First Nation Rappers: Keeping Culture: Changing Stereotypes

April 19th, 2014  |  Published in Education  | 

O’siyo. More and more we’re seeing (and hearing) Native rappers expressing themselves through hip-hop music. Many who are from the First Nations, are keeping their cultures alive through verse and music by rapping in both English and in their Native languages. The topics range from crime, poverty, and politics, to struggling life on the reservation, the old ways, and prayer.

Angel Haze

Native Angel Haze (Cherokee mixed) Photo-Thatflavour.

Native Angel Haze (Cherokee mixed) Photo-Thatflavour.

Excerpt: 7 First Nation Rappers Crushing Stereotypes...By Chelsea Hawkins

“You’ve likely heard Angel Haze, the insanely smooth, mixed-race indigenous rapper, spitting lyrics from your speakers. The uber-talented 22-year-old MC might be one of the best known Native names in hip hop today (she even speaks Tsalagi, a Cherokee dialect) but she’s part of a larger, thriving First Nations underground music scene, in which men and women are using their rhymes to tell the stories of lives often unseen and voices often unheard. Hip-hop remains a vehicle for many people of color to share their experiences and incite change, and there’s a certain strand of political and social commentary running through Native hip-hop in particular. This might be because our communities can be hyper-aware of the ways in which we interact with government. Or because we’re faced with so many questions regarding legitimacy — like who’s “native enough,” and who receives federal recognition. Or because we’re grappling with issues of cultural survival as our language and traditions die out. Or maybe it’s just because, as independent musicians, there is more room to voice controversial opinions and experiment with sounds.”

 Frank Waln

Frank Waln feat. Cody Blackbird Photo-SoundCloud.

Frank Waln feat. Cody Blackbird Photo-SoundCloud.

“Sicangu Lakota and member of the hip-hop group Nake Nula Waun, Frank Waln is one of the most outspoken young rappers in the indigenous music scene today. His song “Oil 4 Blood” takes a political stance on the Keystone XL pipeline controversy, which embroiled indigenous groups in a political battle when it became clear the TransCanada oil pipeline would need to run under Native lands.As a rapper, Waln is in-your-face and tells it exactly as he sees it. And he’s not alone in his opinions: The Keystone XL pipeline continues to upset plains Indian tribes to this day.”

Supaman

Supaman.Photo Syllabusmagazine.

Supaman.Photo Syllabusmagazine.

“Supaman, also known as Christian Takes the Gun Parrish, told NPR in 2011 that the stories voiced through Compton’s gangsta rap weren’t far off from life on the reservation: “Hip-hop was talking about the ghetto life, poverty, crime, drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy; all that crazy stuff that happens in the ghetto is similar to the reservation life. We can relate to that.”

Tall Paul

Ojibwe rapper Tall Paul Photo- ICTNM.

Ojibwe rapper Tall Paul Photo- ICTNM.

“Ojibwe rapper Tall Paul doesn’t want to be known solely as a Native rapper — and he is definitely more than that — but without a doubt he cranks out beats and lyrics that speak to indigenous communities around the globe.
His track “Prayers in a Song” addresses issues of assimilation, the continued eroding of indigenous cultures and the loss of traditional languages:
“I wasn’t furnished / With language and traditional ways of my peeps / Yeah, I used to feel like I wasn’t truly indigenous / Now I say miigwech gichi-manidoo / For showing me my true roots, definitely Native.”

JB the First Lady

Native Canadian JB the FirstLady. Photo- Artists Beat Nation.

Native Canadian JB the FirstLady. Photo- Artists Beat Nation.

“Canadian aboriginal rapper and beat boxer, JB the First Lady, calls her music political but positive. Her sound is easily mainstream and speaks overwhelmingly to a woman’s experience, regardless of racial and cultural lines. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t also out there protesting and singing traditional songs. JB has been deeply involved in Idle No More — a political and social resistance to end colonization and the loss of reservation lands — by performing spoken word pieces and calling people to action.”

 Reddnation

Reddnation. Photo- Aboriginal Artists.

“Reddnation disbanded in 2013, but for years they were creating Native-focused music and using hip-hop to call people to political action. Their song “Take a Stand” specifically sheds light on environmental concerns many have regarding the potential sale and development of Native lands, and the continuation of environmentally-unsound practices that affect their communities’ cultural survival.”

Kuddos to these young Natives for spreading the word…and keeping their culture alive! Visit Policy Mic to hear some of the songs from these artists.

“Time to rise up, take a stand / To protect the children, protect the land / Protect those waters and everything in it / Because another government is changing minute by minute.” ~Reddnation~ Take a Stand

 

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The Jingle Dress: Native Culture and Mystery!

April 12th, 2014  |  Published in Education  | 

O’siyo. Full of intrigue, mystery, and culture (both old and new) The Jingle Dress is a Native film about an Ojibwe family  and their move from the rural White Earth Band Indian Reservation to the urban environment of Minneapolis. The uncle of John Red Elk has mysteriously died, and the family needs to find out what happened to him. Through the family’s eyes we gain insight into an ancient, indigenous society, and learn values from a new one. ICTNM interviewed one of the stars Stacey Thunder.

Chaske Spencer, S'Nya Sanchez-Hohenstein, Mauricimo Sanchez-Hohenstein, and Stacey Thunder as the Red Elk family in 'The Jingle Dress.' Photo courtesy The Jingle Dress.

Chaske Spencer, S’Nya Sanchez-Hohenstein, Mauricimo Sanchez-Hohenstein, and Stacey Thunder as the Red Elk family in ‘The Jingle Dress.’ Photo courtesy The Jingle Dress.

Excerpt: Packed House: Actress Stacey Thunder on ‘The Jingle Dress’ Sneak Preview Screening. ICTNM

“On Saturday, April 5, The Jingle Dress made its debut in a sold-out sneak preview screening at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. The film stars Stacey Thunder, Kimberly Guerrero, Chaske Spencer and Steve Reevis. ”The screening went great and there was definitely a packed house — chairs were added in the very back of the theater,” says Thunder, who took a few moments to discuss the film with ICTMN.”

Sisters Janet (Kimberly Guerrero) and Elsie (Stacey Thunder) share a laugh in a scene from The Jingle Dress.

Sisters Janet (Kimberly Guerrero) and Elsie (Stacey Thunder) share a laugh in a scene from The Jingle Dress.

ICTNM: What’s The Jingle Dress about?

It’s a contemporary story of a Native American family who move from their rural home on the reservation in northern Minnesota to the faster paced urban environment of Minneapolis. I play Elsie, the mother of the Red Elk family. She is the backbone of the family and loves them dearly. She is very strong, yet sensitive and looks to her husband John (Chaske Spencer) and sister Janet (Kimberly Guerrero), for support.  She worries about her family as they experience their new life in Minneapolis.

By most accounts, women's Jingle Dress Dance has its roots in some part of Ojibwe country. St. Albert Gazette.

By most accounts, women’s Jingle Dress Dance has its roots in some part of Ojibwe country. St. Albert Gazette.

ICTNM: What is the significance of the jingle dress to the story?

Its healing power. After Elsie tells her daughter Rose the story of the dress while making it for her, Rose wears and dances in the dress in order to help her family.

ICTNM: You worked with Chaske Spencer, who’s one of the most accomplished Native actors in recent times, what was that like?

It was great! Chaske is a nice guy and fun to work with. In fact, there were a lot of smiles and laughs on set because everyone, including our amazing crew, got along so well.

Jingle Dress dancers at a White Earth Reservation powwow. MinnPost photo by Steven Date.

Jingle Dress dancers at a White Earth Reservation powwow. MinnPost photo by Steven Date.

ICTNM: For better or worse, it seems most films about the contemporary Native experience have an educational element — seeking to help people outside Native culture gain some understanding of it. Is there an element of that going on in this film?

The Jingle Dress shows a real side to our lives today — that we are still here and still very real. And by watching the Red Elk family, viewers get to learn about one unique Indigenous culture and tradition, which is very important, but that they’ll also see Native peoples are also human beings like them who have and share the same feelings, hopes, dreams, goals and challenges. Read more…

Follow The Jingle Dress  facebook.com/jingledressmovie for updates.

Kudos to the cast and supporters of this wonderful film!

 “ There are several slightly different versions of the Jingle dress’s origination story. One is that the first dress was made for a very sick girl by a medicine man, who saw the dress in a vision. The dress was made and the sick girl was healed by dancing in the dress. This dress is considered sacred by many people. It  is often called a “medicine dress”.  ~Ojibway~

Read about The Legend of Talking Feathers /Talking Sticks

 

Equinox: The First Native Super Heroine!

April 5th, 2014  |  Published in Education  | 

O’siyo. On April 23, 2014, DC Comics will introduce their first Native female superheroine. Equinox, (her real name is Miiyahbin)  is a  sixteen-year-old member of the Cree Nation, whose super powers are attached to the seasons. Created by Ontario writer Jeff Lemire, the character Equinox was inspired by a real Cree heroine, 15-year-old Shannen Koostachin. Shannen organized her fellow students to lobby the government for a new school in her community. Unfortunately Shannen passed away in 2010 in a car accident.

Native Superhero Equinox. Photo- Jeff Lemire. DC Comics.

Native Superhero Equinox. Photo- Jeff Lemire. DC Comics.

Equinox, new Cree teen superhero, joins DC Comics lineup. CBCNews

Excerpt:

“Metropolis’s Superman and Gotham City’s Batman are getting a brand-new colleague from Canada this spring: a teenage Cree superhero hailing from Moose Factory, Ont. The isolated James Bay communities of Moose Factory and Moosonee take the spotlight in the forthcoming Justice League Canada, a five-issue story arc written by comic artist Jeff Lemire for the comic series Justice League United. The stories, featuring artwork by Mike McKone, debut in April. After earning widespread acclaim for his Essex County graphic novel trilogy — based on his rural upbringing in southwestern Ontario — Lemire and his poignant storytelling style piqued the attention of comic giant DC Entertainment.

You need very distinct voices for personalities on the team or else you just start writing the same character in a different costume. Multiple research trips north proved illuminating and rewarding for Lemire. He spent time in grade school classrooms…Moose Factory musician and comic fan Nathan Cheechoo, for instance, advised Lemire to take away all that stereotypical imagery and get down to basic principles in his depictions. I don’t walk around with beads and fringe and feathers and a loincloth. And that was something I wanted to bring to Jeff, he said. We want our stories shared, and if this is another way to share it, then I think mission accomplished, added Cheechoo, who said his own children are now reading comic books, too.

New DC Comics superhero inspired by young Cree activist

 Shannen Koostachin organized students to lobby the government to replace temporary buildings with a new school in her community. Columbia University.

Beautiful Shannen Koostachin organized students to lobby the government to replace temporary buildings with a new school in her community. Columbia University.

Jeff Lemire says Shannen Koostachin — a young Cree activist from Attawapiskat — helped inspire him. Lemire said the 15-year-old, who led fellow students to Parliament Hill to lobby for a proper school, isn’t far from his thoughts in drawing up the new superhero.

“I think if I can capture some of that heart and some of that essence in this character, perhaps she’ll almost be a guiding spirit in the creation of this character.” 

Kudos to Lemire for paying homage to the real Native heroine Shannen Koostachin.

“This project tells them we’re just as important as Superman, Clark Kent, Batman and all these people. That’s something I want [my kids] to share with friends.”~ Nathan Cheechoo~Cree musician and comic fan.

REMEMBER: 

April is Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness Month. In an ongoing effort to bring awareness of sexual violence against women and abuse against children, many organizations are participating in special events all this month.

Never Alone- Abuse Awareness & Support.

Never Alone- Abuse Awareness & Support.

A BATTERED WOMAN

“A battered woman is of beauty inside.
A battered woman has strength and courage that she chooses to hide.

A battered woman holds on till she can‘t hold on no more in hopes that there‘s still a her that will be able to hold.

A battered woman cries at night yet it‘s a cry she decides to hold inside. A battered woman sees a brighter future that no one else sees.
A battered woman possesses power that she doesn‘t know she has.
A battered woman has anger that only her kind can understand.

A battered woman wasn‘t born. A battered woman was formed.”

~Anita Bullock~Ohlone Tribe of California 

National Domestic Violence Hotline
Staffed 24 hours a day by trained counselors who can provide crisis assistance and information about shelters, legal advocacy, health care centers, and counseling.

 

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Gyasi Ross: Native Dad, Author, Attorney, and Good Guy!

March 29th, 2014  |  Published in Education  | 

O’siyo. For those of you not yet familiar with Gyasi Ross, he is a member of the Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories, and also a frequent contributor to Indian Country Today Media Network. In his own words, he is a Dad, Author, and Attorney (we added the “Good Guy” part). His latest contribution provides wonderful insight and advice for young Natives leaving home and attending non-Native colleges for the first time.

Leaving the Rez: Eyeryday, Modern-Day Assimilation (for Kreestal) By Gyasi Ross, ICTNM

Follow Gyasi Ross on Twitter.

Follow Gyasi Ross on Twitter.

Excerpt:

“Quick Story: I was on the “Indian Plan” on my journey through college, attending (seriously) six schools before finally graduating. I basically went everyplace that I could go for free, or alternatively, for really, really, REALLY close to free. I ended up going to four “mainstream” schools (two universities and two community colleges), and two tribal colleges. After college, I attended Columbia Law School (good gawd knows how they let me in after my vagabond undergrad experience). All in all, I attended five non-Native schools, and lived off the rez for about eight years of my life. In hindsight, I think about that time in those non-Native schools and also living off the rez. I suppose I’m old enough now to have a bit of objectivity about that time in my life. I noticed certain themes and commonalities at all those schools—not good, not bad—just themes.

Gyasi Ross’  sweet signature photo for ICTMN column.

Gyasi Ross’ sweet signature photo for ICTMN column.

Theme #1

I had to be the “official” spokesman of ALL things Native. As SOON as any question, statistic or the word “Native,” “Indian” etc came up, all eyes turned to me. I didn’t mind—I’d give the requisite disclaimer, “All tribes are different, blah, blah, blah…”—yet try to answer the question as best I could.  It was actually a blessing—it made me learn MORE about myself and my people and where I come from. I didn’t wanna pretend that I knew stuff simply because I was Native (I’ve watched many do this—speak blindly on behalf of their communities). Still, this was a definite theme. “Indian question? Ask the Indian guy!”

How To Say I Love You in Indian by author Gyasi Ross. Cut Bank Creek Press.

How To Say I Love You in Indian by author Gyasi Ross. Cut Bank Creek Press.

Theme #2

“Another consistent theme, at these non-Native schools, was a curiosity about how I made it away from the rez. This was interesting—I knew that the people asking the questions had good intentions; they weren’t asking in a malicious way. But there are two implicit messages in this question, and these are sneaky and ugly: 1) that the reservation is this place that needs to be escaped from, like a black hole, lest all hope and potential be sucked away. 2) That I was somehow different than the other people on the reservation because I was resourceful and smart enough to sneak away from the reservation’s destructive power.”

Don’t Know Much About Indians by Gyasi Ross. Cut Bank Creek Press.

Don’t Know Much About Indians, But I Wrote A Book About Us Anyways by Gyasi Ross. Cut Bank Creek Press.

Why Am I Telling You This?

“Well, it’s just something I’ve been thinking about. I speak at a lot of colleges and universities and students oftentimes ask me what I think about education. PLUS, it’s squarely on mind because my niece Kreestal just got admitted to a very, very prestigious university. That’s cool—she’s a beautiful, brilliant kid (as are ALL of my nieces and nephews, by the way)—my family doesn’t really have a history of academic success and opportunities. So that’s a big deal. Her and I talk about this stuff. I know that there are a lot of those Ask the Indian girl moments coming up for her, as well as a lot of questions about how she  made it away from the rez. Fortunately, she’s very well grounded in her community and family, and I know that she won’t provide the fodder that they’re asking for.

Author Gyasi Ross encourages Natives to share their stories. RezNet News.

Author Gyasi Ross encourages Natives to share their stories. RezNet News.

I tell my niece Kreestal (and the other students who I interact with) that a little bit of strategic assimilation can be good. Learn the mechanisms, the systems. Come back. That’s positive… However, education can also be a negative thing to Native communities—it can be a tool to take away many of the talented people from our homelands. When Native people go away from the rez for education, and then ACT like they really did escape—they don’t come back but instead just live in middle class splendor away from their homelands. That’s called a “brain drain… Love you Kreestal. Congratulations.Read more of this wonderful article here…

Author Gyasi Ross- Using Tradition to Teach Our Kids Purpose- Mentorship Matters. Photo- ICTMN.

Author Gyasi Ross- Using Tradition to Teach Our Kids Purpose- Mentorship Matters. Photo- ICTMN.

“To wit, when Native people get educated for the purposes of contributing BACK to our precious Native homelands and people, then education is good. Then assimilation is a necessary evil—Go away, gain knowledge of how to help contribute and improve our communities. Come back. Strengthen the community. Positive. Use that assimilation for good.” ~ Gyasi Ross~

Kudos to Gyasi Ross for being such a positive role model, Dad, Author, Attorney, and all around good guy! Be sure to follow Ross’ column in ICTNM.

Also READ:

Tribes Assist Landslide Relief Effort With Personnel, Donations and Prayers Richard Walker, ICTNM

“As the death toll from last Saturday’s devastating landslide in Oso, Washington climbed to 16 and a heartbreaking 90 people remained unaccounted for, Northwest tribes stepped forward with donations, personnel assistance and steady prayer…On March 26, the Tulalip Tribes presented a check for $100,000 to the American Red Cross of Snohomish County and $50,000 to the Cascade Valley Health Foundation to assist with the relief effort in Oso. It was a gift of love, a statement that the Tulalip people understand Oso’s pain… The Stillaguamish Tribe, too, gave $100,000 to relief efforts, as did the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, donating $5,000.”  Read more…

Visit The American Red Cross to learn how you can help the families in Oso.American Red Cross

“OUR PRAYERS AND THOUGHTS ARE WITH THE FAMILIES.” -TALKING FEATHER-Flowers

Legend of the Talking Feather (also known as The Talking Stick): Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei Bestow the Gift of The Talking Feather
There are many legends about how the Indians learned about the Talking Feather/Talking Stick. Read about one of them here…

 

A Native Superhero in Washington!

March 23rd, 2014  |  Published in Education  | 

O’siyo. Artist Jeffrey Veregge is a member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe located in Kingston WA, and he loves superheroes. Jeffrey uses traditional Native designs from the Pacific Northwest to create his unique characters.

Artist Jeffrey Veregge. Image courtesy of the artist.

Artist Jeffrey Veregge. Image courtesy of the artist.

Excerpt: Superheroes Meet Coast Salish Design Native Peoples Magazine

“By day, artist Jeffrey Veregge (Port Gamble S’Klallam) is a graphic designer at a marketing agency in Poulsbo, Wash. But by night, he’s often etching superheroes and villains in drawings accented by traditional Native designs of the Pacific Northwest.

Artist Jeffrey Veregge. Image courtesy of the artist.

Artist Jeffrey Veregge. Image courtesy of the artist.

Veregge’s eye-catching work, much of it created in his free time, is the result of a common boyhood fascination with comic books and sci-fi, and his own creativity. He dedicated time to training at the Art Institute of Seattle, where he majored in industrial design, and with past mentor David Boxley (Tsimshian), a traditional Salish formline design artist and master carver in Metlakatla, Alaska. Now 39, Veregge has found his blend of sci-fi and Northwest Coast culture is helping him connect with a new, wider audience.

Artist Jeffrey Veregge.  Image courtesy of the artist.

Artist Jeffrey Veregge. Image courtesy of the artist.

Veregge’s work has been acquired by several institutions, including the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle and the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. He tells Native Peoples that he also will be creating exclusive merchandise this year for the EMP Store in Seattle.”

Artist Jeffrey Veregge. Image courtesy of the artist.

Artist Jeffrey Veregge. Image courtesy of the artist.

To view more of Jeffrey Veregge’s wonderful work visit his Website.

Kudos to Jeffrey and to all of the creative people who create beauty!

“The whole reason to do art is to tell a story. The themes don’t change; it is always good versus evil and right versus wrong. I’m just taking modern myths and doing what my ancestors would have done. I’m telling the tale through art that people can relate to.” ~Jeffrey Veregge~

Legend of the Talking Feather (also known as The Talking Stick): Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei Bestow the Gift of The Talking Feather
There are many legends about how the Indians learned about the Talking Feather/Talking Stick. Read about one of them here…

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