Members of the LdF Niijii Singers and Ogiichidaa Singers are pictured on the red carpet at the 2019 Native American Music Awards, which took place in Niagra Falls, New York last weekend. Contributed photograph.
Members of the LdF Niijii Singers and Ogiichidaa Singers are pictured on the red carpet at the 2019 Native American Music Awards, which took place in Niagra Falls, New York last weekend. Contributed photograph.
Several students from Lac du Flambeau were awarded a national award for their musical commitment and talent on Nov. 2.

The youth making up the Niijii Singers and Ogiichidaa Singers were among the elite finalists for a 2019 Native American Music Award (NAMA) with their 12-song album, “Hear Our Songs.” The album was written, performed, recorded and released last spring by the elementary and middle schoolers. At last weekend’s ceremony, held each year in Niagara Falls, New York, the group was presented with the Rising Star Award — the first ever given at NAMA. 

“It was awesome,” LdF Public School principal and NAMA attendee Ben Fieck said. “The kids are all super excited. The experience was so much better than expected.”

The young musicians also were a finalist in the New or Debut Duo/Group of the Year Category at the 19th annual NAMA. NAMA is the most highly-regarded award show for Native American music and promotes cultural preservation through new music both nationally and internationally.

LdF students walked the red carpet on the live, nationally-televised airing of the awards and went on to meet other award-winning and up-and-coming musicians at NAMA during the dinner and ceremony, Fieck said. 

“The students were given the VIP treatment from the airport to the limo to the hotel and awards ceremony,” he said. “The kids had a once in a lifetime experience … everybody was just in awe.” 

The Rising Star Award is presented to recognize an individual or group who has made a significant impact in the field of music, according to NAMA. 

Students honored include Victoria Cahak, Skylee LaBarge, Naci Mitchell, Shayeleigh Burnett, Rachel Jack, Trysten Belille Mustache, Jasmine Plasky, Alton Jackson, Leland King, Michael Schuman, Victor Reyes, Michael Schuman, Elianna Smith, and Grason Jackson. 

“They were presented the first Rising Star Award ever, it was the first time that award was ever given,” Fieck said. “They were the youngest nominees ever — even though they didn’t win the other nomination, they were one of just six nationwide. That is a huge accomplishment alone.”

The Rising Star Award is prestigious recognition now being presented to a singing group who excels in their field, according to NAMA officials. 

“Debuting as the Niijii Singers and Ogiichidaa Singers, these young artists impressively composed most of the songs themselves and sing in Ojibwe,” representatives of NAMA said.  

Students also had the chance to fly on a plane — most for the first time in their life — and visit Niagara Falls, Fieck said. Further, they were introduced to Mickie James, NAMA host and musician. The NAMA ceremony ended with the making and sharing of fry bread, made by the Seneca Niagara Falls Team. 

“It was at the closing song, the fry bread was really good,” Fieck said. 

The fry bread — made of just flour water and salt — tastes so good because of the human element, Fieck indicated. 

“Overall, it was just an amazing experience for the students who were a part of this,” Fieck noted. “We could not be more happy for them. We are obviously super proud of them here at the school. This is, hopefully, the start of many new opportunities for them.”

The young artists were welcomed and honored during a ceremony at LdF Public School on Monday. 

“We are so proud of them, and all they’ve accomplished and to see them recognized,” Fieck said. 

LdF Public School officials who were part of the NAMA event were especially appreciative to award-winning musician Bobby Bullet and Pam Bullet, both who aided and guided the Niijii and Ogiichidaa Singers as their elder to create the “Hear Our Songs” album from start to finish. That album and music is rooted in the traditional Seven Grandfather Teachings of wisdom, honesty, truth, bravery, respect, humility and love.  

“The ‘Hear Our Songs’ project has provided a platform for these students to learn about the songwriting process while sharing their most inner thoughts and feelings,” the NAMA nomination read. “Many of these youth have suffered great loss and the project has offered them an opportunity to heal. These young artists hope that through their songs, listeners will find greater inspiration and contribute to a stronger and healthier community.”

Cindy L. Kyska, administrative assistant to Fieck at LdF School, reflected Fieck’s sentiments on the NAMA trip as a unique and one-and-only opportunity. Kyska went along for the journey and award ceremony. 

“Really, let me tell you it was a life-changing trip for me, and I believe for everyone else!” Kyska relayed, acknowledging the entire school staff, administrators, teachers and students. “We all did it.”

The NAMA Awards was an exciting and historic moment in time for LdF Public School and even further beyond to the community and nation as a whole, Kyska added. 

“We just planted the seed ... so let’s grow, let’s keep growing,” she said. “We are famous now … we have just opened a brand-new door into the future. A door that leads into people talking about our students and their great accomplishments, our powerful leaders.”

“Hear Our Songs” CDs are available locally for purchase. All funds collected from sales help continue to support the Music on the Go program, which has introduced many students to playing guitar, singing, writing lyrics and composition.

According to a press release from LdF School, donations are still being sought to defray expenses from the trip to Niagara Falls. A thank you feast and giveaway will be scheduled for later this month. A benefit fundraiser for the trip will be scheduled for January at the Lake of the Torches Resort and Casino in Lac du Flambeau.

For more information contact Carol Ann Amour 715-439-3078 or amourcarol@yahoo.com.