Through a musical career of more than five decades, Aretha Franklin had more than 100 singles on the Billboard charts. Her words and songs reached millions. The world grieved when the “Queen of Soul” died on Thursday at her home in Detroit. She was 76.
As an award-winning Columnist for Indian Country Today, and book author of Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations (Smithsonian/NMAI Press 2014), Suzan Shown Harjo – who has worked tirelessly for the benefits of Indian Country for decades – remembers a golden moment of time with the late Godmother of soul and shared it with Indian Country Today.
Suzan Shown Harjo – who has worked tirelessly for the benefits of Indian Country for decades — remembers a golden personal moment with Aretha Franklin. Photo: Vincent Schilling
“Ms. Aretha Franklin always backed the sisters and was a national women’s leader long before we started using Ms. For many decades, she quietly and without fanfare was a mainstay supporter of Indigenous Peoples’ struggles worldwide and of Native Nations’ treaty and cultural rights and other issues mainstream funders don’t support,” said Harjo.
“Not only did she sing from the soul of the universe, she grabbed the hearts of every generation that discovered her voice, magical and true.”
“She is the centerpiece of one of my favorite Washington moments,” described Harjo as she revealed a moment she said she would never forget.
“A friend who worked in the Clinton White House spirited me to a spot around a corner just feet away from where Ms. Aretha was warming up for her performance at that evening's lighting of the holiday tree. I was privileged to hear her rehearsal of Ave Maria, deeply respectful, both ethereal and earthy. I’ll remember that moment forever and, as with her billions of fans, I’ll always remember her inspiring, jump-starting, mood-altering, bad-ass voice."
“Goodnight, sweet queen … Aho. Mvto.”
President Barack Obama presented Suzan Shown Harjo with a 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony honoring 18 recipients – the Medal is the United States’ highest civilian honor. She was honored with the 2015 Native Leadership Award by the National Congress of American Indians, which she served as Executive Director during the 1980s.