A folk singer from Manitoba considered one of the pioneers of Indigenous music has died from COVID-19.
Shingoose, born Curtis Jonnie, passed away from COVID-19 at the age of 74 on Jan. 12, according to his daughter, Nahanni Shingoose. He was a resident of the Southeast Personal Care Home in Winnipeg.
“His impact and his legacy is incredible,” Nahanni said from her home in Ontario on Wednesday. “I’ve been honoured with so many great stories and gifts from people, the stories that they had to share about his legacy.”
Shingoose, an Ojibwa from the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in Manitoba, was a survivor of the Sixties Scoop, being adopted at the age of four. He was sent to a boarding school in Nebraska at the age of 15, and began singing in the choir there. “It’s one of fortunately/unfortunately moments where music came into his life, but I think that, through his experiences, he was able to harness somewhere, through his spirit, that feeling of resilience,” Nahanni said. "That’s what he sang about.”
From 1965 to 1973, he performed with a variety of bands. He returned to Winnipeg in the 1970s, and became a musician and activist for Indigenous issues, and toured extensively across Canada, performing under the name Shingoose.
His first album, Native Country, was released in 1975, and featured Bruce Cockburn. Other albums include Ballad of Norval, Natural Tan and T-Bird in the Lake. His song “Silver River,” recorded with Duke Redbird, was featured on the Grammy-nominated album Native North America, Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985, released in 2014.
Nahanni said her father was revered throughout the music and entertainment industry.
“I didn’t have a sense of the impact he had on the world, because growing up, he was just dad,” she said. “We did things like, we rented a Winnebago, I think I must have been 13, and we drove across the States and parked it in Bob Dylan’s driveway, and we were hanging out with Max Gail. Those were just dad’s friends.”
She said one of her dad’s proudest accomplishments was helping create the Best Music of Aboriginal Canada Category (now the Indigenous Music Album of the Year) at the Juno Awards, alongside Buffy Sainte-Marie and Elaine Bomberry.
“They trailblazed a way for our youth to come up and showcase their talent as well,” she said.
In the last decade of his life, Shingoose had a stroke which paralyzed the left side of his body.
Shingoose played the Winnipeg Folk Festival seven times from 1975 to 2016. The Folk Festival took to Twitter to honour Shingoose.
We are heartbroken to hear about the passing of Curtis Jonnie, also known as Shingoose. He played the Winnipeg Folk Fest 7 times from 1975 to 2016 & was an integral part of the festival. His family & friends are in our thoughts through this very difficult time. Rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/FT69UyJpA9— Winnipeg Folk Fest (@Winnipegfolk) January 12, 2021
Nahanni said she wants her father to be remembered for his legacy of resilience.
“He chose music, and poetry, and song as his outlet, which in the 60s and 70s, the peace and love movement, he proved himself as a true hippie,” she said. “That has been his vision, his legacy, peace and love, and he speaks the truth. He was a truth teller.”
A GoFundMe page to help the family cover Shingoose’s end-of-life expenses has been set up.
-With files from CTV’s Jon Hendricks.