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John Two-Hawks


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Most of you are probably familiar with John Two-Hawks (aka John A. Hill), the native-style artist that Tuomas invited to the recording of Once and eventually played during the End of an Era live concert. Some of you may also be aware that there has been a debate about the authenticity of the native lyrics he wrote for Creek Mary's Blood, and even about the authenticity of the artist himself. Basically this is a case of cultural appropriation, which has become a very sensitive issue in America nowadays but was perhaps not yet such a hot topic back in 2004. Anyways I thought I would lay down here some of the records available from the period, most of which are getting difficult to track as the various old sites are taken down or deprecated.

Here's one article that basically summarizes the whole debate:


Nightwish collaborator denies allegations that his Oglala heritage is false

By Jacob Ovington (2013-01-17)

John Two-Hawks issues a statement denying claims that his Oglala Lakota heritage is false.

John Two-Hawks, an American flutist has issued a statement for the first time in response to allegations that claim he is a fraud.

Two-Hawks has built his career on the premise of his Oglala heritage. This recently came into question when members of the tribe were introduced to Nightwish, a symphonic metal band he had worked with in the past. 

Upon listening to a song he contributed to, a young member of the tribe and fluent Lakota speaker found that the lyrics Two-Hawks supposedly wrote in the language were “nothing more than absolute gibberish.” This was later confirmed by David Little Elk, a certified Lakota language expert.

In addition to this Little Elk stated that he was approached by Two-Hawks six years ago for lessons in Lakota, but declined to teach him because of his supposed false Native American identity and his refusal to pay.

In his statement Two-Hawks defends himself saying “My full legal name is John Two-Hawks. It is a proud family name that goes back many generations. It is not unheard of in Lakota country.” The Oglala enrolment office which keeps records of all members as far back as 1800 was unable to trace the name Two-Hawks.

The flutist claims to be well known and culturally recognised in Lakota Country. A Yankton Sioux responded to this saying "Sure, he's well known in Lakota country... as a fraud!"

The inaccuracy of his lyrics sparked online discussion which Two-Hawks labelled slander, demanding all posts to be removed.


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Perhaps little known is the fact that John Two-Hawks recorded a Christmas CD with Johanna Kurkela, of Auri fame and Tuomas' wife. Included is their version of "Walking In The Air". This was released in October 2015.



Not only that, but in December 2015 they toured together in the USA for the "Noel Concert Tour", playing cities like Fort Wayne, Muskegon and Eureka Springs.

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Here's an interview with John Two-Hawks published in 2006.


John Two-Hawks visits Finland as a guest of Nightwish

by Satu Reunanen


Of interest:

"The wonderful thing is, when Tuomas contacted me through King Foo Entertainment. He's the one who looked me up and he has a real interest in American Indian culture. He's spent a lot of time in America, read a lot of books and done a lot of research. So he's become really interested in our culture. When he composed the song Creek Mary's Blood, he wanted a Lakota, a flute player. As it was told to me anyway, he went to the American embassy and asked for the name of the best Lakota flute player you can find. Surprisingly they gave him my name. That's how it started and then my people talked to his people and worked all the details out and we flew over here."

"Translating that poem was a pain in the rear end, and I say that with a smile, because it was difficult. English doesn't translate that well into Lakota. English is a language of words, Lakota is a language of concept. So the words in Lakota can mean many different things depending how you use them in the sentence or with other words. What was important for me to do, was to stay true to Tuomas' concept with what he was trying to say with his poem. So it says both what Tuomas wanted to say and what I wanted to say as well. I did my best, but there's always somebody who would've done it differently. Just like everything, we choose the different words and mean different things. I chose the words I thought were the best for this. It is what it is, it's done and it's meant to be that way."

"Tuomas and I actually had a conversation about a possibility of doing something in the future. Maybe a whole album of some kind. It just depends on his schedule and mine, we're both pretty busy guys, so it might be hard to get us together. But we love the concept, it's never been done what we're doing, playing these ancient American Indian flutes, old chants and putting that kind of stuff with keys, guitars and orchestral sound. It's never been done really, but it's incredibly powerful. I think it makes a powerful statement, it has a lot to say and I think we've just scratched the surface of what we can do with it. So we'll see."

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I found another interview with JTH from 2004, this one is from a website that has gone offline.



Nightwish 2004 Tour Feature
by Ann Marie Reilly

John Two-Hawks Interview

August 25, BeyondEarCandy.com reporter Ann Marie Reilly had the opportunity to interview John Two-Hawks, the Lakota Indian featured on the Nightwish song, “Creek Mary’s Blood”. 

BEC: When I spoke to Tuomas in Kitee for the release party he said he found you over the internet, so this is how you came to meet him?

JTH: Yea, he did actually, I guess he was over in Finland and he was looking for a top-level Indian flute player. Through him, and King Foo Entertainment, one or the other or both, they contacted me.

Well, I’ll tell you what, I think NW has some of the best music I’ve hear in a long long time. It’s just incredible. This is not because my music is part of the Once cd. Just from an honest standpoint, really. I just can’t get enough of it, I play it all the time.(laughs)

BEC: How many of their cd’s do you have?

JTH: I have two, Century Child and Once. The Once cd came as part of the arrangement they made with me to perform with them that’s how I got those, the Century Child cd came because they wanted to show me what they were doing before the contract with me to join them on this new one so in a way they were both gifts.

BEC: What was your reaction when you were first heard they were interested in working with you?

JTH: Well the first thing is, let’s check these guys out and see what they’re about. What their music is, what their writing is, all of that. So after we kind of looked into that and discovered their music a little bit and looked through it and read their lyrics then I was pumped. Yea, I was excited. First of all I’m very musically eclectic. I’ve been a performer in lots of musical genres in the past but the other thing that really excited me was that I have interest in joining the music that I create which is kind of enchanting, very healing, very meditational if you will, really kind of music for the spirit.

The instrument that I’m known for through out the world is the cedar flute.

BEC: Is that specifically a North American Indian instrument?

JTH: Yes it is, there are instruments in other parts of the world that are similar in nature and similar in design, but the American Indian cedar flute really is in a class by itself when it comes to that sound that it has; it’s different from the rest. I’m kind of a, I guess you’d say, a musical pioneer of some sort in that I try to endeavor to include other types of musical influences in the traditional American Indian music in the music that I create. So when Nightwish called and said that they wanted to do this and we heard the music and read the lyrics, I was excited because I thought this is great and fresh and a great opportunity to express the joining of very different musical genres and kind of wrap them together in a braid. I think the end result is absolutely, Phew!, power house, incredible and I’ve gotten a lot of responses from people and fans all over Europe; my fans and Nightwish’s fans all over Europe sent e-mail and posts on the message boards just raving about the song “Creek Mary’s Blood” so heh heh, people are liking it.

BEC: I have to say it’s my favorite song on the album.

JTH: Really? That’s great!

BEC: Were you surprised that someone in Finland was interested in doing a tribute to North American Indians?

JTH: Yea quite honestly I was surprised by that. If someone would have said make a prediction of where this kind of contact would come from, I gotta be honest, I probably wouldn’t have thought of Finland, no offense to the Finnish people that I’ve become friends with. Really I know that American Indian music, there’s a huge interest in it over in Germany, Japan and several other places over there in Europe, but Finland probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind.

The other thing about it that was really cool was that I had a really good friend when I was in school who was a Finnish exchange student. She was a real good friend of mine so I had learned about Finland many many years ago and even considered going over there as an exchange student so it was really kind of interesting the contact came from them.

BEC: Had you ever been to Finland before?

JTH: Not until this, no I hadn’t been there. I’d been in various parts of Europe performing in concerts but Finland had not been on the list until then.

BEC: What was your impressions?

JTH: I gotta tell ya, I thought it was amazing. I tell you one thing, you gotta put this name in; Ewo. We love Ewo (Rytkonen) and we love Olga too, Olga’s Ewo’s finance. Ewo and Olga took us on a little walking trip of the islands right down the southern tip of Finland there off of Helsinki. We walked at night and the snow was on the ground and the moon was out and it was like the land of enchantment. It was incredible. If there would have been a warm room with windows looking out on those islands I could have composed the most incredible music that night because it was absolutely inspirational, enchanting, magical.

The other thing about Finland that I thought was really beautiful was the people. I really enjoyed the people. Well, they’re kind of like American Indian people in a way. They think before they speak. They’re a little bit reserved like we are. They’re quiet and they’re thoughtful and they think about things and they’re intellectual. They’re beautiful people. I just had a wonderful time and everybody that we met and chatted with and got to eat with we found them to be very friendly, friendly people.

BEC: What was your impression of the final version of CMB when you heard it?

JTH: Oh geez, I thought it was absolutely incredible. When I was in the studio I asked him if he could run a quick studio cut for me so I could take it home to show the people here. What they came up with for the final product, there’s only a sliver difference in a couple of spots. And what they did as far as the finished product I liked. I thought it was incredibly tasteful and very well thought out. Their ideas were like mine. I have a hunch Tuomas had a hand in it. He and I are musical soul mates. We think along the same lines.

BEC: When I talked to him in Kitee I asked him if he was going to have a chance to see you and he said he really hoped so. Were you able to work out something where you could meet up?

JTH: Well, we’re going to see here, I know that they’re suppose to be performing in Denver sometime this weekend. I am right now on tour in Sante Fe. I’ll be heading through Denver and on my way to a concert in Wyoming. From what I know, I believe I will be performing a concert in Wyoming the same night that Nightwish will be performing a concert in Denver. So we are probably going to drive right past each other. We’re going to try they have our contact info and maybe we’ll make a connection here and maybe we’ll be able to do a lunch or something. You know it’s funny we were there in Finland only a week or so and we made what I consider to be life long friends. So it would be great to see them.

BEC: He told me that you gave him an Indian name. I’m not going to ask specifically about that, because he felt it was kind of personal, but I’m curious, how does the inspiration for anyone's name come to you?

JTH: Well, I tell you what , I can’t take credit for the name coming, because the name really came from my wife (Peggy). And I was just there to … we don’t do this, I’ve gotta be honest with you, this is something that happened this one time only. We’ve never done an naming ceremony ever. My wife had dreams when she was in Finland and they were all about Tuomas and they all had to do with certain things. So a name came to her. So we did the ceremony, a small private ceremony with Tuomas and that’s how he received the name. As he’s probably said or implied it is sort of personal and private. It was beautiful, it really was.

BEC:Your website says you are an, (and I’ll probably pronounce this wrong), Oglala Lakota man, what does that mean exactly?

JTH: By the way, you said that perfectly. Oglala Lakota that’s the name of my American Indian nation and the tribe or band or clan, I like to use the word clan. Within the Lakota there’s seven clans and one of them is the Oglala. You probably have heard us called Sioux but that’s kind of a misnomer, it was given to us by our enemies. We traditionally call ourselves Lakota or Dakota or Nakota depending on the group of people you come from. Prairie Dwelling people, that’s where the word Teton comes from. (Tetonwan) means to live on a prairie. So the Lakota people are prairie people.

BEC : When you speak on North American Indian culture, what is your inspiration? Are you trying to educate people?

JTH: Most of what I do, I’ll be quite honest with you Ann Marie, is concerts but I do get occasions to do education programs if you will, at universities and I do conferences for corporations, the list is endless, including the Food and Drug Administration. A lot of stuff. The journey is wonderful. The purpose I have for doing what I do when I do get a chance to do education on the culture really I thinks its to share with people the TRUE culture and history of American Indians. So often its misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented, and even stereotyped. My purpose when I go into a theater or where ever it is I may do an educational program is to dispel the stereotypes; to erase the misconceptions and to impart correct and accurate, truthful and honest history and culture so people REALLY have and authentic understanding of who what and why we are as American Indian people. You know I think that’s really important because without American Indian people, without the indigenous first nation people there is no United States. There is no American people. Everything that we’ve given, it just expands. The language, the art, that’s in the land itself. You can take it from the field all the way to the President of the United States. That’s why I share the message of what we’ve given as far as contributions.

BEC: I understand you play over 20 instruments. What are some of the other instruments do you play?

JTH: The cedar flute is obviously the one I’m known for. Oh geez, let me throw some at you. I play all the different versions of guitar you can think of. I play the classical and folk guitar I play the 4, 6 and 12 string version of those. I play all kinds of stringed instruments including mandolin. I got an instrument while I was in Finland. Every time I’m on tour in different countries I always endeavor to pick up the traditional instrument of that particular people. And while I was in Finland, I asked Ewo, “What is the traditional instrument of the people of Finland?” and he explained to me that it was called the kantele. It’s a stringed instrument and so I said “Well, Ewo take me to a store. I must buy one.” So, he took me and I bought a kantele. It was really neat because on the way out of the store Ewo said, “I have taken many people to look at the kantele. You are the first to buy one.” I was really really honored by that. The kantele I have just used actually on a song that I composed for the new dvd that I had out it’s called “Wild Eagle.” The dvd just came out. It’s the newest product and the makers of the dvd series, it’s called Cedar Lake Nature series, they asked me to compose a song specifically for this dvd so I did. I composed a song called “Wild Eagle” and I used the kantele.

Also I play piano, synthesizers and I know how to play several different kinds of horn but I don’t use those in my music. I also play lots of percussion instruments. I am a percussionist. All the percussion I use is the traditional American Indian percussion, though I’ve also recently incorporated some African percussion. And I’m also a singer. My voice was really my first instrument. I’ve been a singer for a very long time. That’s one of the things I love to do as much as play the flute. I try to incorporate all of that musical instrumentation in with the American Indian influence but I do it in a way that I use it as background. The flute is to me where it’s at. The power of my music comes from the flute. And I’m giving the accents just fills it in and just making it that much more powerful.

BEC: What other countries have you played in?

JTH: Well, let’s see here, one particular place that sticks out in my mind is England. That was a real special, special concert tour. I had some really wonderful experiences there. And it’s interesting too, in America when you do a concert and the concert starts at 8:00, it usually doesn’t start until a quarter after, because you always have stragglers, in England if the concert starts at 8:00, people are there at 10 minutes to 8:00 and nobody else shows up. Everybody’s there at 8:00 sitting in their seat waiting for the show to start. That was my experience over there. It was interesting.

BEC: How long have you been performing?

JTH: I’ve been performing professionally, or semi-professionally for 15 years. I’ve been performing on the cedar flute for about 10 years.

BEC: What other types of music are you interested in?

JTH: As I said before, I’m kind of musically eclectic. I describe myself as a musical extremists and a bit of a musical perfectionist. I guess I’m sort of a mad scientist. When I’m composing I like things to be a certain way and when I’m listening I like things to be a certain way. I like music that means something, so when a song or piece of music is passionate that what’s means something to me. I enjoy listening to songs by Simon and Garfunkle that were written in the 60’s. Bob Dylan, the song that he wrote about war, how many years must one man have before he learns to cry, those things mean something. He’s saying that with passion. And that song, because he sang with passion, means something to me. Songs that are kind of like “bubble gummy” I can’t get into too much. I need something to have a point. Because he sings with passion that's why it means something to me.

As much as I like Simon and Garfunkle and Bob Dylan and Jim Croce and those kinds of songs, I also like Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne. I’m a huge Ozzy fanatic. I love his music and I just love the depth of his writing. He’s incredible. I appreciate the stuff by Eminem. Whether you agree with him or not, he means what he’s saying and he’s passionate. And besides being passionate, he’s a lyrical genius. He can put together lyrics like nobody I’ve ever seen. I really enjoy everything from metal to thrash metal to hip hop, some rap, to folk music and even classical music. And that was what I really loved about Nightwish’s music is that they were passionate When I read the lyrics, which I understand Tuomas writes, when I read those lyrics, Phew! here’s a guy writing from the heart. Here’s a guy writing with passion! The music is also incredibly ingenious and passionate. You can tell just by listening to the music that it says something; it means something. I like when the listener has to think. And Tuomas make you think with his writing. He writes in a way that makes you have to dig a little bit. The lyrics in the song Creek Mary’s Blood, oh they mean something. What he wrote really comes from his heart.

BEC: What did you think of the poem at the end of the song that you sing in your native language?

JTH: I think what he summed up really, in that poem was a spiritual truth. What it is, is our understanding of the whole circle, the whole perspective. We, in this society now a days, we look at things really close and when we do, we lose our perspective. But American Indian people, having been on the continent as long as we have, we have a tendency to look at things much further back, to see the whole picture. Tuomas with his poem kind of zeroed in on this and he captured with words the thoughts and the sense of feeling that American Indian people have about North America, about what happened to us here, but not only that, but about what is to come and what we see in the future, how we see this circle will come back around. Those that are of the earth, shall return to the earth and Tuomas kind of called that out in that poem. It’s like he transformed himself into an American Indian just for a moment in time. Maybe in someway he sort of stepped into our moccasin and really was seeing our world through our eyes when he wrote that. That’s what I think I think he wept, I think he probably cried in a quiet, private way. Maybe he clenched his teeth and his fist and felt emotion.

You know, no one has ever asked me what I’m saying in the beginning of the song, (CMB). It is ‘All of my relations are all still here’ I did that on purpose. Then Tarja sings the words, “Soon I will be here no more.” I wanted to lend a balance to that. For American Indian people, we understand that all of our ancestors are still with us. What Tuomas is saying when he wrote that, was that all of the evils that have happned to American Indian people (are) very true. But I will be here and so that is very real, very powerful. So both expressions are right and are important to understand and so it is beautiful that in English it is saying one thing but in Lakota it’s saying another. So underneath, sort of the undercurrent is even though I am not here for you to see, I am still here.”

We gifted Tuomas an American Indian cedar flute.  I think he paid for it (laughing) But he really wanted one. He was very, very explicit about that when they were arranging for me to come over there. He wanted an Indian flute, so we had our maker make him one. I think he’s (the maker) on one of the websites. NativeCircle.com, his flutes are on there. So he made him a beautiful, beautiful flute and we have some private pictures in the private collection of Tuomas receiving the flute from me and me doing kind of a blessing. He can play it to, that guy! He’s pretty good at it. I wrote him and said, ‘So are you going to challenge me pretty soon?’ and he wrote me back and said, ‘I’ve been playing it but I know I’m no where good enough (and these are his words), ‘to challenge the great champion,’ he said, (laughs). It’s a perfect fit for him too because he such a deeply introspective kind of a guy as I am. We get along in that way.”

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