Cree-Canadian singer-songwriter Shane Yellowbird passed away Monday in Calgary at the age of 42, his family confirmed.
“It’s been a shock,” his sister Carmen Yellowbird said Tuesday.
“We’re just trying to support each other and be there for each other. We have people across Canada contacting us, in the States.
“We’re just trying to process this.”
The country music star was best known for his song “Pickup Truck,” one of the 10 most-played country music songs in 2007.
His second album It’s About Time was released in 2009, featuring the single “Bare Feet on the Blacktop.”
Shane grew up in Maskwacis, south of Edmonton, and went to Ponoka Composite High School.
“He struggled as a kid with stuttering,” Carmen recalled. “My mom had put him in speech therapy and that’s where he started singing.
“He went to a speech therapist and they told him to, when he can’t get out the words he was trying to communicate, just to sing it.”
Carmen is convinced this is where his love of music was sparked.
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He grew up to become an award-winning artist, serving as an inspiration to Indigenous youth.
“Shane was our golden boy. He made me, as the older sister, so proud,” Carmen said. “My dad and my mother were so proud of him. Our family, Maskwacis as a whole, was so proud of him. The First Nations community across Canada was so proud of him.”
Shane received the Rising Star Award at the Canadian Country Music Awards in 2007 and three Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards that same year.
“I remember the first time my mom and I heard him on the radio,” Carmen said. “We were at a drive-thru and we both started crying. Now we’re crying for another reason.”
She thanked the radio stations for their support, adding it’s hard but comforting to hear Shane’s music. The family is also asking for privacy while they grieve.
“Thank you to radio stations and the fans and everyone who loved him. We’re getting a lot of messages and we feel the love.”
Carmen described her brother as an avid hockey player and talented visual artist.
She said Shane also suffered from epilepsy.
His cause of death has not been released.
He is survived by his partner Sarah and four children.
The family is planning a traditional ceremony to lay him to rest on Friday morning. It will include local elders, songs for him, the community sharing stories and a coming together to “try to bring some light onto his life,” Carmen said.
“We bring our funny stories and we heal through laughter,” she said. “We’ll celebrate his life.”
Shane’s sister Chelsea Yellowbird issued the following statement:
“On behalf of the Yellowbird and Buffalo family, it is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved Shane Ryan Yellowbird. Shane was 42 years old residing in Calgary, Alta., when he took his last breath.
“Our brother was a talented artist who loved his children, music and sports.
“We are all deeply struck by the tragedy and ask for the respect and privacy of this time to mourn the loss of our loved one. Funeral services will be held in his home town of Maskwacis on April 29 at 10 a.m.”