Grammy Award-winning musical artist Joanne Shenandoah will perform Nov. 6 as part of the Global Awareness Conference opening ceremonies, which begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6.

Shenandoah is a Native American singer/songwriter/instrumentalist who holds 45 music awards, including the Grammy in 2005 among three Grammy nominations.

The Global Awareness Conference, with a theme of “The Year of First Nations,” will run virtually Nov. 6 and 7. The Nov. 6 opening ceremonies also will feature Sachem Sam George, one of 10 Sachems (chiefs) for the Cayuga Nation.

Shenandoah was contacted by communication studies professor and Hart Hall Faculty Resident Director Joseph Stabb, who invited her to partake in the event and speak to attendees about indigenous culture and heritage.

“This is what I do, this is my life,” Shenandoah said. “I am Oneida Iroquois of the Wolf clan, my dad was a chief, my mom was a Clan Mother and primarily my music is my gift to the world and responsibility to be able to bring music that will help to invoke peace and love and caring for one another because in the world that we live in today that’s very vital.”

Shenandoah said humans have to take care of one another, watch out for children and make sure the world is a better place.

“I have been very blessed to help bring messages of hope and piece, and that’s my native name,” she said. Shenandoah’s native name is “Tekali Wah Kwah,” which stands for “she sings” or “she lifts the spirit.”

Prior to focusing on performing, Shenandoah spent 14 years in the computer industry. She pioneered office automation and coordinated several huge projects -- until one day that everything changed when she saw a tree being cut down outside the window.

“Something happened to me, and I said, ‘you know, I’m not fulfilling my gifts and I need to do that,’” she said. 

Musical journey

Since then, Shenandoah has recorded or played a key role in nearly two dozen studio albums, with more projects to come.

She has been invited to some of the most prestigious events and places worldwide, among which stand Woodstock, The White House and The Vatican. Shenandoah has traveled the world and has shared the stage with prominent figures ranging from top performers to international heads of state.

Her fans include fellow musicians such as Neil Young, who called her "one of the finest attributes to Native American music and culture.”  

Robbie Robertson has said her music “weaves you into a trance with her beautiful Iroquois chants and wraps her voice around you like a warm blanket on a cool winter's night." 

“I feel very blessed that I chose a path not for fame, not for fortune, but for the passion of music and how I can actually change people’s lives,” Shenandoah said.

She has spent time on almost every reservation across the country as a co-chair on a Zoom workshop that illustrates how music can be used as medicine.

While doing that workshop for victims of violence in California, the Department of Justice happened to be present at her workshop, she remembers.

Two weeks later, she received an invitation from former Attorney General Eric Holder asking her to co-chair an effort with Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota on children exposed to violence across the country.

“I came to find out that, for sure, we’ve all been exposed to violence whether it’d be on a video game, whether it’d be on TV, whether it’d be in our home and especially now during COVID, we realize that we have to learn patience, we have to learn to love ourselves, we have to learn to be part of nature,” she said.

Shenandoah hopes that through her performance at the Global Awareness Conference, attendees will be transformed by the message of peace and that they will understand a little bit more about the balance needed to learn about Earth and each other.

“They will learn more about how to live in harmony and balance with each other in the natural world,” she added.

To learn more about what the Global Awareness Conference or to register to virtually attend, visit the event’s website.