PHOENIX — Those watching the memorial service for U.S. Senator John McCain today were treated to American Indian flute and drum music, as Navajo flutist Jonah Littlesunday and drummer Aaron White, represented Indian Country well at the service.
Senator McCain was elected by Arizona voters to the United States Senate six times. Arizona is home to 22 American Indian tribes.
Senator McCain passed away last Saturday at his ranch in Sedona, Arizona after a 13-month battle with brain cancer.
“Funerals are heartbreaking. And when the family asks me to play for them. My heart drops. It means the world to me. Especially when they are friends. Cindy and Meghan McCain, treated my wife, Pauline & I, so very well in the past, that they won our hearts over. We call them friends and will stand by them. I been asked to perform for the McCain family this Thursday for the Arizona Memorial service. It is such a heartbreak for this family to lose a father & husband, but I will help heal their loss in any way I can for this beautiful family,” writes Littlesunday on his Facebook page.
Littlesunday told Native News Online he was asked to play his flute at the funeral earlier this year when he met Cindy, the wife of Senator McCain, and Meghan McCain, the senator’s daugther, at a fundraiser for the Udall/McCain scholarships.
At Thursday’s memorial service, Littlesunday and White, both with the Canyon Records label, played a song called “An Expression of Love.”
“I have a long history of playing at funerals. Doing this was an honor,” Littlesunday told Native News Online. “It was very emotional. The atmosphere was very emotional. I looked down at the McCain family and see how they were really moved by our song. It was very powerful.”
White also spoke with Native News Online after the memorial service.
“I was asked by Jonah Littlesunday to play my drum at the service. To me, it was not about the politics, I was honored to play at the service for the senator,” White (Navajo/Northern Ute) told Native News Online Thursday afternoon. “I saw Joe Biden in the back hallway. He extended his hand to me and told me President Obama taught him to always show respect for first nation’s people.”
McCain was a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs at the time of his passing, a committee he served as chairman for two different times.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez represented the Navajo Nation at the memorial service.
After the memorial service at the North Phoenix Baptist Church, a motorcade carried the body of the later senator to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to fly to Washington, D.C. The casket of Senator McCain will lie in state in U.S. Capitol’s Rotunda on Friday, followed by a memorial service on Saturday at the National Cathederal in Washington.
He will be laid to rest at the Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland on Sunday, Septermber 2, 2018.
Levi Rickert, a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, is the publisher and editor of Native News Online. Previously, he served as editor of the Native News Network. He is a resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan.