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Native American Heritage Day: 5 Amazing Musicians to Check Out

Photo labeled for reuse, courtesy of Unsplash.

Native American Heritage Day, on Nov. 27, is a holiday in the United States. It’s a great time to show homage to Indigenous cross cultural individuals in the U.S. Indigenous communities, populations, tribes and in this article, musical artists, are principal to recognize on this day of heritage appreciation.

Image of a Native American Man at a Pow Wow Regalia in North Dakota.
Photo labeled for reuse, courtesy of Unsplash.

Artist Arigon Starr

To start, Arigon Starr is an Indigenous artist and member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma. Namely, Starr has ancestry stemming from Muscogee Creek. Without a doubt, Starr is an entertainer in every sense of the word, with her talents spanning from performing in plays, writing plays, singing, songwriting and even producing comic books. She uses her talents and her platform for good; combatting negative stereotypes and underrepresentation of Indigenous people and populations. Undoubtedly, Starr is passionate about these issues and includes lyrics in her songs which demonstrate this passion for activism. Her song, “Please Don’t Touch the Indians” include her own lyrics such as “It’s no wonder we ain’t on tee-vee…They all think we’re dead.”

Photo shows image of a woman playing a guitar, an instrument Indigenous artist, Joanna Shenandoah plays.
Photo labeled for reuse, courtesy of Unsplash.

Musician Joanne Shenandoah

Joanne Shenandoah is a singer, composer as well as guitarist Indigenous artist. She identifies with the Wolf Clan of the Oneida Nation, part of the Iroquois confederacy. Because of this background, Shenandoah’s works include various forms of activism, telling the stories of women through her songs, as well as singing about her tribe’s various rituals and cultures. Some of her most popular works include “Nature Dance” and “Missing You.” Moreover, Shenandoah is widely recognizable for her works, receiving a Grammy Award, as well as 14 Native American Music Awards — more than any other artist.

Indigenous Band; A Tribe Called Red

Image is of Cochella, where this Indigenous band, A Tribe called Red performed.
Photo labeled for reuse, courtesy of Unsplash.

A Tribe Called Red is an Indigenous band of three artists; “DJ NDN, Bear Witness and 2oolman” who “create unique club music mixing traditional pow wow vocals and drumming with electronic music.”, explains a journalist for the Medley Mag. This band caters to the contemporary, electronic genre of music many younger folks have been listening to recently. Most notably, A Tribe Called Red performed at the 2015 Coachella Festival, a hugely popular U.S. music event. In recent years, Coachella has almost become known for the cultural appropriation within the costumes many attendees will wear to the various shows and concerts put on by the festival. However, knowing this, A Tribe Called Red, used their position to advocate against this; “they publicly condemned it and issued a ban: headdresses would have to be checked at the door,” explains a journalist for The Guardian, covering their performance at Coachella.

Artist Silver Jackson

Alaska-born, Silver Jackson, formally known as Nicholas Galanin, comes from a family of artists. As a result, Jackson became an artist himself. Within his work, he takes on revolutionary as well as traditional approaches to his music. He is Tlingit/Aleut in his identity and with this, Jackson aims his music at both Indigenous and non-Native communities, producing works with the theme of transformation and change of one’s identity. One of his most well-known songs is entitled “The Perfect Mistake,” which comes off as an indie/contemporary type genre. He is accomplished in his works on his own, but he turned this talent into a brand for more artists to be put on display. Consequently, He now owns a record label company called HomeSkillet Records, where this becomes possible.

Musician Joy Harjo

Photo is of Indigenous artist, Joy Harjo playing her Saxaphone.
Photo labeled for reuse, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Joy Harjo is similar to previously mentioned Arigon Starr, in that her works spread through a variety of art mediums. Harjo is a musician, poet, playwright and writer. She is a member of the Muscogee Nation, and belongs to the Hickory Ground. Because of this, Harjo’s work centers around social justice and defining one’s self, especially pertaining to women’s rights and Indigenous freedom in regards to United States policies.

Now, Harjo tours with a group called “Arrow Dynamics” singing and playing instruments such as the flute and Saxophone, now mainly centering her music around her talents on the saxophone, being quoted as saying “I love the sound of the saxophone. It became my singing voice, and it sounds so human. The saxophone could carry the words past the border of words. It can carry it a little bit farther.” Accordingly, Harjo is recognized for her incredible work, with one of the most notable triumphs being her Native American Music Award for best female artist. Thus, a win for her activism and being an empowered woman alike.

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