SyracuseCoE pays tribute to Syracuse native, friend and advocate, Joanne Lynn Shenandoah-Tekalihwakhwa.
Member of the Wolf Clan, Oneida Indian Nation, part of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy), human rights activist and Grammy-award winning singer, Joanne Shenandoah, passed away on November 22, at the age of 64.
The critically acclaimed singer and musician has had a strong relationship with Syracuse University, lending her talents on many occasions over the past two decades. Shenandoah performed in the fall of 2001 at the Maxwell’s Schools announcement of a new minor in Native American studies.
She contributed significantly to the dedication and open house of the Syracuse Center of Excellence headquarters building in 2010, by writing and performing a song, Your Legacy, in honor of the event and for SyracuseCoE and its collaborators. Shenandoah appeared on stage with her sister Diane and daughter Leah Shenandoah.
Syracuse University gave her an Honorary Doctorate of Music in 2002 for her service to others and embodiment of community spirit. Her connection to the university was strengthened, in part, by the school’s role in preserving local tribal heritage and dedication to recognizing the Indigenous People on whose ancestral lands Syracuse University now stands.
In 2011, Shenandoah was an original board member of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge, created in partnership with Syracuse University. The non-profit institute provides traditional knowledge through education on original people’s concepts of peace, sustainability and planetary survival. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Atlas Award for her work within the climate change movement.
In addition to many other awards for her music and activism, Shenandoah received a Grammy Award in 2005 for Best Native American Music Album for her contributions to Sacred Ground: A Tribute to Mother Earth, a compilation. She has appeared at numerous prestigious events alongside transformational world leaders including, His Holiness the Dali Lama and Nelson Mandela. Her website’s “celebrity” page shares photos of the singer with American music royalty, including June and Johnny Cash, and a long list of acclaimed artists she has performed or recorded with.
Joanne Shenandoah will be remembered for her enchanting singing voice and for her voice as Ambassador of Peace, Advocate of the Earth and Educator of Indigenous Knowledge.