By JENNIFER K. BAUER
of the Lewiston Tribune
The Nammys are the equivalent of the Grammys for the Native American Music Association. Not only was Lightning Creek nominated as Debut Group of the Year, it was invited to perform at the 15th annual Native American Music Awards Nov. 14 at the Seneca Allegany Casino Events Center in New York.
“We’re kind of overwhelmed,” said lead singer Tom Williamson, a 1995 graduate of Lapwai High School. “This is big for the Northwest. All our families, everyone’s really excited. It’s a big honor.”
Seven members of the group plan to travel to New York next week for the ceremony honoring indigenous people in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. It will be the first trip to the East Coast for all but Williamson.
Group members have been holding a variety of fundraisers to pay for the expense of the trip, which is not covered by the association. Donations can be made at Umpqua Bank in Lewiston (more details at end of story).
The members of Lightning Creek grew up singing together around the drum at name-giving ceremonies, funerals and other rites. They formed a group as they got older, and Lighting Creek recorded its first album, “Long Time Coming,” in 2013. It is a blend of ancient songs learned from their elders and new songs they composed, some of which include English words. The album is available on iTunes.
The men sing around a drum they made. Williamson, who built the frame, said the one that group members use now is made from the hide of a moose shot by one of the members. They plan to bring their favorite drum, named Grandpa Big Red, to New York. The drum is always treated with the utmost respect — members offer tobacco and smudge themselves before performing.
They plan to sing a very old Nimiipuu song, taught to them by Harry Slickpoo, at the awards ceremony.
“It’s one of the oldest songs known. With our younger voices it might be cool to bring that back East,” said Williamson, who noted the group is honored to represent the tribe and the Northwest at the ceremony.
Other members of Lightning Creek are Josh Henry, Frank Taylor, Casey Mitchell, David Wheeler, John Williamson, Nigele Williamson, Simon Henry, Theo Williamson and Carl Ray Powaukee.
People can vote for Lightning Creek at www.nativeamericanmusicawards.com. The performance will be streamed live on www.fnx.org. Donations for travel expenses can be sent to Umpqua Bank, 2250 Thain Grade, Lewiston, 83501 or call (208) 746-2611 for the Lightning Creek LLC account.