Bear Fox - Singer - Songwriter
Bear writes: I always loved music, and I realized later that I had a gift for songwriting around the age of 29. When I look back and think about it, I always had this beautiful gift, but I didn’t realize what I had. I remember when I was riding the bus to school I could hear music coming to me. I look around and there was no radio playing. It was a melody coming that only I could hear. So I would hum the melody I was hearing. As I got older, I first began writing songs that were in Mohawk for our Traditional Women’s singing group called, ‘Kontiwennenhawi’, (Carriers of the Words). In 2001 my family had a house fire. After this house fire, my family was going through tough times trying to pay bills and trying to put money aside to build a house. One day, I got the idea that I should try and write songs in English. I can write songs in Mohawk maybe I can write songs in English too. The first song that I wrote in English was, ‘Broken.’ The second song that came to me to write was called, ‘Rich Girl.’ So, these are the beginnings of songwriting and singing for me. I began making CDs, and it helps to have them to make ends meet.
When I write a song, I run it by my family first. I have five children; I have one girl and four boys. My husband is an Iron Worker. I remember when I sang them ‘Rich Girl’ for the first time—my kids loved it. It made my daughter cry. When my husband heard it, he loved it, too. I remember he had me sit in the car with him. He had me practice the song. Over and over he had me sing the song to him. He wanted me to memorize it without using the paper. I must have sung it about 100 times in a row that night...”
Kontiwennenhawi - The Akwesasne Women Singers
This is from a newspaper in Akwesasne called, "A Special People in a Special Place"
The Akwesasne Women singers were formed in 1999 by four inspired and inspiring women: Bear Fox, Katsitsionni Fox, Elizabeth Nanitcoke and Iawentas Nanticoke. The women were driven by the need to protect and preserve the Kanienkeha (Mohawk Language), traditional Kanienkeha:ka (Mohawk People) customs and stories, as well as the oral traditions that are passed down from grandmother to grand-daughter. It was founded on the principle that songs are the easiest way to pass on the language and culture to future generations. Blessed with beautiful singing voices, the women put their talents and their messages together to form a singing group that would write and perform traditional Kanienkeha:ka songs. Since their inception, the Akwesasne Women Singers have brought their beautiful and powerful music to the community of Ahkwesasne. Members of the group are in various stages of their lives - grandmothers, mothers, aunts, daughters, sisters and cousins. They are teachers, environmental researchers, social workers and students. They take time out of their personal and professional lives to assist their community whenever possible. The women also volunteer for fundraising activities and provide assistance to individual community members when asked. Aside from singing Haudenosaunee social songs, some members of Kontiwennenhawi are song writers, though they work with Elders and fluent speakers from Akwesasne to ensure the correct usage and spelling of words. These songs contain their own messages that they believe are important for the Mohawk people to know and remember. Their songs honor our Elders, Kanienkehaka teachers, Mother Earth, Grandmother Moon, and Grandfather Thunder. Kontiwennenhawi is committed to continuing the traditions of our ancestors and preserving our language and culture through their beautiful songs and inspiring efforts.