Otsigeya (We Women)
Otsigeya (from left to right) Brandy Leonard, Kathy Growney, Valerie Retallack (Cherokee/Choctaw), Gwen Cochran (Cherokee/Comanche), Barbara Warren (Cherokee), Tonya Elliott (Cherokee), Shirley Rowland (Eastern Cherokee), Nora Thurmond, guest (Ojibwe), Jennifer West Trantham (Cherokee)
As a women's drum group, Otsigeya (Oh-gee-gay-yah) offers fresh, original, and inspirational women's songs reflecting the heartbeat of Mother Earth and the healing energy of her natural rhythms.
ABOUT THE SINGERS
Barbara is a songwriter/singer whose songs reflect Cherokee culture and her commitment to preserving the Cherokee language through music.
In 2006, Barbara was nominated for a Native American Music Award with her former drum group the Feather River Singers for their album, “Daughters of the Earth.”
In 2016 she released “Keeper of the Family,” an album featuring songs with Cherokee lyrics in celebration of women and embracing women’s empowerment. In 2017 “Keeper of the Family” was honored as a Native American Music Awards (NAMA) Nominee and was the winner of two Indian Summer Music Awards (ISMA).
Barbara is the founder of Otsigeya, a Native Women’s drum group who sing in the spirit of traditional music and carry the Medicine of the Drum. She also sings with Shining Woman & Friends who offer a unique blend of Native American melodic songs rich with vocal harmonies and contemporary instrumentation.
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!
I’m a mother and grandmother and community volunteer. For more than thirty years, I’ve been active in the local American Indian Education Program as a member of the parent committee, volunteer, and instructor. I teach basketry, beading, silver-smithing, drumming, archery and other native
crafts including making regalia. Each year, I’m the chairperson for the two annual pow wows sponsored by our local Indian Education Program. Currently, I’m a member of the Cherokees of Northern California-based in Sacramento. I’ve been involved with drum medicine for over twenty years. I’m a former member of the Feather River Singers, a women’s pow wow group, and a founding member of Otsigeya. We’re a service drum; whenever and wherever we are needed, we try to accommodate those needs.
Shirley Rowland, Dr. AD. ( Addictive Disorders) LAADAC ( License Advanced Alcohol Drug Counselor ) MATC ( Medication Assisted Treatment Counselor) CAP( Certified Anger Professional.
Dr. Rowland is the Substance Abuse Specialist for the MATC program and Addiction-Free Pain Management at Elica Health Centers in Sacramento California. She is a consultant/trainer for the Native American Training Institute in Albuquerque New Mexico. She is an author and recognized expert in the Field of Addiction and Pain Management.
Dr. Shirley was on the facility of UC Davis Alcohol and Drug Studies Program and is a consultant for the Breining Institute a College for Addictive Disorders. She has a bachelor in Psychology a Masters and Doctoral in Addictive Disorders. With over 35 years in the field of Substance abuse and Mental Health, Dr. Shirley brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her training and therapy.
She is Eastern Cherokee from North Carolina. She is a founding member of Otsigeya. Her connection with the drum began as a young wife to a professional drummer and music has been a part of her family’s life. She became a drum maker after first making drums for her grandchildren and now as a great-grandmother of ten, it’s a skill she continues to this day. Her love is drumming with her drum sisters, and the drum therapy groups she facilitates. As an artist, she works with a variety of mediums, including painting and beadwork.
I’m a Cherokee Citizen, an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe, the Cherokee Nation. Through my mother’s heritage, I’m a direct descendant of an ancestor who was enrolled on the Dawes Roll. It is through my mother’s guidance that I carry my Cherokee heritage with pride; I am “my mother’s daughter.”
As far as I can remember, I have been involved with the Native American culture. My parents first involved my sister, brother and me with the White Fawn Dancers, and I began dancing at the age of twelve. My father was a singer at a drum, and I remember him, with his drumstick in his hand, watching my mother proudly stand behind him and sing, and my mother watching her children dance with the fierce sense pride. I have been a “Fancy Dancer” from the beginning and to this day dancing at many powwows. When I was fifteen, the White Fawn Dancers were invited to dance and sing in Anchorage, Alaska. During our time in Alaska, we were invited to watch the Native American Games. I also traveled to Washington D.C. representing the White Fawn dancers.
As time went on being Cherokee was not just a word, it was a way of life. My mother taught her children to hold our heads up high and be gracious of our heritage. When I graduated high school Mother began teaching me about the medicine of healing. I learned about the four sacred medicines, Sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar, and Tobacco. We were taught to keep our bodies clean of any drugs or alcohol; this I still practice today. During this time I learned how to bead on a loom. It has always been my favorite Native Craft. I also loved to pick the cedar from my parent’s yard and gift it to my friends and loved ones. This was the time my mother passed on our family history.
Many years ago our parents joined the Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley, a satellite community of the Cherokee Nation. My mother was elected to the CNCV Council and held the positions as Historian and, later, Spokesperson. My mother soon became friends with Barbara Warren (Shining Woman) and became a founding member of Otsigeya (We Woman), a Cherokee women’s singing group. There was never a day that went by that I did not hear my mother sing songs from Otsigeya, and, because of her passion, we learned the songs that she sang. In late spring the Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley would have a picnic. All of the family would sit in the front of the “staging area” where they presented their songs and were their biggest fans. The songs have always been so moving, so breathtaking; it truly brought tears to my eyes to watch my mother play her hand drum and sing. She is what beauty means to me.
In the year of 2012 Mother passed away, and I took it upon myself to make sure that her music legacy continued. After a probationary period, I became a member of Otsigeya.
My path continues as the Co-Spokesperson for the Cherokees of Northern Central Valley. Also being a member of Otsigeya brings me so much joy, and pride knowing this is where I was meant to be all these years growing up. I have never felt a sisterhood as I do with these ladies. Today I continue to sing and to teach my children about the importance of medicine of the drum, and most importantly to be proud of our indigenous history.
Brandy Leonard, indigenous to the Irish peoples, served eleven years as a military non-commissioned officer, and three of those years as a flight medic. She served as an EMT and Emergency Technician in her civilian job. As a woman of service, her passion was to help others and protect those who could not protect themselves. After suffering a traumatic brain injury in her last tour of duty, Brandy’s life changed dramatically. She believed that her passion for helping others was over, now having to face new challenges in her everyday life.
The invitation to the drum began a completely new journey. Drumming has been the most healing experience for heart and head. The gift received by the medicine of the drum has allowed Brandy to return to her passion for being of service to others; although methods may be different, the intention remains the same.
I am the newest member of Otsigeya. I was invited to join November 2014 and my life hasn’t been the same since. My time with Selu (the name of our drum) and Otsigeya has been an incredible experience filled with transformation, spiritual growth, healing, excitement, and joy. I have had a strong connection with the drum for a long time and made my first-hand drum in 1995. My journey to Selu has been a difficult one but I believe I had to go thru everything I have to get to where I am today and it’s an amazing place. Wado Galvladiehi. People have been telling me for some time that Unetlanvhi had big plans for me and kept me alive for a reason. I know in my heart of hearts that this is what it was. Osda alenitohv