By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015

Image courtesy of artist. 

Image courtesy of artist. 

Throughout her long career, singer/songwriter Annie Humphrey (Anishinaabe/Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) has collaborated with Keith Secola, Jim Boyd, Chris Eyre (movie soundtracks), Wayne Horvitz, Winona LaDuke, Keri Pickette and James Starkey. She partnered with John Trudell on the award-winning video “Spirit Horses.” Her CD projects include UnCombed Hair, The Sound of Ribbons, Edge of America and The Heron Smiled. Annie was raised on an Ojibwe Indian reservation. She now lives in Deer River, Minnesota.



The world moves fast, too fast to care how Annie feels or what she has to say. But people slow down, they sit and listen to her sing. The words Annie wants to say to them are in her songs, powerful in their simplicity. There is so much beauty, injustice, sadness and love in the world. She heeds the words of her mother: “We can never do enough, but we can do too little. So don’t not do anything.” Annie will never run out of things to write.

Annie believes we all have a job to do, gifts we’re born with that come out. Sometimes, that’s simply taking care of tomatoes. During one of their projects, John Trudell told her, “You take care of the tomatoes, and I will keep the beast out of the garden.”

When John passed, Annie wondered who would keep the beast out of her garden. But she sees the next generation is coming up, ready to use their gifts.


Entertainment With Purpose

With her First Peoples Fund Artists in Business Leadership fellowship, Annie is working on her newest project, The Beast in the Garden. She’s sent reference tracks for the new songs to Mark Shark and Ricky Eckstein, members of the late John Trudell’s band Bad Dog, and to Fonz Kolb, the late Jim Boyd’s drummer. They’ll develop ideas for the music and send them to Annie. She’s looking toward a CD release tour in the fall.

The Beast and the Garden aims to impact her audiences at schools in her community, her reservation, neighboring reservation schools and beyond, out into Turtle Island.

For Annie, music is more than entertainment. She writes to help people and the earth. Her art will always be a part of that purpose.