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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Humphrey brings her musical mission to Ely

Jen Shuster-Dahlin
Posted 10/18/23

ELY- The First Presbyterian Church packed the house here recently to hear Anishinaabe folk musician, activist, and artist Annie Humphrey, who stopped in Ely as part of her tour to promote her new …

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Humphrey brings her musical mission to Ely


ELY- The First Presbyterian Church packed the house here recently to hear Anishinaabe folk musician, activist, and artist Annie Humphrey, who stopped in Ely as part of her tour to promote her new album, “The Light in My Bones.” She performed with fellow artist David Huckfelt, a singer-songwriter and social activist in his own right. Huckfelt opened for Humphrey, playing guitar and singing about half a dozen of his own songs, and then accompanied Humphrey throughout her set.
Both Humphrey and Huckfelt have visited and played music in Ely before and shared fond mem ories during the concert.
“I’ve played at the coffee shop here and at the ski chalet a couple of times,” said Humphrey. “I also painted a mural at Veterans on the Lake.”
Humphrey was born on the Leech Lake Reservation, home to the second-largest population of Native Americans of any reservation in Minnesota. Humphrey travels extensively due to her activism and musical career but still calls Leech Lake, which encompasses parts of four counties, her home base.
Artistic talent runs in her family. The biography on Humphrey’s website states that her father was a singer and musician, and her mother a poet and artist. Humphrey is the Cultural Arts Organizer for Honor the Earth, a nonprofit organization founded in 1993 that creates awareness and fundraises around environmental issues affecting Native Americans and the planet.
Humphrey previously toured annually as a fundraiser for homeless shelters, driven by the lack of resources available and her own experience.
“I met with the director of the homeless shelter in Bemidji, and she had written to, ironically enough, around thirty churches in the city to ask for help with food, bedding, whatever, and hadn’t gotten any responses, and I remember thinking right then, ‘We should do something about that,’ because I have experienced homelessness and it’s really hard with kids, and so I did this tour, year after year and raised money and left the money (with the homeless shelter). A lot of people aren’t sympathetic toward homeless people.”
Humphrey graduated from Cass Lake High School and spent four years in the United States Marine Corps. She has attended several higher learning institutions, including Bemidji State University and Itasca Community College. While attempting to earn a Fine Arts degree from North Dakota State University in Grand Forks, Humphrey was forced to stop attending due to the historic 1997 flood.
“I couldn’t finish my degree because of the flood. All the students had to leave…but the college kind of forgave all the students and gave everyone a grade,” said Humphrey. “I’ve been to a lot of colleges. I went to Bemidji State University and Leech Lake Tribal College. I went back to school during COVID. I was 54 years old at the time, and I went back to become a carpenter. Now I supplement my income with carpentry.”
Humphrey, who sang and played the piano during the concert, estimates that “The Light in My Bones” is her seventh album.
“I was recording on cassettes back in the 90s, so I count those too.”
Earlier in the day, an art class was held at the Ely Folk School, run by Shanai Matteson, a member of Humphrey’s nonprofit organization, Honor the Earth. The class was part of Humphrey’s tour, and participants stamped print images onto fabric and discussed stories of activism and community organizing. Many of the print stamps included lyrics from Humphrey’s new songs, such as “Be Brave” and “Let your Light Shine.”
“One of the reasons we do these classes is to let people tell their stories about their relationships with the land and challenges we face with the mining industry and exploitation of our resources,” said Matteson.
Humphrey is a gifted lifelong artist who engages in both practical and visual mediums, such as mural painting, sewing, poetry, and jewelry-making.
Her current tour has ten stops in Minnesota and Wisconsin, running through the end of November.
“The tour is going awesome…we’re playing at a lot of churches, and I love the energy and the beauty of them. The people that come to the shows turn out to be a mix of the community and the congregation of the churches. It feels really comfortable.”
For more information or to donate to Honor the Earth, visit