November is Native American Heritage Month, but unfortunately, indigenous people have been on the receiving end of cultural appropriation and crass stereotyping with Victoria's Secret being the latest offender. If that wasn't enough,Thanksgiving is coming up as well which has inspired tales of taverns and their woeful advertising of cultural mockery. Instead of perpetuating pendejadas, Heard Mentality would rather highlight and celebrate contemporary Native American musicians, especially in light of this heritage month. Grab a pair of headphones, blast your speakers, listen and learn about five bands and musicians who are rocking Turtle Island with their eclectic blend of talents from pow wow step to punk rock!
And for that...we have reason to give thanks, much thanks!
1. Blackfire - Overwhelming
For decades, Clayson, Jeneda and Klee Benally have banded together to offer up high energy indigenous punk rock with politically uncompromising lyrics. The power trio of siblings from the Navajo Nation were the first Native American band to play Vans Warped Tour and have taken their act across continents. In 2008, they released the double-disc Silence is a Weapon that would take home "Record of the Year" distinctions at the Native American Music Awards. While one disc featured righteous rock riffs delivered at blistering speeds, the other celebrated their traditional Diné music!
2. A Tribe Called Red - Red Skin Girl
Together, Bear Witness, DJ NDN, and DJ Shub form the indigenous collective A Tribe Called Red. Coming out of Ottawa, Canada, the beat makers call their blend of music "pow wow dub." The trio released a pulsating eleven-track self-titled debut album that interested listeners can still download for free. One of the most striking offerings is the protest song "Woodcarver" which recounts the officer-involved shooting that killed indigenous woodcarver John T. Williams in Seattle, Washington back in August 2010.
3. Miracle Dolls - I Let You Go
Indie rockers Dani Doll and Dezy Doll are at the helm of Miracle Dolls. Calling Chino their hometown, the Southern California twin sisters are Hidatsas from the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota. Like Blackfire before them, Miracle Dolls have also performed on the Warped Tour in addition to rocking out reservations. The band is currently putting the finishing touches on the John Avila (Oingo Boingo) produced follow up to Thieves and Guns featuring guest drumming by Aixa of Go Betty Go. Until then, there's repeat-button inducing tracks like "I Let You Go" to listen to while tiding Miracle Dolls fans over!
4. Samantha Crain - Santa Fe
Singer-songwriter Samantha Crain is a Choctaw Indian from Shawnee, Oklahoma whose musicality is apparent to anyone with a willing ear to lend. Listen to "Santa Fe" off of her second full-length album You (Understood) with its banjo melodies, folksy strumming, and that voice that defies all description and find yourself an instant convert. The Neil Young-loving Crain has caught the attention of outlets from Rolling Stone to the Washington Post. If this is the first listen of the 26 year-old's phenomenal music, a third full-length album, the highly autobiographical Kid Face awaits you early next year. So grand are Crain's talents that all the more assholes are those who thieved her guitars earlier this month from her home!
5. Digging Roots - Spring to Come
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A chance meeting brought Digging Roots vocalists Raven Kanatakta and Shoshona Kish together. Ever since, the music emanating from their creative core has been nothing less than mesmerizing. With a refreshing take on the blues, Digging Roots incorporates other styles such as hip hop and reggae into their musical fold. The Toronto, Canada-based jam band's last album WE ARE featured a collaboration with A Tribe Called Red's Bear Witness and after extensive touring in Europe and North America, Digging Roots is digging in for a new album entitled Love Drive.
Bonus Track: Niko Black - "Any Way Outta Here"
Niko Black, a Mescalero Apache woman currently fighting the eviction from her Garden Grove home while terminally ill with cancer--as chronicled by the Weekly--graced local stages in her less stressful days. With raspy vocals, she sang inspired songs, including a tribute to former Weekly internVu Nguyen who died as a result of suffering a heart attack at the age of 34. Featured on Long Beach's BeatzByDevastata's 2005 album The Edge of Catastrophe, Black sings and plays acoustic guitar on "Any Way Outta Here," a soulful groove that beckons listeners to the refrain "The answer's back at the beginning..."