Five time Native American Music Awards winner Robert Tree Cody (Maricopa/Dakota) has walked on. Cody was a gifted Native American flute player, singer, and powwow dancer. He was 72.

Throughout his long career, he released 11 full length solo albums and also teamed up with R. Carlos Nakai, Will Chapman, Tony Redhouse, Hovia Edwards, Reuben Romero, and Janice Marie Johnson. 

Cody was 6’ 9 ½” tall and was affectionately called “Tree” because of his larger than life frame. His traditonal Native American name was Oou Kas Mah Quet, or "Thunder Bear."

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

Cody performed and won Best New Age Album at the Second Annual Native American Music Awards for "Maze" which featured contributions by Tony Redhouse and Rob Wallace. At the Third Annual Awards, Robert won Best Latin Recording and Best World Music Recording for “Native Flamenco” featuring renowned Flamenco guitarist Rueben Romero and performed live with him. At the Fourth Annual Awards, Robert performed with Janice Marie Johnson (A Taste of Honey) on their award-winning song, “Until The Eagle Falls.”  Tree would go on to earn a total of 14 nominations in a range of categories and also win Best Male Artist and Best Flutist from the Native American Music Awards.  In 2007, he was also nominated for a Grammy with Will Clipman for the album, “Heart of the Wind.”

On November 19, 2022,” Cody was honored with the NAMA Lifetime Achievement Award during the 20th Awards show in New York. 

“I feel that this is an award that is pretty cool to receive. It takes a lot of work, hard concentration and a lot of history research. I feel very humbled and honored to be chosen for this award,” Cody told O’odham Action News, a bi-weekly publication by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. 

Native American Music Awards President Ellen Bello calls Cody one of the great pioneers to bring Native American flute music into mainstream acceptance. She said he played not only to entertain, but to heal as well. 

“The magic of the flute heals and brings people together. He was at the forefront of the Native American music movement and was the first to merge Flamenco, Mayan and Aztec music with Native American flute music. He was versatile, inventive, creative, funny and yet traditional,” Bello said.  

“He was an educator, mentor, and great storyteller who loved to share his knowledge with others. He was also a great supporter of NAMA, and a good friend. When Tree finally met his true love, Rachel, that’s when he appeared to be his most content.  We share in Rachel’s heartache and loss and offer our condolences and prayers. Tree will be greatly missed but will forever be remembered through the legacy of his music,” Bello continued.

More Stories Like This

Eighth Generation Blanket Featured on Cover of British Vogue in October
Here’s What's Going On in Indian Country, September 21 —September 28
The Land That Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans Exhibition Begins Sept. 22 at National Gallery of Art
The Future is Now at Newly Opened Center for Native Futures in Chicago

Native News is free to read.

We hope you enjoyed the story you've just read. For the past dozen years, we’ve covered the most important news stories that are usually overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps.  Most readers donate between $10 and $25 to help us cover the costs of salaries, travel and maintaining our digital platforms. If you’re in a position to do so, we ask you to consider making a recurring donation of $12 per month to join the Founder's Circle. All donations help us remain a force for change in Indian Country and tell the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected].