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The Voices of Our Native Youth Are Talking, But Are We Listening?

Vincent Schilling
12/3/11

I have been writing as a correspondent for Indian Country Today Media Network for quite a few years and I was honored, to say the least, when ICTMN’s Opinion/Editorial editor Ray Cook asked if I would like to contribute. I have often considered myself a journalist without room for an opinion or bias, so this is admittedly new territory to me.

I am also a book author that has written four books outlining the accomplishments of American Indian and First Nations people. The series of books is entitled Native Trailblazers. Soon after my second book was published on Native musicians, I realized there was a further need to document the accomplishments of Indigenous people. Watching how the landscape of the internet was growing in terms of providing a voice for content and media, I launched the Native Trailblazer’s internet radio program on BlogTalkRadio.

In the nearly two years since I began my free hobby, almost 15,000 people have tuned in to the show to hear about the accomplishments of amazing indigenous people. Guests on my show have included such amazing entertainers and leaders as Wayne Newton, Mary Youngblood, Pura Fe’, Secretary of Native American Affairs for the Department of Commerce Don Chapman, Michael Bucher, Gabriel Ayala, Micki Free and more. It has been an amazing journey.

Just recently, I began a partnership of sorts with RPM.FM an amazing new website based in Canada that highlights the up-and-comings as well as the established indigenous musicians of today’s music landscape. The partnership is simply RPM.FM and Native Trailblazers will be highlighting a “song of the week” every Friday that is available for download on the RPM website.

So the title of this article is “The Voices of Our Native Youth Are Talking, But Are We Listening?” and you might be wondering how this can be addressed considering the information I just delivered to you. Allow me to explain. A few weeks ago, I was delighted to have on the show Martha Fast Horse, a radio personality with a large following. At the midpoint of my radio program, I announced the RPM.FM song of the week.

It was the song Sacrifice, a heavy-metal track performed by Bloodline, a group of four young men from the Navajo nation. As the song began to play a loud and explosive heavy metal song, the comments in the chat room began to pour forth. “If you can’t whistle along with it, it isn’t a song,” “Where is the native flute” and other such comments that for the most part talked about the song as being a downright flop.

Many of the listeners in the chat room that evening were elders and I want to express that I absolutely value their opinion. But for the rest of the evening after the show I pondered about what had happened. Here it was, right in front of our faces, or ears so to speak, the voices of our Native youth in the form of a song—and many of us did not even want to hear it.

I am certainly not expecting any of you to go out and buy all of the latest death metal music by Native Youth and blast the music to the delight of your neighbors, but what I am suggesting is that we might need to make an attempt not to be so quick to judge. Yes, the music may be loud and not what you are used to—but this is what the group is saying in their track, Sacrifice:

Through the years we built this home. Shed my tears, now we're all alone.

No promises, no more pain. Cut my losses before it’s too late.

Who am I who are you? The lie I am living through.

All my Blood, All my Sweat, All Tears, All My Life. All my Blood, All my Sweat, All Tears, Sacrifice.
Who are you to tell me how to live, what makes you think I’m nothing, sick of all the compromise.

Is their message any different than many of us as Indigenous people have to contend with? Don’t all of us struggle with the fact that we have faced tremendous loss in the face of adversity and sacrifice?

Today’s Native youth do have a voice, and it is readily available for any of us that want to listen. Today’s Native youth are turning to music to give them guidance and support, would it hurt to hear what they are listening to?

The listeners that night may not have liked the song played by Bloodline (aside from a fun giggle from my guest Martha Fast Horse—who said she liked the song) but others do like it. In fact the bands reverbnation webpage (a website promoting independent artists) displays Bloodline as having 5,095 fans and 10,442 widget hits—meaning a click on an icon by anyone interested in Bloodline’s music on other sites.

So in retrospect, sure sometimes the music we hear coming from our children or grandchildren’s ipods or music players may not be to our liking, but if we take a moment on occasion to listen or ask about the lyrics, perhaps we might get a glimpse into the minds of our Native youth.

Oh—and for what it’s worth, I loved their song.

Vincent Schilling is a correspondent for ICTMN and the Executive Vice-President of Schilling Media, Inc. He is also an award-winning author of the Native Trailblazer series of books (NativeVoicesBooks.com) and the host of the APCMA nominated BlogTalkRadio program.

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