The group was founded in 1982 when the Wood brothers of Saddle Lake, Alberta, Canada, traveled to Lapwai, Idaho, to compete in a stick game tournament. Their first night there, they lost all their funds in the tournament and found themselves unable to get home. The only way they could earn enough money to get home was to sing at the Pow-Wow the following day, singing the many songs that they had learned from their father and uncles. One of the brothers borrowed a drum from a local museum so they could sing at the Pow-Wow. When the arena director asked the name of the group, they looked down at the faded words “Northern Cree” written on the drum and gave that as their drum group name. Thus, the Northern Cree Singers began their career as one of the most respected and influential groups on the Pow-Wow trail.
Though the group originates from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, it is currently made up of members from the Treaty 6 area, most notably the Frog Lake Cree Nation, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Cree Nation, and the Poundmaker Cree Nation.
Since the group was founded, they have traveled all over North America singing at Pow-Wows in Canada and the United States and winning hundreds of championship signing titles from every major Pow-Wow including the Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the July-msh Pow-Wow in Post Falls, Idaho. They have performed at folk festivals and have shared the beauty and vitality of their indigenous culture with First Nations/Native Americans and non-Native audiences in many communities across the United States and Canada. Their singing and songmaking skills are highly respected by Pow-Wow dancers and singers alike. Their dedication to their Cree culture, their language and the Pow-Wow way of life have touched countless people and have inspired generations of young Native Americans to further explore their rich culture.
In 1998 they provided music and appeared in the major theatrical film, Grey Owl, starring Pierce Brosnan and directed by Academy Award-winning director Sir Richard Attenborough. In 2013, Northern Cree completed a tour of Greenland and performed in London’s Trafalgar Square as part of the celebration of Canada Day.
They have released 38 recordings spanning 25 years with Phoenix-based Canyon Records. Their recordings have won numerous awards including multiple Nammys (Native American Music Awards), Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, Aboriginal Peoples’ Music Choice Awards and Indian Summer Music Awards. In addition, their recordings have earned them dozens of nominations over the years including 7 Grammy nominations.
In 2016, they won the coveted 1st Place title in the Northern Style singing category at the Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Northern Cree’s most recent recording mîyo kekisepa, Make A Stand – Pow-Wow Songs Recorded Live at Red Mountain is nominated for a Grammy in the Regional Roots category at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards. Northern Cree performed the song “Cree Cuttin’” live on the pre-telecast portion of the show for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in 2017. This thrilling performance was streamed worldwide. This marked the first time Native American/First Nations traditional music was performed on the Grammy stage.
In May of 2017, Northern Cree was honored in Winnipeg as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indigenous Music Awards.
Northern Cree are role models for all First Nations people and live by founding member Steve Wood’s motto: “If you believe in yourself, who you are, where you come from, your culture and more importantly your language, it will take you to places you have never even dreamed of.”
mîyo kekisepa, Make A Stand
"Dancers Only" from mîyo kekisepa, Make A Stand
"Old Yeller " from mîyo kekisepa, Make A Stand