Gifted Native American Flutist Robert Tree Cody Walks On

Robert Tree Cody (Photo/Courtesy of Native American Music Awards)
Robert Tree Cody (Photo/Courtesy of Native American Music Awards)

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."

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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.

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