A Native American music revival has been taking shape, with releases, sales and airplay increasing substantially... and the New York-based Native American Music Association have lobbied the recording academy for a Native American category since the mid-1990s. ”

— Knight Ridder Newspapers


Indigenous Music Composers Robbie Robertson and Scott George Nominated for their work in Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon 



Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynrd and Blackfoot, has released a powerful new single entitled,  "Never Run Out Of Road," which is dedicated to supporting the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement. Released on Rock the Cause Records, and distributed by Sony/The Orchard, a portion of proceeds go directly to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center (NIWRC). For more info visit https://www.rickeymedlocke.com





11/3/2023, Brooklyn, New York - One of the world's greatest guitarists, Jimmy Page, gave a surprise presentation and tribute performance at the 38th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony for his “hero” the legendary guitarist Link Wray (Shawnee). Held at Barclays Center in New York on Friday night, Page's onscreen prerecorded presentaton was followed by a surprise live tribute performance and rendition of Wray's classic instrumental, “Rumble.”   This was reportedly Page's first public performance in a decade.








It is with great sadness that the Native American Music Awards shares the news of the passing of Klee Jones Benally.  Klee Jones Benally was a multiple award winner and multi-talented artist. His family group, Blackfire, which was founded in 1989 in Flagstaff, Arizona along with siblings Jeneda, and Clayson Benally won Best Pop Rock Album in 2002, Group of the Year in 2004, and Record of the Year in 2008.  Joey Ramone called their music "Native American fireball punk." Klee’s deep rugged voice and strong lyrics were a featured part of the group as well as on his solo efforts. Blackfire began as a Native American punk rock group performing around the country including NYC’s East Village and then around the world. The musical style of these three siblings was  influenced by traditional Navajo Diné music and alternative rock, with political messages about government oppression, sacred sites and human rights. Their mother and momager, Berta, was a folk singer-songwriter of Russian-Polish Jewish descent and their father, Jones Benally, is a traditional Navajo medicine man. In 2012, the members formed the award winning band Sihasin. Sihasin  has won three awards including most recently; Debut Group of the Year, Best Rock Recording and Best Producer with Ed Stasium (Ramones, Talking Heads, Motörhead, the Smithereens and Living Colour.) Klee Benally will be remembered as an award winning musician, cultural advocate and land defender He has passed away at the age of 48. The Benally family will be sharing a formal announcement in the future. We extend our deepest condolences to the Benally family.








Robbie Robertson (Mohawk), most recognized for leading the 70’s rock group, The Band, and his work with Bob Dylan and Martin Scorsese, who also was a leading collaborator and producer for Native American music, has sadly passed away after a long illness on Wednesday August 9, 2023 at the age of 80. 


Formed in Toronto, Ontario in 1967, The Band was a Canadian-American rock band consisting of Canadians Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson, and American Levon Helm. The Band combined elements of Americana, folk, rock, jazz, country, and R&B, influencing musicians such as; George Harrison, Elton John, the Grateful Dead, Eric Clapton and Wilco. Robertson and The Band were inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994


Following The Band, Robertson went on to enjoy a successful solo career, with six solo albums including two featuring Native American musicians. In 1998, at the inaugural Native American Music Awards, Robertson performed live and was honored for his Lifetime Achievements. His recipient speech can be seen here: https://youtu.be/-UeAliaZ5gU 


Jaime Royal “Robbie” Robertson was born on July 5, 1943. His mother was Rosemarie Dolly Chrysler, a Cayuga and Mohawk woman who was raised on the Six Nations Reserve southwest of Toronto, Ontario. Robertson was an only child who became a self taught musician. At an early age, he began learning guitar from relatives during his summer visits to the reservation.


He would go on to write classic hit songs as an inventor of the Americana music genre, create music soundtracks and earn numerous accolades and awards.  Robertson was not only the primary songwriter and guitarist for The Band who penned classic hits such as; “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and many others, but he was also a pathfinder for Native American music.  


In 1994, Robertson returned to his Mohawk roots, forming a Native American group the Red Road Ensemble for “Music for the Native Americans”, a collection of songs that accompanied a PBS television documentary series. 



In 1995, Robbie Robertson performed at the “In Unity Concert”, live in Agrigento-Sicily, Italy with the Red Road Ensemble and other special guests including John Trudell and Buffy Sainte-Marie. The concert was broadcasted on Italian TV. https://youtu.be/mKbX4q5IbR8



In 1998, he released a follow up solo recording entitled,  “Contact from the Underworld of Redboy” which took a closer look at native music traditions. The album's title comes from an experience when Robertson was referred to as "Red Boy," by several bullies when he was a child.



During the production and release of both those solo albums featuring Native American musicians such as; Kashtin, Ulali and Primeaux and Mike, who later won a Grammy Award, Robertson also supported the formation of the Native American Music Association.  Founded by Ellen Bello, the Association created the first Awards show honoring Native American musicians.  


In May 1998, Robbie Robertson appeared and performed live at the Inaugural Native American Music Awards show in May 1998 at Foxwoods Resort Casino and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  In his recipient speech, he stated, “To me this is a sign of the times, a sign of the acceptance of Native American music out in the world like never before.” He also encouraged the continuation of honoring “the original roots music of this country” by other organizations such as the Grammys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UeAliaZ5gU



In February 2001, Robbie Robertson presented the first Grammy for Best Native American Music Album with actor Val Kilmer following the efforts of the Association’s successful proposal to have Native American music recognized by the Grammys. In his presentation, Robertson also decried the continued imprisonment of American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier before announcing the winner as “Gathering of Nations”, a compilation album featuring over two dozen drum groups.


Prior to his death, Robertson had just completed soundtrack work on Martin Scorsese’s soon to be released “Killers of the Flower Moon” movie, marking their 14th film music collaboration together. The film, due out in October is about members of the Osage Native American tribe of Osage County, Oklahoma, who are murdered after oil is found on their land, in the 1920s. .Robertson also worked on Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street”, “Gangs of New York”, “Casino” after The Band’s legendary 1976 farewell concert that was made into a 1978 documentary, “The Last Waltz”.  In their final concert, The Band was joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood and Neil Young. Filmed by director Martin Scorsese, it has been hailed as one of the greatest concert films of all time. Robertson’s personal story with The Band was also captured in the 2019 documentary “Once Were Brothers.


Following the announcement of his death, Rolling Stone called Robertson, “A Master Storyteller”. The NY Times referred to him as a, ”Songwriter who captured the American spirit”. Scorsese remembered Robertson as “one of my closest friends, a constant in my life and my work.” Founder of the Native American Awards and Association (NAMA), Ellen Bello, called him an “Inspirational Icon.”  She credits Robertson with the early endorsement of her organization’s formation and for launching the careers of other musicians.  She stated, “Without Robbie bringing Indigenous artists and their music to the forefront of the recording industry, and without his unrelenting public support, I’m not certain any of us would have been as successful or sustained the challenges we faced during our formative years. We are all forever indebted to Robbie for his belief, support and the inspiration he provided.  He will be forever missed .” 

According to an announcement from Robbie Robertson’s manager of 34 years, Jared Levine, “Robbie was surrounded by his family at the time of his death, including his wife, Janet, his ex-wife, Dominique, her partner Nicholas, and his children Alexandra, Sebastian, Delphine, and Delphine’s partner Kenny. He is also survived by his grandchildren Angelica, Donovan, Dominic, Gabriel and Seraphina. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Six Nations of the Grand River to support a new Woodland Cultural Center.” 




Released on Capitol Records in 1994, Music for The Native Americans is an album by Robbie Robertson and other colleagues billed as the Red Road Ensemble for the television documentary film, The Native Americans. The album was Robertson's first foray into writing music specifically inspired by his Mohawk heritage. Robertson’s son Sebastian Robertson played the drums on "Golden Feather", "Skinwalker", "It Is a Good Day to Die" and "Words of Fire, Deeds of Blood". His daughter Delphine Robertson sang  backing vocals on "Coyote Dance" The album was compiled as a soundtrack, being credited to a variety of musicians including; Jim Wilson, Dave Pickell, UlaliPura Fé, Soni Moreno, Jennifer Kreisberg, KashtinFlorent VollantClaude McKenzieWalelaRita Coolidge, Priscilla Coolidge and Laura Satterfield, The Silvercloud Singers, Dave Carson and  Bonnie Jo Hunt.

The Native Americans was a three-part American television documentary miniseries that premiered on TBS on October 10, 1994.The remaining two episodes aired on October 11 and 13, 1994. The six-hour series explored the history of Native American cultures, with each hour of the series devoted to a particular region of the United States.



Contact from the Underworld of Redboy is an album by Robbie Robertson released in 1998 by Capitol Records. The album is composed of music inspired by traditional Aboriginal Canadian and North American Indigenous songs and chants, as well as modern rock, trip hop, and electronica, with the various styles often integrated together in the same song. It features many guest artists with Robertson including;  Joanne Shenandoah, Tim Gordine, Leonard PeltierMarius de Vries, Six Nation Women Singers, James Bilagody, Verdell Primeaux and Johnny Mike.  The album peaked at No. 119 on the Billboard 200.

In Loving Memory of The Voice of NAMA

Donald Blackfox 

by Donald Kelly, NAMA Executive Director

Born April 7th 1945, Donald Blackfox, CEO of Spirit WInd Records and singer/drummer of the Thunder Hawk Singers has died at the age of 78 years old on August 11, 2023. His drum group, The Thunder Hawk singers won Best Historical Album in 2009. Donald also served as the voice over, or “Voice of God'', for the Native American Music Awards from the 11th Annual Awards show in 2009 thru 2015.  With his record label and promotion company, Spirit Wind Records, based in Pulaski, New York, Donald strove to produce and promote a variety of  artists spanning  such musical genres as; traditional drum, flute, country, folk, new age, and “native heart” including; Sayani, Jonny Lipford, The Storytellers and the multiple award winning group, Spirit of Thunderheart.  Spirit of Thunderheart’s lead drummer, singer, and producer, Donna Coane, who founded the all women's drum group in late 2011, announced Blackfox’s passing. “With hardness and sadness our beloved Donald Blackfox has dropped his robe this morning. Donald is up in the spirit world with the others before him. I know he is saying hello to many, drumming and singing. Donald will be greatly missed.” 

Donald Kelly, Executive Director of The Native American Music Awards fondly remembers Donald Blackfox…

We are all lucky in life when we meet great people. Donald Blackfox was exactly that. He was one of the great ones. I remember meeting Donald Blackfox at a Pow Wow event in New Hampshire. It was Y2K... thats right, the year 2000. He was hanging out with a group of people and we ended up talking about music.  Earlier that year, Native American Music Association Founder, Ellen Bello, had put me on a path full of everything great. A Life's Journey. Meeting people like Donald was an every day event.  She steered me right to Donald whether she knew it or not. That's just Ellen. She had a great way of putting people together and that's how I met Donald Blackfox. We would continue to go to events and of course, we would talk to so many great people. All while I was learning about the Native American culture and music. Donald had a lot of wisdom. And he had a very fun way to share his stories. 

The more people I met, the more I learned that Native Americans truly loved music and that their reach is wellbeyond what anyone could imagine. The more events I went to, the more Donald would show up in our life. Donald loved to meet new people. He also had this great niche of "Gifting people new Spirit Names". He always seemed to "Hold Court" in the Lobbies and Coffee Shops of many hotels and resorts where we produced the Award Ceremonies too. People loved to gather with Donald and listen to his great stories.

But I guess it wasn't until myself and NAMA Director, Andy Anderson, took a trip on a NAMA Mission down to Kentucky to formally meet Patrick Doyle and Donald Blackfox. We finally got to sit down and talk about the current music and the new digital world that was becoming more and more accessible to Native Artists because of Donald and Patrick. These guys were building websites truly favored around Native Music. I will say this…We had a really good time down there in Kentucky. Can't tell you everything about that trip but it was a good one. Just ask Andy....

Donald moved back to the Northeast and worked tirelessly to help artists. He was part of the greatest years in the Native Music business. Native American Artists were finally seeing some hope and began thriving as performers.He was so motivated to keep pushing his label, Spirit Wind Records. Donald was relentlessly creating a place where the artist can get everything from exposure, creativity and of course, his life lessons. He would help anyone; big bands or simply young solo artists looking for a start. Donald was part of the crusade. He was there and he held his own special place amongst our Industry. 

In the year 2007, Ellen Bello pitched a special  event to me. It turned out to be one of the most amazing moments in my life. Through the Native American Music Association, a 501c3 non profit organization,  we created and produced a special night of Native American Music to help heal and entertain the many children receiving Cancer treatment at the Ronald McDonald House in New York City. These young children were receiving treatment and recovering at the Ronald McDonald House with their families. Young children fighting cancer is an unimaginable concept for any parent or human for that matter.  But here at the Ronald McDonald house, this was a place where Hope happens. It was a major eye opener for me. I talked to Donald about this event and without batting an eye he jumped right in. He helped put together his drum group and supplied the sound for the show. Watching the children enjoying themselves and listening and dancing to music was tremendously heartwarming. Taking their parents away from their difficult life, if only for just one song, was unforgettable. Donald and his great friend Phil helped us put a show together that night that entertained many. Parents, children, nurses and Doctors all sat and watched and experienced the magic of our music. I remember seeing Roberto from Yarina. Of course, the beautiful Jana was there too. I remember sitting back watching the performances with Stephan Galfas, an industry veteran as far back as Motown days, and us watching Donald and saying "How does this guy keep going? ”

OK, here is the best part for me. We needed a new live voice over for the upcoming annual awards ceremony. Iremember talking about this with Ellen and telling her let's give Donald a shot. Donald had a great deep, deep, deep voice pitched perfectly for live show Voice Over. He was also fast on his feet to correct mistakes. At one Awards show, I remember Donald messing up the intro of one of our great artists, Skylar Wolf, who we also recently lost.  Donald introduced him as Skylar Wuss. He said it emphatically too. Skylar was very intense and one of the most unique performers I ever watched. I thought Skylar might come backstage and kick Donald’s ass for mispronouncing his name. But in true Donald fashion, he corrected himself right after Skylar’s legendary performance.  There's a lot of pressure being the Voice Over. It's live and there is no going back after you make a mistake. And that's when I penned Donald Blackfox “The Voice of NAMA”. We worked together for many more events. Donald never simply just showed up for work. He showed up prepared and full of great wisdom. He was a huge asset to the Native American Music industry. The people he helped were endless. He never needed acknowledgement. He always had a smile and a joke to pass along. Again, Donald never asked for anything. He was always all in on projects and shows. 

Donald Blackfox was an amazing man. I know that he is in the spirit world where he is helping even more people. Maybe he’s reintroducing Skylar Wolf on stage correctly there. And, he probably is having to explain where he came up with all those crazy spirit names!  But, I know I speak for many when I say Donald was NAMA Family. 

Donald was and will always be "The Voice of NAMA". 

Donald was truly loved by so many. 

You know I will see you again my brother, We love and we miss you. I am fighting tears thinking of you. RIP Donald BlackFox.


Your Friend,

Donald Kelly

Executive Director

Native American Music Association




Eddie Three Eagles of Colorado Springs, Colorado, a Mescalero Apache and Cherokee whose tribes are centered in New Mexico and Texas, has passed on.   Eddie Three Eagles was born in the shadow of the majestic Pikes Peak in central Colorado on the sacred land where many ancient tribes came to pray and pay tribute to their Maker. Eddie grew up on the Mescalero Apache Reservation where his Grandfather taught Eddie the ways of his ancestors. It was here where Eddie Three Eagles was first introduced to the melodies of the flute. Captivated by its entrancing sound, young Eddie spent many hours of many evenings sitting alone, under the stars, developing the ability to express  the emotions of his people through his music.

Recently, Eddie returned to his birthplace in Colorado Springs, Colorado. When he was not traveling around the country sharing the beauty of his music, he devoted much of his time bringing love and compassion to the underprivileged children of all races. Eddie's spirit was at its most radiant when he visited hospitals and brought smiles to the faces of children with Downs Syndrome. He also felt very deeply about retaining and preserving the integrity of original and traditional Native American music. Afterall, this is the music of his heart, the music taught to him by his Grandfather who learned from his Grandfather.  Eddie Three Eagles is a spiritual leader and sun dancer who records his music only after a ritual of singing and prayers while waiting for musical instructions to be given by his spirits. The music of Three Eagles is not designed to be the slick, studio produced music. Instead, it is from deep inside and reflects the thoughts and emotions of the Native people of generations past. 

In 2002 and 2003,  Eddie shared in Award wins as a contributor to Felipe Rose’s award winning recordings; “Trail of Tears” for Best Historical Recording and ”We’re Still Here” for Best Song/Single of the Year.

Deeply spiritual and moving, Eddie released his debut CD, in 2006, entitled “Red, White & Blue” which was a blend of traditional flute along with drums and chants which was nominated by the Native American Music Awards. Two selections included modern instrumentation applied in the same manner that would have been used over 100 years ago had the technology been available.

In 2007,  Eddie Three Eagles recorded and released his second nominated album entitled, “Forgotten Warriors” on  Manitou Records.  He was also respectively among the frequent participants at a Colorado Springs Native American Inter-Tribal Powwow and festival in that central Colorado city.

After suffering a long illness Eddie Three Eagles passed away at his home with his wife Nancy Jo Chavez by his side.  He leaves behind many children and grandchildren including his adopted son, Award winner, Felipe Rose and former member of the Village People.

A private ceremony will be held for Eddie Three Eagles this week later this week


The Native American Music Awards sadly shares the news of the recent passing of XIT co-founder and bassist, Jomac “Mac” Suazo (Taos Pueblo). Suazo passed away unexpectedly at his home on Christmas Eve. A memorial service is being planned for him later this week in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Jomac "Mac" Suazo was the bass player of the bands;  Lincoln St. Exit, XIT and later, eXit with The Ox Boyz. Suazo became most legendary for his work with XIT whose music still resonates among Indigenous peoples throughout the country. XIT, which stood for Crossing of Indian Tribes, was originally formed as Lincoln Street Exit in the early 1970s at Valley High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Founded by Mac Suazo, narrator and bass, A. Michael Martinez, singer and lead guitar, Lee Herrerra on drums, and R. C. Gariss, second lead guitar, the band then shortened their name to XIT and would go on to become one of the first and most influential Native American rock bands in history.

Suazo, along with A. Michael Martinez, Lee Herrerra, and R. C. Gariss were then joined by Tom Bee and released several groundbreaking albums. Their debut recording, “Plight of the Redman,” was released in 1972 on Motown Records. It was a concept album chronicling the changes in Native American life since the arrival of Columbus.  The recording was the first of its kind to combine traditional and electric instrumentation along with chanting and Native dialogue. Their followup, “Silent Warrior” was their second release on the label in 1973 in which Suazo co-wrote two of the songs. The album came at the height of the Wounded Knee takeover in South Dakota, and XIT quickly became labeled by the media as the musical ambassadors of the American Indian Movement. Both albums brought national attention to the brutal conditions on Indian reservations and colonialism's effect on Indigenous peoples. XIT quickly rose in popularity, went on to tour internationally, and inspired young Native musicians across the country.  

Subsequent recordings were released and lineups of the group would eventually change. The band featured other musicians such as;  Obie Sullivan (keyboards), Willie Bluehouse Johnson (Lead guitar) P.J. West (Drums, percussion to include timpani), Louie Running Wolf (bass guitar), and Jim Boyd (lead guitar).  Tom Bee left the group to write and produce for Motown and eventually formed his own record company, Sound of America Records which would rerelease XIT’s recordings; "Plight of the Redman," "Silent Warrior", "Relocation" and a reunion CD, "XIT: Without Reservation”.  Mac Suazo and A. Michael Martinez continued to record and perform as eXit. The band released six more full length recordings; "eXit From the REZ" (2006), "No eXit" (2007), "eXit nOw" (2008), "neXt eXit" (2009), "The Red Album" (2010) and "Forty Years" (2011). 

In 1999, XIT performed at the Second Annual Native American Music Awards and were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. At the 2010 Native American Music Awards, Mac Suazo, Lee Herrera and A. Michael Martinez participated as both nominees and special guest presenters.  Mac, along with The Ox Boyz and original XIT members A. Michael Martinez and Lee Herrera performed in a music video recording collaboration of Jan Michael Looking Wolf’s song, “Live As One”, an international message of hope, healing, and unity from the Native American music community. https://youtu.be/d2UpToByjfw  They would share in the win for Best Music Video that next year,  in 2011.  In 2016, Mac and XIT received a New Mexico Hall of Fame award and are listed as Hall of Fame recipients from the New Mexico Music Commission. 

“Mac never stopped promoting Indigenous music or the idea that the music was meaningful and critical in making sure that history did not repeat itself” says his bandmate, A Michael Martinez who first met Suazo in 1966. Murphy Platero of The Platero’s simply called him, “a music legend”.

Mac was the oldest of four brothers of Josie and Maclovio Suazo. He always had a passion for music while jamming with his brothers growing up. After sharing in the success of XIT, Mac eventually left life on the road to settle down and return to his family.  Tragically, after suffering the loss of his young wife, Della in an accident, he was forced to raise his two small children as a single parent. 

He leaves behind his children, Mathew, Marthann, and Star, and three grandchildren who will miss him dearly. There is a gofund me campaign to assist with Mac Suazo’s funeral arrangements and final resting place at Sunset Memorial Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico.   https://gofund.me/52c50682

Mac will be greatly missed by all and will be forever remembered as a Native American Music Rock Icon. Journey well Mac.