DisclosureFest™ Foundation

Joan Henry

(Tsalagi/Nde’/Arawaka) Dekanogisgi (Traditional Song-Carrier) & Elisi (Grandmother)

Joan Henry

(Tsalagi/Nde’/Arawaka) Dekanogisgi (Traditional Song-Carrier) & Elisi (Grandmother)

It has been Ms. Henry’s privilege to be a carrier of songs for elders among the Nde’ (Apachu), Coast Salish, Shoshone, Paiute, Hopi, Chippewa/Cree, Dakota and other nations, that these songs might be kept alive and heard when needed. Raised to listen deeply from an early age, she is best known as a singer and stage performer whose youth was filled with her grandmothers’ & elders’ stories, songs and healing plant-knowledge. 
In this time of prophecies, she is honored to be a Northern Representative to the Council of the Eagle, Condor, Quetzal & Colibri.

Her professional performance bio may be found at https://earthsinger.net/

This Indigenous Composer/Performer/Artist/Educator/Counsellor & Water Protector offered a global water ceremony on the Platte River for World Unity Week, acted as indigenous liaison for the Caravan of Unity 2020’s global brroadcast, closing their  with song at the Minden Opera House. In New York City, she ‘sang up the spirits’ for Okla-Choctaw artist Jeffrey Gibson’s takeover of the Times Square Midnight Moment in March 2020 - two days before coronavirus shut Broadway down. That fall, her voice was heard by 20.7 million people worldwide as an Indigenous Ambassador to the Macy’s 2020 Thanksgivings Day Parade -  the first in their 96-year history. She was joined in 2022 by 500 leadership youth at the United Nations International Day of Peace. Collaborations with Mr. Gibson continue as composer-performer with This Burning World, their opening exhibit for the new Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco. This fall (between productions) she was Keeper of Prayers for the United Religious Initiative-sponsored 2nd Annual Nuclear Prayer Day.

Yet her life holds more. A counsellor, mediator and licensed minister also certified in New Zealand’s Just Therapy approach, Ms Henry was traditionally educated in Indigenous therapeutic & healing arts, becoming both dekanogisgi (song-carrier) and hahesh’kah (lead drummer). Past advisor on traditional matters for the Oneida Nation of New York’s annual elders’ conference on health and aging with a focus on restoring and integrating traditional healing modes, she is known for her teaching approach using the Native traditional worldview, tools and arts to teach leadership, life skills and cultural self-awareness, particularly to multicultural youth. She has been helping folks to use talking circles and other indigenous communications tools since the early 80’s, with past Founding Directorships including 28 years of Youth Empowerment Programs (Mid-Hudson Valley, NY) and the Arts for Healing Initiative with Vassar Brothers Medical Center & the Alzheimer’s Association in upstate NY. She is deeply honored to be trusted by, have worked alongside and spoken on behalf of a number of highly active indigenous leaders at the United Nations over the years, and to have herself opened many a UN forum with prayer & song.

Elisi Joan currently directs Four Words Circles, is responsible for Four Worlds International Institute’s Women’s Talking Circle and regularly coordinates talking circle series on both global and local scales.. She is on call year-round to run women’s ceremonies and assist in other seasonal traditional gatherings; to provide care to youth, women, veterans & indigenous communities from Maine to California, in Canada, and elsewhere internationally, including work with pediatrics patients, veterans and others with life-altering conditions including dementia, domestic abuse, post-traumatic stress and ancestral grief. She sits as Elisi or elder for the NY area’s extended tri-state Tsalagi community, and as an Elder-Advisor & instructor for the Native American Studies program at Vassar College. 2023 marks her 53rd year as an educator.. 

She is happiest singing to the waters with granddaughter Meadow (19) & grandson Ms.Jaelen (2 1/2, thinks he’s 5)…


Ms. Henry’s work on & offstage remains rooted in ancestry as a source of personal strength in the restoration of dohi, or balance.  It is her prayer that she does Tsimilano (Musqueam), Shanadii (Jicarilla), her own grandmothers  and other elders honor by continuing the work they gave her to do for the People. She and her family make their home in the Northern Catskill Mountains, an area rich in beauty, plant medicines -- oh! – and bears… 

“A traditional singer’s responsibility in our Indigenous culture is to negotiate the space between the invisible and visible worlds for the People; sometimes as a welcomer, sometimes as an announcer, breaking trail, if you will, for what will follow and holding the ground for the work to be done. Actually, the songs themselves, sung correctly, do that work. The singer’s job is to hold a safe, steady basket, in this case, so that the songs, the visuals and the dancer may all do their work and the healing & rejuvenation of Mother Earth and all her beings may continue.”

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