A cultural ambassador known for his smile, warmth and generosity, Northern Cheyenne and GRAMMY award winning artist Joseph FireCrow walked on at age 58, after losing a battle to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis on July 11, in Winsted, Connecticut. His wife Joann was at his side when he took his last breath.
There is no known cure for IPF and FireCrow had been waiting for a lung transplant. Services were held on Saturday, July 15, in Winsted. He is survived by his siblings; his wife, Joann Moore; and children Brandon, Karrie, Joseph III, Damian and Jared.
FireCrow was born in Crow Agency, on March 29, 1959, one of 10 children born to Joseph FireCrow Sr. and Elva Stands in Timber. He spent his early years on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. FireCrow attended the St. Labre Mission School in Ashland, Montana and graduated from Salmon High School in Idaho. He also studied at Brigham Young University in Utah, where he studied flute with John Rainer.
‘Cheyenne Flutes’—Joseph FireCrow on making flutes and ‘the beauty of the flute’
FireCrow began making and playing flutes in the summer of 1977 when he was 18 years old. On his website, he states, “You can teach someone how to play the flute, but you can’t teach them how to make it sing.” And everyone who heard him perform knows that Joseph FireCrow made his flutes sing. “The natural beauty of the flute evokes very powerful emotions,” FireCrow wrote. “The traditional flute is social, not ceremonial, in nature, and should always be treated with that in mind and spirit.”
Joseph FireCrow was a humble, caring, compassionate man, whose smile and laughter is what people remember most about him. He conducted flute-making workshops, presented and played at schools, universities and powwows, he performed around the country and was known as one of the top Native flute-players.
‘Legend of the Warrior/Keep Going,’ Joseph FireCrow
‘Creator’s Prayer,’ Joseph FireCrow
He was a frequent contributor to Operation Music Aid for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often donating his handmade flutes and music library to assist in their recovery through music therapy. In 2013, he helped produce a compilation CD to benefit Operation Music Aid and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Northern Cheyenne Nation. The album is called Dawn’s Early Light, and includes FireCrow and Cody Blackbird, Joanne Shenandoah, Shelley Morningsong, Martha Redbone, Casper Loma-Da-Wa and Brian Card.
FireCrow was proud of his acting debut in which he read, acted and appeared in an Off-Broadway play, the Native American inspired Distant Thunder, with Spencer Battiest (Seminole). He also worked with Steven Spielberg on Into the West and Ken Burns for the documentary Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery. Joseph contributed to a composition titled The Gift of the Elk, which was commissioned by the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra and premiered in April 2010 with Maestro Jung-Ho Pak conducting.
‘Wind In My Mind,’ Joseph FireCrow, from his 1996 album, Fire Crow
‘Wolf Song,’ Joseph FireCrow
The piece was based on the traditional story of how the Native American flute came to the Northern Cheyenne people. FireCrow called himself a Cheyenne Fluteman who carried the Wolf Songs.
In the early 1990’s FireCrow was working in a power plant in Billings, Montana, to support his family. He started to play the flute again and then summoned the courage to quit his job after releasing two self-produced CDs. A few years later, FireCrow met his wife Joann Moore at the Schemitzun Festival in Connecticut, they soon married and he moved there, which he said was good for his family and career.
‘Night Walk,’ the title track from Joseph FireCrow’s 2012 album
FireCrow has released eight solo albums, six internationally. His accomplishments include a 2010 GRAMMY in the New Age category as a guest artist on David Darling’s Prayer for Compassion; a 2000 GRAMMY nomination in the Best Native American Music Album category; seven Native American Music Awards: Songwriter of the Year, Best Instrumental Recording and Flutist of the Year (three), Artist of the Year, and Song/Single of the Year; as well as a Telly award. In 2016, FireCrow received the NAMA Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring him as a top singer/songwriter, flute player, vocalist and musician.
Joseph FireCrow’s discography: The Mist (1992); Rising Bird (1994); Tribal Winds: Music from Native American Flute (an anthology on Earthbeat) (1995); Fire Crow (1996, reissued in 1999); Cheyenne Nation (2000); Parmly’s Dream (2002, a collaboration with the Billings Symphony Orchestra performing on a composition by Jim Cockey); Signature (2003; a second collaboration with Jim Cockey and the Billings Symphony Orchestra); Legend of A Warrior (2003); Red Beads (2005, featuring Joseph’s late mother, Eva Stands In Timber); Face The Music (2009); Out of Many We Are One with Thomasina Levy and others (2010); Joseph FireCrow Live At the Winsted Green (2011); Nightwalk (2012). His music is available and can be purchased on his website and at online retail sites. –Alex Jones, posted at Indian Country Today, July 17, 2017