Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone

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Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone in 1915 looking forward
Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone in 1915

Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone (December 13, 1882 – January 1985) was a Creek/Cherokee singer and performer.

Early life[edit]

Tsianina Redfeather was born Florence Tsianina Evans at Eufaula, in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), to Creek and Cherokee parents. She was trained as a singer in Denver, sponsored in part by Alice Robertson.[1]

Career[edit]

At age 16, Redfeather joined pianist Charles Wakefield Cadman on tour, giving recitals throughout North America. Cadman, who was white, claimed expertise in Native American music, and lectured on the subject. As "Princess Redfeather," Tsianina performed Cadman's compositions in traditional costume, with long braids and garments she had beaded herself.[2][3] Cadman's composition, "From the Land of Sky-Blue Water," was Redfeather's signature song.

Tsianina Redfeather also knew archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett, who attempted to compliment her by saying that he admired the shape of her head, and hoped to have it for his museum after she died. "He frightened me," she recalled, "and I had a secret fear of having my skull on display for all to see." (Hewett died long before Redfeather did.) [4]

During World War I, she was the only woman in a YMCA-sponsored troupe of Native American entertainers who played and danced for troops in Paris just before the armistice.[5] For her service, she received a commendation.

The opera Shanewis, with music by Cadman and libretto by Nelle Richmond Eberhart, was loosely based on Redfeather's stories of Native American life.[6] It debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918 and toured the United States. Tsianina Redfeather sang the lead at some performances, including at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, in 1926.[7]

In 1935, Redfeather retired from singing. She was one of the founders of the American Indian Education Foundation (AIEF), and spent thirty years on the board of managers for the School of American Research in Santa Fe.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Redfeather married and divorced twice. A devout Christian Scientist later in life, she lived with her niece Wynemah Blaylock in Burbank, California, and later in San Diego, where she died in 1985, age 102.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paige Clark Lush, "The All American Other: Native American Music and Musicians on the Circuit Chautauqua," Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture 1900 to Present 7(2)Fall 2008): http://www.americanpopularculture.com/journal/articles/fall_2008/lush.htm
  2. ^ Jared Farmer, On Zion's Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Harvard University Press 2009): pp. 344-345.
  3. ^ Harry D. Perison, "The 'Indian' Operas of Charles Wakefield Cadman," College Music Symposium 22(2)(Fall 1982): 20-48.
  4. ^ Beatrice Chauvenet, Hewett and Friends: A Biography of Santa Fe's Vibrant Era (Museum of New Mexico Press 1983): 157-158.
  5. ^ a b K. Tsianina Lomawaima, "Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone," in Gretchen M. Bataille and Laurie Lisa, eds., Native American Women: A Biographical Dictionary (Taylor & Francis 2001): 39-40.
  6. ^ Elise Kuhl Kirk, American Opera (University of Illinois Press 2001): pp. 149-151.
  7. ^ Beverly Diamond, "Decentering Opera: Early Twentieth-Century Indigenous Production," in Pamela Karantonis and Dylan Robinson, eds., Opera Indigene: Re/Presenting First Nations and Indigenous Cultures (Ashgate 2011): p. 33.
  8. ^ "American Indian Performer Tsianina Redfeather Blackstone," Chicago Tribune (January 13, 1985).