Shining Woman


Song catcher Barbara Warren offers a unique, contemporary blend of melodic songs, rich with harmonies added by her sister singers, Lindsey Thurmond, Tonya Elliott and Nora Thurmond. Barbara’s songs reflect her Cherokee culture, her commitment to preserve the Cherokee language, and her support of women’s empowerment.



ABOUT US 2 (2)

I’m a retired educator with a 40-year career in public education. My mother and her family were from Oklahoma; I’m of Cherokee descent. Although I ‘m not enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, I hold my heritage in high esteem.

For many years I was actively involved in the local American Indian Education Program, and served as a Teacher adviser and then as an Elder on the parent committee. I was given the “Honored Elder” Award at the 30th Annual California Conference on American Indian Education. I have assisted and taught drumming over the years, and participated in the annual Native Women’s Drum Retreats we hold in Northern California. I’m a member of the Cherokees of Northern Central Valley (CNCV), a satellite community of the Cherokee Nation. In 2011 I was presented with the Feather Award from CNVC for my contribution to our organization.

Although I’m not fluent in Cherokee, I’ve taught classes using the syllabary and basic language skills. I have a passion for the preservation of indigenous languages, and writing songs in Cherokee is my way of promoting my native tongue.

I’ve been involved with drum medicine for over twenty years. From my first encounter with the mother drum in 1976, that heartbeat spoke directly to my soul. I’m a former and founding member of the Feather River Singers, a women’s pow wow drum. Our album, “Daughters of the Earth,” was nominated for a Native American Music Award in 2006. A few years later I needed to make a change in my spiritual path’s direction, and in 2009 I founded the women’s drum group, Otsigeya.

I’m now former drum keeper for Otsigeya, a role which I recently passed to the younger generation. It’s been an honor for me to bring songs to my drum; in turn, our singers carry songs as medicine to share with others. These songs reflect my culture, my commitment to preservation of the Cherokee language, and my support of women’s empowerment.

In April of 2016, my album, Keeper of the Family, made its debut. The journey to make this album a reality began a year and a half earlier. It had been my dream to leave a legacy of some of my many songs in the form of an album. All that was needed came together at the right moment in time; I don’t believe it happened by chance. I’m forever humbled by the support that was given by my drum sisters of Otsigeya and to my friends Nora Thurmond-Straight and Steve Bayard who created the beautiful harmonies and worked with me every step of the way.

For all the many miles I’ve traveled on my journey with the drum, my roadie, my constant companion and biggest supporter has been my hubby, Ray…Fifty years and counting.

Nora's Bio Photo

One of my earliest memories is watching my dad break into his “Indian dance” when he’d hear a song on the radio with a drum solo that had a steady 4/4, low tom-tom rhythm. Only after he’d passed did I recognize it when I saw my first “grass dance” at a pow wow. “We’re part Chippewa Indian,” he’d say…

My mother, a World War II “war bride” from England, was a gifted pianist who taught piano in our home while I was growing up. My relationship with music began with learning about the European classics as I danced to Beethoven and Bach while she’d play so beautifully in our living room. Besides learning to make my way around the piano, I sang tenor with the boys in school choirs and looking back I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t try to harmonize to all the songs I heard on our records and on the radio. That’s just what I always did.

I’ve felt an affinity with drumming and percussion all my life. My first love was a drummer in a pop cover band. Later I married a drummer and birthed a few musicians who, in turn, have given me grandchildren who’ve also apparently inherited the familial music and rhythm gene. In 2005 when I heard a Native hand drum for the first time, I felt a deep and profound shiver up my spine. I followed the call and soon became part of the hand drumming group known as Sisters where I started learning about drum protocol, Lakota traditions, and began an experiential learning and healing journey to reconnect with my own Native American heritage.

I met Shining Woman , Barbara Warren, in 2005 while at my first annual women’s drum gathering in Alturas, California, and I fell in love with her gentle nature, her songs, and her smooth-as-honey voice. For several years now I’ve been welcomed as a guest drummer at her Cherokee Mother Drum, Selu, and by Her talented group of wonderful wise women singers/drummers known as Otsigeya.

Today, music fills my life in ways I never thought possible. After playing rhythms on my knees with my hands for over 40 years, I’ve recently learned to play the drum set and now sing and play with a few good friends in a soft rock band, Sweet Grass here in Grass Valley, CA. I’ve also been blessed the last couple of years with the opportunity to support Barbara in manifesting her beautiful Cherokee songs in her latest body of work, her Keeper of the Family album. Being a part of the production process in the recording studio offered me the invaluable opportunity to both sing and arrange some of the songs in this diverse compilation of Barbara’s original material and I’ll be forever grateful for it. And now, as a member of the Shining Woman & Friends , musical group, I get to work with Steve Bayard, guitarist extraordinaire, our flutist Sue Lovan, and perhaps best of all, I get to harmonize with both Barbara and my gifted daughter Lindsey as we prepare these wonderful songs for the live performances ahead.

Yes indeed, o-s-da a-le-ni-to-hv (life is good)!


Tonya Elliott-Walker LMFT PhD ABD is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has recently completed her doctoral coursework in Counselor Education and Supervision. She is a mother of four beautiful children and lives in the foothills of Northern California near Lake Tahoe.

Her father’s family is a Southern breed. She was born in Louisiana and moved to California at the age of 3, when her father, a police officer, relocated to California for work. As a child, her father (born in Texas), shared stories of her family’s southern (or rather Western) Cherokee heritage. She grew up feeling drawn to learn more about the Cherokee culture and how it would interface with her Christian upbringing.

Her mother, born in Sacramento, California was of mixed Euro-American/Pawnee Native American descent, although the family has lost much of that connection (other than some tribal papers) due to factors relating to historical trauma. Tonya embarked upon a spiritual journey in her 20’s that led her to participate in many different Native cultures and tribal ceremonies. Throughout this journey, she came to understand the value of reconnecting to traditional culture and finally had a chance to experience true Cherokee culture deep in the heart of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma just a few years ago.

Now in her mid 40’s she has become passionate about empowering Native women and encouraging Native people of all blood quantum to reconnect to traditional Native culture. The spiritually restorative effects of reclaiming oneself through a sense of community identity and relationship to the natural world are priceless. Her calling to the mother drum(while not traditionally Cherokee) helped her to solidify cultural values and recreate a sense of Native community with her drum sisters. The calling that they share is to raise awareness about preserving Cherokee Language and traditions through the medium of drumming and singing songs in Cherokee.

The development of friendships and extended family through community drumming has brought long lasting healing effects to women drummers all over the United States and Canada and to the people with whom the medicine songs are shared. May you be blessed and enriched by these beautiful songs as well!