Shingoose (also Curtis Jonnie), Ojibwe singer-songwriter, guitarist, folk musician, Indigenous activist (born on 26 October 1946 in Winnipeg, MB; died on 12 January 2021 in Winnipeg, MB). Shingoose rose to popularity in Canada and the US in the late 1960s. A well-respected musician, Shingoose was also a strong advocate of Indigenous issues and strove to highlight Indigenous culture on the world stage. (See also Music of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)
Shingoose, then known as Curtis Jonnie, was from the Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation in southern Manitoba. From 1950-60, he lived with a Mennonite missionary family in Steinbach, Manitoba, where he sang in church choirs.
A survivor of residential school and the Sixties Scoop, Jonnie moved to the US at the age of 15. There, he toured as a member of the Nebraska-based Boystown Concert Choir and played with a variety of rock bands in Washington, DC, and New York from about 1965-73.
Jonnie returned to Winnipeg in 1973. Moved by the confrontation that year between non-Indigenous people and members of the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, he became an activist on behalf of Indigenous peoples. Throughout his career, he tried to amplify the voices of Indigenous artists and bring Indigenous issues to the forefront. (See also Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canada.)
Taking the name of his great grandfather, Shingoose, and singing in a country-folk style, he rose to popularity in the late 1960s. He signed to ABC Records in 1969. Shingoose collaborated with Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn on his 1975 record, Native Country.
During his career, Shingoose appeared at folk festivals in Edmonton, Mariposa, Vancouver and Winnipeg. He also performed at the Big Valley Jamboree and across Canada in coffeehouses and on university campuses. Shingoose wrote and performed songs in the Indigenous musical In Deo, which toured Canada in 1983.
In 1985, he became the host for an Indigenous current affairs TV program syndicated in western Canada from CKND, Winnipeg. His own company, Native Multimedia Productions Inc., established in 1986, produced “Indian Time,” a ground-breaking TV special with Tom Jackson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Laura Vinson, and other Indigenous performers, telecast in 1989 by CTV.
Shingoose's recordings include the EP Native Country(1975, released by the Native Council of Canada [now Congress of Aboriginal Peoples], MS-11710-11), the LP Ballad of Norval(1979, CBC LM-467), and the cassette Natural Tan(1989, Headband Records HC-8801). His best-known songs include “Loved Ones” (originally “Wounded Knee Blues”), “Indian Time,” “Natural Tan,” “Reservation Blues,” “Crow Fair,” and “Elijah.”
In the 1990s, Shingoose worked alongside other Indigenous artists to create a new category at the Juno Awards for Indigenous music and artists. In 2012, Shingoose was inducted into the Manitoba Music Hall of Fame. He was also part of the album Native North America Volume 1, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2016.
Death and Legacy
After suffering a stroke in 2012, Shingoose lived in the Southeast Personal Care Home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He died at the age of 74, after contracting COVID-19. Shingoose is remembered as a pioneering Indigenous musician and strong supporter of Indigenous music and artists.