The Native American Music Awards (NAMAs) is one of the largest membership-based organization for Native American music initiatives and currently have over 20,000 registered voting members.

Each year, the awards show honours Native American recordings released in the previous calendar year. Both traditional and contemporary creations can be awarded. Contemporary-style Native American music is often cross-over music that blends tradition with elements from rock, pop, hip hop, blues, country, etc. There are also genres such as Waila (chicken scratch) and Native American Church music.

NAMAs was founded by music industry executive Ellen Bello and the annual awards program is presented by Elbel Productions, The Native American Music Awards Inc and The Native American Music Association.

Native American Music Awards 2019

Native American Music Awards 2018

Nominations and voting

The awards recognize outstanding musical achievements in style associated with Native Americans, predominantly in the United States and Canada. The recordings must encompass traditional and/or contemporary Native American music, instrumentation and/or lyrics.

Nominations are submitted and selected by professionals who are members of the NAMAs organization.

The selected creations are uploaded to the NAMAs webside. Winners are selected by a combined vote, where both members and the general public can vote.


There are 30 awards categories for traditional and contemporary music genres, including the Native Heart category which is for non-Native American artists in the field of Native American music.

There is also the Lifetime Achievement Awards and the Hall of Fame inductions.

The awards ceremony

The awards ceremony features a lot of live performances by artists from both the United States and abroad, including internationally renowned artists of the more mainstream variety.

Since 2010, the ceremony has usually been hosted by the Seneca Nation of New York, either at the Seneca Niagara Casino or at the Seneca Allegany Casino.

The Lifetime Achievement Awards

  • Robbie Robertson (Mohawk), 1998
  • Rita Coolidge (Cherokee descent), 1999
  • Tom Bee of XIT (Dakota descent), 2000
  • R. Carlos Nakai (Navajo/Ute), 2001
  • John Densmore, 2003
  • Tiger Tiger (Miccosukee), 2007
  • Joanne Shenandoah (Oneida), 2008
  • Bill Miller (Stockbridge-Munsee), 2008
  • Stevie Salas (Apache descent), 2009
  • John Trudell (Santee Dakota), Living Legend, 1998
  • Navajo Code talkers (Navajo), Living Legend, 1999
  • The Neville Brothers (Choctaw), Living Legend, 2001
  • Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Santee Dakota), Living Legend, 2002
  • Tommy Allsup (Cherokee), Living Legend, 2009
  • Saginaw Grant, (Sac and Fox) Living Legend, 2016

The NAMAs Hall of Fame

  • Jimi Hendrix (Cherokee descent), 1998
  • Buddy Red Bow (Oglala Lakota),1998
  • Hank Williams (Muskogee Creek and Tsalagi descent), 1999
  • Jim Pepper (Kaw/Muscogee Creek), 2000
  • Crystal Gayle (Cherokee descent), 2001
  • Kitty Wells (Cherokee descent), 2002
  • Doc Tate Nevaquaya (Comanche Nation), 2006
  • Link Wray (Shawnee descent), 2007
  • Redbone (Yaqui/Shoshone descent), 2008
  • Rickey Medlocke ( Lakota Sioux and Cherokee descent), 2008
  • Janice-Marie Johnson (Stockbridge-Munsee descent), 2008
  • Felipe Rose (Lakota descent), 2008
  • Ritchie Valens (Yaqui), 2009
  • Nokie Edwards (Cherokee), 2011
  • Keith Secola (Ojibwe), 2011
  • Russell Means (Oglala Lakota), 2013
  • Taboo (Shoshone), 2016
  • Mickie James (Powhatan descent), 2017
  • Jesse Ed Davis (Kiowa/Comanche), 2018
  • Wes Studi (Cherokee Nation), 2019

The library

The Native American Music Awards Inc maintain the world´s largest Native American music library and their archive contains over 10,000 audio and video recordings.

This article was last updated on: September 2, 2020