Native hip hop artists Frank Waln and Nataanii Means in Paris - Also with dancers Lumhe Sampson and Samsoche Sampson and filmmakers Sydney Freeland and Steven Paul Judd

Native Hip Hop Artists Abroad! Frank Waln and Nataanii Means in Paris

Dominique Godrèche

Editor’s Note: Before the ISIS attacks on Paris in mid-November, our Paris correspondent Dominique Godrèche interviewed Native hip hop artists Frank Waln and Nataanii Means. On October 10, they performed in Paris as part of the “In solidarity with the Indigenous peoples” movement. Waln and Nataanii were accompanied by Native dancers Lumhe Sampson and Samsoche Sampson and activists Tom Goldtooth, Dennis Banks and Heather Milton Lightening.

In a conversation with ICTMN, Waln and Nataanii Means shared their vision of music, environmental activism and the future.

What does this visit mean to you?

Waln: This is my first time outside of the United States, and seeing the solidarity has been a good experience. As an artist, I consider myself a messenger: within my art are stories told for thousand of years by my people, and the ones that, we, young Indigenous, are creating today. I bring a message about what we are going through back home, as the people do not know us.

The United States has silenced that story, so the world is not aware of what is happening to Indigenous people; and even in the USA, they don’t. We are here to inform the people, build solidarity, bring the changes we need as human beings, and make the world a healthier place.

Means: I have met so many wonderful people from all over the globe. Being a little rez kid, Paris was like something in a fantasy book. I never thought it was possible to go here, let alone for music.

Have you been influenced by Tom Goldtooth?

Waln: He has been a big influence: we have known each other a long time, and I learned a lot from him. Like in my music, how I frame my stories: Tom, and his son Dallas, among other Indigenous mentors, taught me how to shed light on important issues.

Are many people of your generation aware of these issues?

Waln: For most of my life I was not aware: How does the fish know that he is swimming in water, unless he comes out?  So some of us still do not know, but in Rosebud, we can see the horrible aftermath we live in everyday, as they are trying to build a pipeline through our land, which will damage our water, and put us in danger.

So, we are starting to get there; and not only in Rosebud, but all over. When I tour, I can see a resurgence of this wish to come back to who we are as Indigenous, and the desire, among my generation, to return to the language, the culture, and reconnect to Father Sky, Mother Earth.

Means: I hope people in this country can become conscious of our own forgotten indigenous people suffering every day from major companies stealing land and polluting communities and the earth.

How do you see your future?

Waln: I love poetry, music... and I can do it all with hip hop, as it combines it. I started music at six, taught myself to play the piano, built my own studio in Rosebud, and produced my first song at 15. I just graduated in acoustics in Chicago, where I received the 3 Arts Award last week.  So I will keep doing music until I die, and bring the message that Indigenous are human beings, and deserve to be happy, respected; like anybody else.

After the Paris attacks, Nataanii Means sent ICTMN an email with these thoughts:

It's a trip thinking I was just there a month ago. I hope all my new friends there are safe, and clear-minded, and I pray for the ones that lost people.

I also hope the world and America doesn't contract Islamic-phobia. They are people; they are human, good and bad all over the world. I also pray for the places that tragedy hits on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Places the media doesn't cover.  




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sonnyskyhawk's picture
Submitted by sonnyskyhawk on
I am elated that these young Hip-Hop artists and Dancers are at the forefront of representing our future generations, abroad and beyond, yet they remain cognizant and aware of the responsibility and commitment that representing entails. Wopila, thank you.