Indian Life Newspaper -

Music is my life

 

Last updated 9/23/2012 at 2:01pm

Jorie West

Jorie, Gracee, Carrie and Christie West

Jorie West is part of the award-winning duo Sayani.

Music has always been a part of my life. When I was three years old, Mom and Dad put me on top of an orange crate so that I could reach the microphone at KPRO radio in Riverside, California, and my little voice hit the airwaves for the very first time. And I've been singing ever since.

My father, E.V. Medley, of Cherokee/Choctaw/Irish/English heritage, was born in Catoosa, Oklahoma. He later moved to Arkansas where he met and married my mother, MaryAnn Ford, whose parents were Cherokee/Creek Indian. Mother's family had moved around quite a bit in her life because of the difficulties they encountered from folks that did not want an Indian family living in the community.

My uncles tell stories about how they had to escort her to and from school to protect her from other kids who would ambush her along the way. She grew up feeling unwanted in the world around her but found peace in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ at a very early age.

After my mother and father married, they moved to California where my sister JoAnn, brother John Gayle and I were born.

My mother only talked of being Indian when her brothers would visit. I remember seeing her shake her head and shush them when I would come into the room. She was shunned while growing up and still felt shame about the way they were treated. She wanted a different life for us and was very selective about the stories that she told us about her childhood. Nevertheless, there was always a voice inside my heart that called to me from a heritage that I knew little about.

After my mother passed away, I began to learn about our family from my uncles who felt very different and were proud of our Indian blood. They were happy to tell me all that they knew about who we are and where we came from. For that, I am grateful.

My folks were singing evangelists and my brother and I traveled with them for many years. I have always been grateful for my parents and the example that they set for us. I could hear my mother praying in her bedroom every night before she went to bed and would often walk in and find her reading the Bible.

I remember well the day that I decided to make Jesus the champion of my life. We were singing in a church in Pedley, California, and the message touched my heart. I was only seven years old but I made a life-long commitment to Jesus Christ that day. The Word of God is life to me and, looking back, I believe that my mother sowed that seed in me when I was still in the womb.

I married Wendell West, a bass singer, when I was 19 and continued to travel and sing with him in a group called The Second Coming. We had our first child, Rachelle, in 1974, and Christie came along two-and-a-half years later.

Carrie joined our family in 1986 and moved to Hawaii with my father and I in 1995 while Christie was attending college in California. Rachelle was married and had made me a young grandmother by then.

Christie, who developed an exceptional ear for harmony at a very early age, moved to Hawaii in 1997 and we started singing together. We sang backup vocals on various Hawaiian albums and in bands and worship teams throughout Hawaii.

We traveled as Ambassadors of the Aloha Spirit to Australia and New Zealand and became the Native American arm of Aloha Ke Akua Ministries where we learned about Indigenous cultures. After eleven years in the beautiful state of Hawaii, God called us back to the Mainland in 2006 to share what we had learned and to spread the Aloha Spirit to all who have ears to hear.

We began to travel and sing all over the United States and were amazed to learn that there are people who are not aware that "real Indians" still exist. It is no wonder that many First Nations people often feel forgotten. Our schools teach the history of the Native American but do not teach much about Indians of today. We are spread all over the world and those who do not live on reservations tend to blend in with mainstream society so well that hardly anyone notices that they have Indian blood.

There is a "politically correct" expectation when it comes to people who come to America from other Nations. Americans are encouraged to be respectful of foreign cultures but give little or no thought to America's own First Nations people.

We've protested sports logos and had minor disputes over promises and treaties made and broken but nothing has really gained the lasting attention of Americans when it comes to recognizing the North American Indian and appreciating their contribution to this great country. Many gave all and their spiritual thread runs deep throughout the Land of the Free.

When we look at this wonderful planet, we see a variety of colors, shapes, sounds, textures and flavors that make it a magnificent place to live. With that in mind, we must believe that Creator God looks down on us with great pleasure as we honor Him with our dance and song.

The music of First Nations people comes from the heart of those who seek to express themselves in a way to which others can relate. We find our identity in our music. It tells our stories and perpetuates our culture.

Native American music has its own sound and attracts people from all over the world. The music moves us. It makes us cry; it makes us laugh. It stirs our soul and lifts our spirit. It connects with the beat of our hearts.

Sayani

When we look at this wonderful planet, we see a variety of colors, shapes, sounds, textures and flavors that make it a magnificent place to live. With that in mind, we must believe that Creator God looks down on us with great pleasure as we honor Him with our dance and song.

When we honor God with the songs and dances of our culture, we believe that He is blessed as His people worship Him from the depths of their being. There is nothing more important than being who we were created to be and doing what we were created to do. To know what that is, we must first connect with Unelanvhi--Creator God.

We do that by studying His Word, the Holy Bible or "Talking Leaves" as some of our people call it. Indians are deeply spiritual and understand the concept of the two worlds--the planet that we live on and the afterlife to which we look forward.

Our desire is to show people how to walk in love and forgiveness, to forget about the past and press toward the mark of the high calling of God. To make the world around us a better place in whatever way we can.

Christie and I love to meet new people and share what God has taught us as we travel the world, sing our songs and impart to others what God has put into our hearts. We are all related in that we came from one man and one woman but the deepest sense of belonging comes from the DNA of Tsisa Golanedv (Jesus Christ) as we make Him our source and the reason that we sing.

 
 

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