstock '94, and to the 1999 Parliament of the World's Religions in South Africa. She accepted her award with her sister and daughter at her side.
''You're too kind,'' she said at the standing ovation in her honor.
Shenandoah's music has been used by the Discovery Channel, HBO and PBS. Her musical acclaim has also lead to a budding acting career. She'll play Jikonsaseh in the Discovery Channel's upcoming series, ''First Nations,'' and she had a film role in ''The Last Winter,'' a thriller centered on the theme of global warming.
Miller, a Mohican from northern Wisconsin, has earned the respect and adoration of not only the Native population but non-Natives as well. He has performed alongside Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Richie Havens, Tori Amos and Arlo Guthrie, and has produced numerous albums such as ''Loon Mountain and Moon,'' ''Red Road,'' ''Reservation Road,'' ''Raven in the Snow,'' ''Ghost Dance'' and ''The Art of Survival.'' The NAMAs called Miller ''one of the most admired figures in the Native American music arena and beyond.''
2007 Native American Music Award winners
Artist of the Year
Arvel Bird, ''Animal Totems 2''
Best Blues Jazz Recording
Best Compilation Recording
''Heart of the Navajo Land,'' Various
''Out Of The Ashes''
Debut Duo or Group
of the Year
Women of Wabano, ''Voices''
Best Female Artist
''Blood Red Earth''
Best Country Recording
''A Tribute to Johnny Cash,'' Floyd Red Crow Westerman
Best Folk Recording
''Welcome To Your Rainy Day,'' Tonemah
Flutist of the Year
Robert Tree Cody,
''Heart of the Wind''
Best Gospel or Inspirational Recording
''Comfort & Joy,''
Cherokee National Youth Choir
Duo or Group of the Year
Brule' & AIRO,
''Silent Star Night''
Best Historical Recording
''Remember Me Grandfather: Lakota Pipe & Ceremonial Songs,'' Wahancanka
Best Instrumental Recording
''Alluvia,'' Evren Ozan
Best Male Artist
Best Native American Church Recording
''Voice of a Dakota,''
Gerald Primeaux Sr.
Best New Age Recording
Best Pop Recording
''American Indian Story,'' Jana
Best Rock Recording
''Crazy Woman Mountain,'' Gary Small & The Coyote Bros
Best Pow Wow Recording
''Long Winter Nights,''
Northern Cree & Friends
Tom Bee, ''Voice of the Drum''
Best Rap/Hip Hop Recording
''The Total Package''
Record of the Year
''Good Ol' Fashioned NDN Lovin','' Pipestone
Song/Single of the Year
''Have Hope,'' Jennifer Kreisberg
Best Linguistic Recording
Keith Secola and Karen Drift
Best Traditional Recording
''Dancers of Mother Earth,'' Todi Neesh Zhee Singers
Songwriter of the Year
''The Red Road,'' Arigon Starr
Best Short Form Music
''Inchelium,'' Jim Boyd
Best Long Form Video/DVD
''The Trail of Tears Cherokee Legacy,'' Rich Heape Films
Best World Music Recording
''Cultural Legacy: Traditional Music from Equador & Bolivia''
''Spirit - The Seventh Fire''
Bill Miller and