Controversial Video Set on Rez Depicts Drug Use, Violence and Sundance


A music video (below) for the tune "Alive," by UK drum-n-bass artists Chase & Status and directed by Josh Cole is attracting attention in Indian country for its subject matter. The clip depicts young Natives living on a reservation who struggle with crack addiction and commit crimes to fund their habits. After an epiphany, the young man who is the main character of the video is seen in a sweat lodge and participating in a sundance ceremony.

Now, Cole is under fire from critics on Twitter who feel that the video exploits the usual media narrative about reservation life ("poverty porn," as it's sometimes been called) or cheapens the sundance ceremony by depicting it. Cole argues that the video was made with the consent and help of Blackfeet Natives on the rez in Browning, Montana, where it was filmed.

RELATED: "Alive" Director: Blackfeet Thought Rez Drug Abuse Story "Needed to Be Told"

The video's YouTube page includes a note expressing "thanks to the whole Blackfoot Nation and The Crazy Dogs Society for making us feel at home" as well as credits for the cast, which appears to consist largely (if not fully) of Native actors.

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Ev's picture
Submitted by Ev on
Growing up on the reservation and I happen to be the type of person that tells it how i see it, This video is right on key when it comes to life on the reservation. Everybody wants to ignore that side of reservation life and sugar coat it with something pleasant. That happens all the time in indian country, takes something so tragic to make someone want to change their ways. This video made me feel terrible because that is the truth!

PaulWalnuts's picture
Submitted by PaulWalnuts on
I am writing with the perspective of both an American Indian and a drum & bass fan and electronic music dancer. I have listened to Chase & Status tunes for years now, and drum & bass music has been my favourite modern music since the Nineties. One of the signs of the validity, the vitality, of any culture to me is, how does it cope with changes over time? Is the fact we keep some things only between ourselves a sign of strength or of weakness? I trend toward the latter as an answer, maintaining that a people can keep being a people by sharing not only between themselves, but with others honestly and factually, their ways. Decades ago, a Pueblo band near where my family lives used to allow outsiders to watch their sun dances, until the day came when whole tour buses full of outsiders started to arrive, disgorging scads of outsiders to watch and sometimes photograph brazenly. The disrespect forced them to put up walls. I feel it is important for people around the world to know, though, that not only do we exist but that our ways are unique and worthy of study. I remember reading National Geographic Magazines as a kid and getting these little peeks into the private spiritual lives of people a half-world away, and I never felt scorn or contempt when I saw those facets of their lives. I felt wonder and in most cases respect. Is it time to lower our wall a bit? I wonder if the average drum & bass fan, the target audience of this video, has the understanding of the human condition and of the American life to put this portrayal of the sun dance into context and see it for what it is, a ceremony to promote the spirits of people. I conclude that I can trust my fellow d&b fan. Most of my fellow drum & bass fans and dancers have demonstrated countless times and through the years dance that they dance to promote our own and our friends' spirits. I bet the same remains true in England where Chase & Status hail from, and having been lucky enough to dance in London, England, the spiritual home of drum & bass, I have a reasonable expectation my guess remains right. I feel comfortable with this video and I think it is a beautiful track. Good job, Chase & Status!

LeidiByrd's picture
Submitted by LeidiByrd on
Low and behold some truth... People get mad when non native be trying to act native and dressing up as such... This is a very real truth amoungst many of our reservations, I say kudos to those who shed light in the reality of the present as sad as it is it's the truth's picture
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Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I liked it, its hard to be heard or express when your native. This is a great way to spark the people to wake up. We are effected too. Sirituallity can change all that. Thanks

Laree's picture
Submitted by Laree on
Awesome. and Dee Pratt yes people do live it on the reservations. Meth is a huge problem on most reservations glad someone finally found the courage to show it.

WordOfTheDay's picture
Submitted by WordOfTheDay on
Who cares really? Some of my family members have done drugs and repented, turned away from sin and done good things and bad things. They've gone through sundance too. I'm a cheyenne kit-fox pledger for sundance. If indians are so butt hurt on Chase & Status using drugs and violence and sundance all in one video, why do indians go through sundance when they've done drugs and violence? Indians are just really butthurt when it comes to ceremony. I'm not. I think this was an awesome music video. Aho, to all my realtions and thank you to Chase & status for opening up some indians eyes.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

PrincessSpottedEagle's picture
Submitted by PrincessSpottedEagle on
I see nothing wrong with the video. Granted, like most of us Natives, I am not a fan of Indian Country Today Media Network as a lot of their stories are biased (CNNism), and full of hyperbole but they did a good job with this in they just stated what was being said (it was controversial), and the facts (where it was produced, etc.). Using his Native American resources such as the sweatlodge and sundance to get clean is what we have been doing for years. In fact our people have been using sweats and the sundance since the beginning of our existence to purify ourselves. Those who don't agree with this surely are not Native, and if they are do not know Native ways.

John Sewatsiaken Beaubien
John Sewatsiake...
Submitted by John Sewatsiake... on
I like them. This is a typical collaboration for them. They have a certain level of sophistication. As a Sundancer and pipe carrier, I found the subject super emotional. Was beautifully done. I remember how much hate mail (900+) a Sundance chief received after making a very sanitized, 4 part series on APTN. The problem is this: this ceremony has been public domain since 1909, when the first photos and post cards of Sundance have been published. Library of Congress has lots of this. It just made me laugh to observe the vile, malevolent spirit of the traditional people come out. It kind of undermines the beauty and spirit of a truly phenomenological moment (which can only be experienced)