Mildred Rinker Bailey

Download PDF

 TITLE: Mildred Rinker Bailey

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, Mildred Rinker Bailey, an enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe spent her childhood on the family farm near DeSmet, Idaho, on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, learning to sing by participating in tribal ceremonies and cultural activities; and

WHEREAS, upon moving with her family to Spokane, Washington, Mildred and her brother Al became lifelong friends with a local singing drummer named Harry (Bing) Crosby while Mildred continued to develop her vocal skills while attending local schools; and

WHEREAS, Mildred Rinker Bailey played a key role in launching the singing career of Bing Crosby, by assisting him in obtaining work in Los Angeles, for which Crosby later recalled, “I was lucky in knowing the great jazz and blues singer Mildred Bailey so early in life. She made records which are still vocal classics and she taught me much about singing and interpreting popular songs;” and

WHEREAS, Mildred Rinker Bailey became the first, female big band singer in America, performing across the country with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and her groundbreaking achievement opened the door of opportunity for other female vocalists who would follow her success; and

WHEREAS, Mildred Rinker Bailey is widely recognized as one of the most talented and creative jazz and blues singers in American history, having been voted the “Top Female Vocalist” by national magazines on numerous occasions, and honored, along with jazz greats Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, by the U. S. Postal Service with the issuance of a 29-cent stamp with her portrait in 1994; and

WHEREAS, Mildred Rinker Bailey’s innovative phrasing and vocal technique has influenced generations of jazz vocalists including Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Linda Ronstadt, and a new generation of artists including jazz vocalist Julia Keefe of the Nez Perce Tribe, whose show “Thoroughly Modern: Mildred Bailey Songs” was performed at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. as a signature event of National Jazz Appreciation Month in April 2007; and

WHEREAS, Mildred Rinker Bailey’s groundbreaking and pioneering career as a Native American musician is currently being recognized in an exhibit entitled, ‘Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in the Popular Culture” at the National Museum of the American Indian Heye Center at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House in New York City; and

WHEREAS, by her historic groundbreaking career as a jazz and blues artist, Mildred Rinker Bailey has earned the pride and respect of all Native American performing artists, and deserves the full recognition and appreciation of the broader jazz and blues community in this nation.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NCAI urges and encourages the Neshui Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame at the Lincoln Center, located in New York City, New York to take whatever steps are necessary to see that Mildred Bailey’s achievement as the first female big band singer in America, and her influence on later jazz artists, is appropriately recognized with her induction into the Jazz Hall of Fame at Lincoln Center; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.