Sheldon Sundown has been composing Esganye songs, which are traditional Haudenosaunee women’s songs, for over 25 years.
Last winter Sundown went to Tribal Spirit Music to co-produce a CD dedicated to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG).
Titled Not forgotten, the CD has within an encompassing collection of Esganye songs and a six panel package explaining the purpose and intent of the work.
“At a very young age I was already attended funerals of the missing and murdered,” wrote Sundown within the package. “I realized as I got older that because of what I saw growing up, it led me to believe that that was my future too.”
Sundown explained that he walked a negative path and felt like when he had nowhere to turn he found his culture. Dancing and singing became a part of his healing and hopes that his songs will offer the same to those that listen to them.
“So my message to all our women is to love who you are and believe in yourself. We are such beautiful people and we deserve to live long, prosperous lives.”
The first Esganye dance that was performed is said to have been danced by the original woman or Sky Woman in the Story of Creation for the Haudenosaunee. The dance is also called the Women’s Shuffle Dance, as when it was first danced, Sky Woman is said to have used her feet to spread earth with her feet to create Turtle Island. The songs are sung primarily by men in gratitude for the women, while only women are allowed to dance to the songs.
Sundown also offered thanks to other voices that can be heard on the CD.
The profits of the CD will be directed to groups working to bring awareness to MMIWG.