Category Archives: Native Music

The Haida Nation Forbids Visitors During COVID-19

“The Haida Nation put up roadblocks and is turning back visitors seeking to enter its communities off British Columbia. Members held a rally this week to reinforce the message.” J. Estus, ICT

Some of the crowd on the road near the roadblock. Photo by Mary Helmer

Excerpt: Island tribal nation rallies behind travel restrictions, By Joaqlin Estus, ICT

Tribal members on a cluster of islands off British Columbia are stepping up efforts to keep out visitors after the province declared sports hunting and fishing essential activities.

The Haida Nation, one of several Pacific Northwest tribes whose rainy, forested homelands extend from Oregon to southeast Alaska, put up roadblocks about a month ago and has been turning back nonresidents traveling by ferry to Haida Gwaii, or the ‘Island of the People.’

On Monday, dozens of tribal members turned out for a rally at the roadblocks to reinforce the tribe’s stance.

‘We want to send a stronger message to the outside world that we’re just not welcoming visitors at this point,’ said Billy Yovanovich, chief councillor of the Skidegate Band Council. Haida Gwaii has had no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.

The Haida Nation’s position puts it at odds with the British Columbia provincial government, which last week designated sports hunters and fishermen as essential food and agriculture service providers — opening the door for them to travel to Haida Gwaii by ferry. Airlines have halted air service to Haida Gwai until May.

The province’s chief medical officer has reminded British Columbians that the ‘Haida Nation and other first indigenous nations have our own jurisdiction and our own governance,’ Haida Nation President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop said. ‘And you know, in situations like this … we can turn people away to protect our own people.’

Normally this time of year, visitors would begin arriving to travel to area lodges for sports hunting and fishing, to visit national parks, and to go sightseeing in Skidegate and Old Massett, the two villages on Graham, the largest island in the Haida Gwaii archipelago…’There’s been a couple of them [epidemics] in the past. And that’s how all the Haida people ended up getting in Skidegate and Old Massett. Smallcox came here and just about wiped out all of our people.’  He also noted the island has only two ventilators and no medical expertise or equipment to provide appropriate care to patients seriously ill with COVID-19…’Once all this changes, it [COVID-19] goes away, things are back to whatever normal looks like, we would welcome people back again.’ Alsop said. ‘But at this point, the direction is ‘stay at home.’ I absolutely want people not to come visit at this time.’

No outsiders arrived on the ferry Monday, but a few have in the past few weeks, Alsop said. They were told to shelter in place in their vehicles in the parking lot and to take the next ferry home.”

Resource Sites for the COVID-19:


COVID-19 Tracker in the United States: Story summaries, lists of closures, resources. Last update  5/1/20   Information Here

COVID-19 financial strain? Here are resources in 50 states

If you are interested in Indian Country Today’s continued coverage of COVID-19, please feel free to access our continually updated Coronavirus syllabus.

(See related: Indian Country’s COVID-19 syllabus)

If you are working from home and the process is an unfamiliar one, see last week’s #NativeNerd column on the topic.

(See related: #NativeNerd: Best practices for working virtually due to COVID-19)

What services are available?

Though some individuals might be aware of services offered by their prospective tribes and states, others finding themself in an unfamiliar situation may not be aware they qualify for several benefits offered by human/social services and unemployment services.

It is worth noting that the majority of social services websites in each state now have a COVID-19 warning on their landing pages, warning people not to come to social and human services locations in person. With this in mind, these services should be completed online only. Some states have — in addition to their online applications — telephone numbers applicants can call to have a representative that can fill out the application for you over the phone.

Such benefits include, but are not limited to:

• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Formerly known as food stamps

• Food banks

• The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

• Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

• Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

• Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

• Medicaid

• Childcare assistance

• Housing assistance

• Programs for persons with disabilities, or are homeless, seniors, veterans and/or in the military

• Unemployment compensation

Where to begin?

After extensive research, the most comprehensive and user-friendly website for finding assistance from a multitude of programs is arguably

Submissions For the Indigenous Music Awards is Now Open!

“According to the coordinators of the Indigenous Music Awards and presented by the Casinos of Winnipeg, submissions are now being accepted for the Indigenous Music Awards presented by Casinos of Winnipeg. The submission deadline for the Indigenous Music Awards is February 14th, 2018.  ” V. Schilling, ICTMN

Excerpt: Submission deadline for the Indigenous Music Awards is February 14th, 2018–Vincent Schilling, ICTMN

The IMA’s will be held at the Club Regent Event Centre in Winnipeg, MB, on May 18, 2018. Entries from Indigenous recording artists and music industry professionals from around the world can be submitted online for over 20 award categories which are listed  [on  the website The  First  Nations Canada]

Canadian artist Drezus is the first First Nation hip-hop artist up for a MTV Video Music Award. Photo-

Jessica Mauboy Wins Big at Indigenous Music Awards – 2017. Pedestrian tv

All submissions must have been released between February 15, 2016 and February 14, 2018, to be eligible for nomination in this year’s IMA award categories.

Northern Cree Singers attend The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017. Photo- zimbio

Gawurra feels the love with four wins at National Indigenous Music Awards 2016.

Twenty-two Indigenous Music Awards–including the IMA Lifetime Achievement Award–will be presented on Friday, May 18, 2018, at the Club Regent Event Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.”

About the Indigenous Music Awards:


Presented annually by Manito Ahbee Festival, the Indigenous Music Awards (formerly the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards) is the world’s premiere awards show recognizing the accomplishments of Indigenous recording artists and music industry professionals from around the globe.

Learn More and Apply online at:

Category: Native Music

Micki Free: A Native To Admire

O’siyo. Native artist Micki Free is still performing, helping others, and being an excellent role model for young people every where! The following is an excerpt from an interview by ICTNM.

Discussion Questions for this post

Native Americans need more people to look up to, and I try to be one of those guys, says Free. Photo by Jason Morgan Edwards. ICTMN.

Native Americans need more people to look up to, and I try to be one of those guys, says Free. Photo by Jason Morgan Edwards. ICTMN.

Excerpt: Micki Free: Jamming for Veterans… By Jason M. Edwards. ICTMN

“Micki Free, Cherokee and Comanche, is showing no signs of slowing his rock or his roll. The former Shalamar guitarist is still headlining venues with his American Horse Band. A new album on Frontier Records, featuring Free and Jean Beauvoir (collaborator with KISS, The Ramones and others) is set to be released in 2015. And, the man regularly appears with Carlos Santana and drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana. He has just announced dates and venues for an Australian mini tour with Leon Hendrix, younger brother of Jimi. He’s receiving a Rock Honors Award at this weekend’s 2014 Indie Entertainment Summit alongside Steppenwolf, Deep Purple, Metallica, Parlament-Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, 2Pac and Nirvana. He may be 59, but he soesn’t sound like a man who’s ready for a porch-swing. Indian Country Today caught up with him in a rare moment of downtime.”

 Micki Free and artist Jean Beauvoir. Photo: GC Jel Productions.

Micki Free and artist Jean Beauvoir. Photo: GC Jel Productions.

ICTMN: Tell us about the benefit show you did for Homeless Veterans Concert in Pomona, California.

MF: I’ve got various projects that I do. The group that performed for the Homeless Veterans Benefit is a group of pro players: bassist Prescott Niles, formerly of The Knack; drummer Hawk Lopez, who’s played on the Native Music Rock Tour; and others. The line-up for the show also included Redbone, Hank Linderman, Angela Razon and comedian Jim Ruel. 

ICTMN: How did you get attached to this project?

MF: I got a call from the promoters to get involved. I do two or three benefits a year. Performing for veterans is close to my heart. My stepfather was a vet, my brother-in-law is a Vietnam vet, and I believe in the veterans and what they do for America, period. Native Americans are a big part of that group, and they fought and died for this country. 

ICTMN: What’s the scoop on the Beauvoir-Free collaboration deal?

MF: Jean Beauvoir is a very famous producer and song-writer and artist in his own right. He was in the group The Plasmatics. He wrote and produced for KISS… We’re partners in songwriting. We had a group in the early 90’s called Crown of Thorns, signed to Interscope Records…We’re no strangers to huge record deals and touring big arenas. So, look for us out there in late 2014 and into 2015. We’re doing the CD called American Trash.

ICTMN: Any special guests…making cameos in studio?

MF: With friends like Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman-Santana, Jon Bon Jovi, Joe Perry — the list of people we know and have worked with is endless. So, if people are available, and so inclined, and the song warrants it, it will be a ring of stars and hit-makers. But the ICTMN readers will just have to stay tuned. 

“I’m a humble guy and I care about my fellow human beings. I think that Native Americans need more people to look up to, and I try to be one of those guys. I do the best I can.”  ~Micki Free~

Discussion Questions for this post
  1.  Micki Free  is a member of which  two tribes?
  2. What instrument does Micki Free play?
  3.  What was the name of his former group?
  4. Who is the famous artist playing with Micki on his new album?
  5.  Micki is developing music programs for Tribes in which state?



Category: Native Music

When Hip-Hop Came to the Rez

O’siyo. One of our favorite authors and story-tellers Gyasi Ross, describes how Hip-Hop began in Indian Country years ago. He also explains why so many young Natives are still intrigued by the music today. You just might be surprised!

Discussion Questions for this post

Photo: Gawker News.

Photo: Gawker News.

Excerpt: Breakdances With Wolves...By Gyasi Ross

“…The reasons that I went to school in New York City are twofold: 1) good school, and 2) because I romanticized the birthplace of hip-hop since I was a little lad. I just knew that I had to live there at some time in my life. But when I moved from our little Suquamish Reservation to NYC and told friends in NYC why I moved there, they were always shocked—How the heck did you get into hip-hop on the reservation? 

Truth is that, in 2014, if you go to any Indian reservation within the U.S. you’ll find Native youth listening to hip-hop music en masse. You might even find some Native hip-hop artists (more about them later). Now, keep in mind that these are remote locations—hundreds of miles away from any urban centers, in the midst of acres and acres of forests, cows or sheep grazing and farmland—yet, hip-hop has a grasp on the young folks.

I remember the exact moment when Native youth in the most remote parts of the US began to find a strange affinity with young Black and Latino youth in the most densely populated metropolitan areas…we were in remote northern Montana a few miles south of the Canadian border, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. We weren’t completely unfamiliar with western technology—we had a TV, although there was no cable, with two TV stations (and one was in Canada so, y’know, take that for what it was worth). We had a car, a red Pinto that had an amazing ability to fit eight of us into it.

But then, like in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, it came from no place. A wonderful and powerful gift from up above—the Gods!! It required immediate action.The year was 1985—springtime. I think my older cousin Leland Bear Medicine (or maybe it was Julian Many Hides) got the first copy of Beat Street on the rez. Maybe. Both Leland and Julian tended to get stuff first—they were just those types of dudes. Mind you, movies usually didn’t hit the reservation until a good year after they came out mainstream. I now know that breakdancing had been around for a several years before mainstream (white) America got hip and it was several more before we got it on the rez. By then, it’d been around for quite some time. Since Indigenous people invariably come from an oral tradition, the notion of communicating history and/or calls to action via song is very intuitive, and the unabashed activism of the early-90s “Golden Age” of hip-hop makes a lot of sense to many Native people.

As I mentioned earlier, I moved from the Rez to NYC to experience the Mecca of hip-hop. I was also there to attend Columbia Law School. For me, it made perfect sense. Hip-hop’s activist spirit, combined with my family’s ancestral directive to always serve our community, compelled me to go law school.

But this story isn’t just about “breakdancing” or “dressing urban” or going to law school.We related to the hope that shone through the tough circumstances of the inner city. It sounded just like us maintaining hope in our homelands, where, make no mistake, things are harsh.  We embodied every single thing that Melle Mel was talking about in Beat Street Breakdown.

That was us. The struggle was us. Financial deprivation was us—rural as hell, country as hell—yet, something very real in common with poor, urban Black and Latino youth all the way across the country. And, somehow, weirdly, hip-hop became our soundtrack way out in the middle of everywhere.” Read more.

“That was the link, those were the ingredients—music, poverty, young death, and hope despite it all. We related to that. Like Kenny on Beat Street, we worked through the pain and the death and find ways to make life meaningful and better within our reservation communities.”~Melle Mel~Beat Street Breakdown

Native author Gyasi Ross.

Native author Gyasi Ross.

Gyasi Ross is a father, an author and an attorney. He grew up on both the Blackfeet and Suquamish Indian Reservations and continues to work and live within his community. He is the author of two books, How To Say I Love You In Indian and Don’t Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways).  He also writes his own column for Indian Country Today Media Network called The Thing About Skins

Discussion Questions for this post

Why did Gyasi go to New York City when he was young?

What year did Gyasi first see the movie Beat Street?

What were the Native social dances called?

According to Gyasi how was Native dancing different from Breakdancing?

Why do Natives relate to Hip-Hop music?


Category: Native Music

Scatter Their Own: Beyond Definition

O’siyo. Married couple Scotti Clifford and Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford (both Oglala Lakota) are the singing sensation known as  Scatter Their Own. The duo’s music is as beautiful and varied as their fashion styles. The name (Scatter Their Own) is the English translation for  the name “Oglala”, one of the seven bands of the Lakota.

Taste The Time cd By Scatter Their Own. The Heritage Center.

Taste The Time cd By Scatter Their Own. The Heritage Center.

Excerpt: Coming Into Their Own By Tate Walker, Native Peoples Magazine

“Self-described alter-Native rock duo Scatter Their Own doesn’t depend on traditional flutes, feathers or hand drums for its look and sound; instead, husband-and-wife team Scotti Clifford and Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford (both Oglala Lakota) mix their old-school rock-and-roll and bluesy sounds with deep, contemporary lyrics about love, overcoming obstacles and environmental advocacy.

Their own fashion. Rockwired.

Their own fashion. Rockwired.

Celebrated among tribal audiences across Turtle Island, the popularity of Scatter Their Own transcends cultural boundaries, evident in their recent appearance at SXSW, one of the largest music/film/tech festivals on the planet. The band followed its appearance there with the release of their second album, Taste The Time, which came out May 1 [2014].

While mass appeal is the band’s aim, the Cliffords often note their spiritual foundations, cultural belief systems and dedication to family, which help guide the direction of both their music and their lives…

Music was a constant growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Scotti says. His parents owned a general store in Sharps Corner, S.D., and Scotti was the second youngest of five children. He was 4 years old when his father sat him down at his first drum set, and his grandmother Olivia Black Elk handed him his first acoustic guitar when he was in fifth grade to replace the one he had made using cardboard, a ruler and rubber bands…

Scatter their own: Battle of the Bands.

Scatter their own: Battle of the Bands.

Juliana, who is 23, taught herself to play bass guitar when she was in high school, around the time she was first introduced to Scotti in 2005. Juliana was more interested in academics than she was in music, however, and she graduated as the valedictorian from Red Cloud High School and used a Gates Millennium scholarship to attend a pre-med program at Creighton University.

Scatter Their Own unique style: ICTMN

Scatter Their Own unique style: ICTMN

But Juliana craved an outlet for her artistic tendencies and transferred to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she majored in photography, a skill she uses today to promote the band on their website and on social media. In 2009, she met Scotti for a second time, and soon after the pair started dating…As self-taught musicians, neither Juliana nor Scotti can read traditional sheet music. Instead, melodies come to Scotti in his head, which he plays on guitar until something clicks with his alt-rock foundations. Then he takes the skeleton sound to Juliana, who learns her bass part by ear. Together, they write the lyrics, and a song blossoms.” Read more.

Listen to their new CD Taste the Time:

Video Link:

“We are trying to raise awareness, but this is the 21st century, and we—as indigenous people—should be deciding how we are represented in the media.” ~Scatter Their Own~

Kudos to this creative duo!  To learn more visit their website.

Category: Native Music

First Nation Rappers: Keeping Culture: Changing Stereotypes

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.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. Photo- Aboriginal Artists.

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


Category: Native Music