On April 8, 2019, Managing Editor Damon Hunter of the Naotkamegwanning Mazina’igan released his first amateur short film on Youtube. The video was a submission for the charitable non-profit organization, TakingITGlobal.
While taking on a leadership role for participating youth as an audio/interview mentor, he also partook himself, producing the short-film alongside Mazina’igan executives Karli Zschogner and Laval Namaypoke.
The finished product features Ian Crow, Kirby Paul, Sherry Blake, and other prominent supporters in the area of Naotkamegwanning First Nation.
Indigenous Executive Producers individually answer questions from Northwestern Ontario’s Naotkamegwanning First Nation following Rumble film screening
By: Damon Hunter
Last month, I wrote about the screening of the hit film, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, which was produced under the Indigenous film production company Rezolution Pictures. Within my closing sentences, I included the fact that the film’s starring celebrity and executive producer, Stevie Salas, would be answering community-given questions. Salas, a renowned Apache rock guitarist, has worked among Hardware, Justin Timberlake, Mick Jagger, and Rod Stewart. He hosts the music and comedy show ‘Arbor Live’ on APTN, alongside actor Adam Beach.
The opportunity to do so stemmed purely from an email conversation with Rumble’s producers. What you’ll find below are answers from two: musician Stevie Salas and his co-producer, Tim Johnson.
The interview has been edited for length.
Q: Rhonda White, Gr. 7 teacher at Baibombeh Anishinabe School: “I wonder what had inspired the makers of the film to tell this story. How did it come about?”
Salas: The story started when I was young – just a few years out of high school playing guitar for Rod Stewart. I was playing Madison Square Garden in NYC and thought: “Am I the only Native American musician to ever play here?” Once I started to research this, I found out that I was NOT and that there were some amazing Native musicians that I didn’t know were Native. I thought, “The world needs to know about these musicians!”
Johnson: While serving as associate director overseeing exhibitions and programs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, I was responsible for identifying and hiring Indigenous talent. One of our programs focused on contemporary Native American music.
We produced a symposium with related concert entitled The Blues: Roots, Branches, and Beyond, that provided a fascinating look at the contributions Native musicians made to the development of the blues, including points of convergence between Native American and African American communities. We even featured a concert series called “Classical Native” that sought to dispel stereotypes by presenting the works of contemporary Native American classical music composers.
These offerings advanced my interest in music produced by Native musicians and I wondered what more could be done to increase recognition of their contributions and talents. It was during that time that Stevie Salas first came to my attention. Of particular interest to me was his role as producer of Arbor Live, a music variety show featured on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that highlighted Native musicians alongside popular recording and performing artists of stature.
I made a point of meeting Stevie [and] we quickly found common purpose in our shared objective of elevating public attention to the depth, range, and contributions of Native musicians. I then hired Stevie as my contemporary music advisor and thus, was formed the creative and structural confluence that would lead directly to the development of our popular Smithsonian exhibit, Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture, and the follow-up documentary by Rezolution Pictures, RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World. The development of the concept took form and shape over the course of our two-year collaboration with several members of my staff involved.
Q: Rhonda White, Gr. 7 teacher at Baibombeh Anishinaabe School: In mainstream media, we are often shown how music has evolved from deep south rhythm and blues to rock sounds, most notably black or African American artists. Curious about their process of tracing the initial Indigenous rhythms, drumbeat, and vocals?
Salas: When people started to arrive in what would become the United States, they brought with them many of their unique styles and culture. Soon they would mix with Native Americans that were already here and from that, amazing things would come. Mixing the Native American heartbeat ‘four on the floor’ drums with African polyrhythms was the start.
Johnson: One of the amazing achievements of our exhibit and follow-up documentary was drawing attention to the contributions made by Indigenous musicians to the formation of various genres, such as the blues, jazz, and rock and roll, which serve as the foundations of North American popular music. Research conducted by Brian Wright McLeod, who wrote the Encyclopedia of Native Music, and Smithsonian researcher Chris Turner, amplified our attention on the Indigenous musicians who shaped these genres and how their cultures influenced the sounds of this music.
Take Charly Patton for example. Patton, who had Choctaw heritage, was a seminal influence on the careers of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf. He performed in the 1920s delta roadhouse and juke joint scenes, banging on his guitar, swinging it around wildly, and even playing it behind his back. His energetic performances influenced the theatrical style of famous rock and rollers such as Jimi Hendrix.
During the era of swing and jazz, there was a genre of music played in rural and regional venues that had not yet reached mainstream popularity—the blues. The blues is thought to have developed from a combination of African and Native music traditions. Many historians have traced elements of blues music, such as its shuffling beat, to Native drum rhythms and the call-and-response style of singing.
The influences of this music went beyond the Indigenous beat, extending to melody as well. In our film, Pura Fe reveals how Charley Patton’s blues melodies were shaped by Choctaw social dance and stomp dance songs. Another example is jazz vocalist Mildred Bailey who began her career as a cinema pianist in Spokane, Washington. [Mildred] was a household name by the mid-1930s. Along the way she helped her brother Al and their high school friend Bing Crosby get a foothold in the music scene. Bailey later became a bandleader, working with almost every big name in the swing era, and even hosted her own radio show—the hallmark of celebrity for bandleaders during the ’30s and ’40s.
And of course, Like Wray originated a raw guitar sound shaped by volume, distortion, and simple song structures that became a hallmark of rock and roll. He is almost universally credited with inventing the “power chord,” without which hard rock could not exist. He was also able to create distortion, echo, and wah-wah— staples of today’s guitar sound—without the aid of technology. Wray inspired such major rock figures as The Who’s Pete Townshend and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page to explore the soundscapes that have made them rock-and-roll guitar legends. Our film is named RUMBLE, because this was Link Wray’s 1958 hit song, that changed the direction of rock and roll for numerous musicians.
Q: My name is Arianna Jack and I am in Gr. 7 at Baibombeh School. Have you ever been to school?
Salas: Arianna yes, I went to school in San Diego where I grew up. I LOVED school because I had such amazing friends who still to this day, are in my life.
Johnson: Indeed. Education is very important, not only when you’re young like yourself, but should be a lifelong pursuit. Q: Jaryn Joseph, Gr. 7 at Baibombeh Anishinaabe School: “What was your school like?”
Salas: Jaryn, I went to several schools growing up. They were public schools in San Diego. We lived by the beach and most of my school friends were surfers. We even had a surfing class in high school.
Johnson: I went to several schools completing my formal studies at Buffalo State College. They were all good, but I’ve always felt education could have been made more relevant and even more fun! This is partly what led me to work in the museum field, where the transmission of information is conveyed through exhibits and publications and media that help make learning more interesting and engaging, in other words, fun! Just like our film RUMBLE!
Q: “My name is West Ranville, I’m 12 years old, I go to Baibombeh school and I’m in Gr. 7. What is it like hanging out with all these celebrities?”
Salas: West, some celebrities are nice and some are not so nice. The famous people that were in RUMBLE were mostly friends of mine from my years of playing music around the world. Remember, that role models come in many packages and some are not celebrities.
Johnson: I don’t seek to hang out with “celebrities.” It’s not one of my interests or pursuits. However, I do seek to spend time and develop relationships with creative, intelligent, and honourable people of good character, those who are honest and have integrity.
As you go through life, choosing with whom to associate and perhaps emulate, are critically important decisions. Making wise decisions about who to hang out with led me to become an executive at the Smithsonian Institution.
I also live in the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, where my friends range from musicians and celebrities like the legendary Robbie Robertson, two-time JUNO Award-winner Derek Miller, contemporary dancer Santee Smith, movie actor Gary Farmer, and fine artist Raymond Skye, to community educators like Dawn Hill (a residential school survivor), wise elders that I really respect and learn from like Rick Hill, Don Lynch, and Ron and Don Monture, and even the elected chief of our community, Ava Hill.
Q: “My name is Kandace Cowley, I go to Baibombeh School, I’m in grade 7. How many pow wows have you been to?”
Salas: Kandace, I have been to many pow wows in North America. My favorite memories are the times that my father and I would go to pow pows together.
Johnson: I’ve been to more pow wows and Indigenous cultural events than I can count. When I was young, I used to accompany my father to pow wows on weekends all summer. He was a vendor who sold T-shirts featuring Indigenous designs. As one of the first to do this, his expressive shirts helped instill pride in those who wore them. Nowadays, there are many folks who sell Indigenous designs on T-shirts and an industry has even emerged of Indigenous fashion designers. Q: Liam Paypompee, Gr. 7 at Baibombeh Anishinabe School: “Would you ever stay on a first nation reservation in Canada?”
Salas: Liam, I actually work on a First Nations reservation. I work with the Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation on Six Nations, Canada.
Tim Johnson: Actually, I live in Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, which is the most populous Indigenous community within Canada. I am a Wolf Clan Mohawk and my Indigenous name is Waha:tsa, meaning “He gets the job done.” I take great pride in my Indigenous heritage and truly enjoy my community here. I believe going through life as an Indigenous person helps one to better understand issues of justice and injustice, provides a broader perspective on history, and connects us to our empathic cultural traditions respecting all living things and elements in our universe that make our lives possible. These attributes, when applied consciously, foster intelligence and build character. Please know that your own Indigenous teachings are very important, useful, and empowering. Q: My name is Carter Nash, 12 years old. I go to Baibombeh School in Gr. 7. Hello Stevie Salas, What is your favourite breakfast? How much do you turn up the volume in your stereo?
Salas: Carter, both my 11 year old son and I like music loud but his mom doesn’t like it loud so we keep the volume at a modest level. As for breakfast, I love green chili and eggs.
Johnson: I’m not sure what Stevie eats for breakfast, but my favorite is bacon and eggs. And, in my experience, listening to loud music isn’t as effective in choosing a volume where you can distinguish the tone and characteristics of each instrument. So, I’d recommend choosing fidelity l lover volume. In fact, when professional recording engineers are mixing music in the studio, they are careful not to play the music too loud because they need to hear clearly and also need to protect their ears from being damaged. Karli Zschogner, JHR: In consideration of the recognized negative connotation of the term as well as the geographical misrepresentation to the ethnicity Indian, what was the decision to perpetuate the use of “Indian” rather than other terms as Native or Indigenous?
Salas: That’s a complex answer but I will keep it simple. We wanted people around the world who were not First Nations to watch RUMBLE and we thought the word “ Indians” would grab their attention.
Johnson: Great question! The documentary was filmed mostly in the United States, where the term “Indian” is not considered offensive the way it is currently in Canada. Historically Canada has used the term “Indian” and still does in relation to the existing Indian Act. There are many Indigenous nations within the United States that use the term “Indian” in their own names such as Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York, the Alturas Indian Rancheria in California, and many others. And for eleven and ½ years I worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC and New York, NY.
So, in that context the title works. Most peoples around the world still refer to Indigenous peoples of the Americas as Indians. Within Canada, of course, the preferred usage in terms of style is Indigenous, First Nations, Métis, or Inuit. And you can’t go wrong with using our specific nations names in our own languages, such as Kanienkehaka, meaning Mohawk. Q: Mark Taylor – In terms of our culture and people being at such a low with the changing times, what inspired you to keep going forward even though racism was so prevalent? What gave you your edge to fight positively and to move forward with your head up?
Salas: Mark, negativity is everywhere BUT so is positive energy if you look for it. I refuse to believe that anything ISN’T possible.
Johnson: When I was a kid, certainly by fourth grade, I was already becoming aware that what I was being taught about history wasn’t the complete story. In the United States, we were often required to face the American flag and state the Pledge of Allegiance to America at the start of class each day. By fifth grade, I stopped doing that.
As I mentioned earlier, having this knowledge of being Indigenous can make you smarter, more able to utilize critical thinking in evaluating what you’re being taught, more sensitive to the forces that seek to define your reality irrespective of the facts, and more cognizant of and righteous when you encounter those who lie, cheat, and manipulate to get their way.
Always be proud, know that there are many smart people in your community who have useful experience from which to learn, and design your life to be fulfilling, responsible, and fun!
Great work! Naotkamegwanning First Nation rocks!
For more information on teaching and education lessons on the film see TeachRock.
Live performances and movie screening at Netaawgonebiik Health Centre captivates audience.
By: Damon Hunter
The once quiet healing room of the Netaawgonebiik Health Centre had transformed into a flashing sequence of revolving lights and was cheerfully occupied by an applauding crowd this past Sunday, January 20.
“It was such a good show. I enjoyed it and I’m going to watch the show again,” said Leila Paypompee who brought along her children.“That film really inspired me. My perspective changed on music and history”.
The aforementioned show in question is Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World. The internationally award-winning film had garnered the attention of the community journalism trainer Karli Zschogner and willed her to initiate a screening here in Whitefish Bay, along with the opportunity to host a few debut performances from local musicians.
Teddy Copenace of Naotkamegwanning’s Hanisha Singers elevated the room’s spirituality with his strong vocals and hide drum. Second to perform was Natalie Copenace-Kelly, 14. Utilizing her self-taught ukulele skills, she sang a powerful cover of “Beautiful Thing” by Grace Vanderwaal.
“[I] was hecka scared but I felt better afterwards,” said Natalie. “That’s why I like doing it, because I feel so much better after it.”
Following was Connor Kakeeway’s expertly played two piano performances, both of which were self-taught by the 17 year old multi-instrumentalist only three years ago he said. He played his pieces ‘The Wind Palace’ and ‘The Night Before July’. All musical performances had generated great applause from the crowd.
“I really enjoyed the talent of our young people. Showcasing talent and having a platform for them is definitely needed,” said Rhonda White, 7th grade teacher at Baibombeh School.
Rumble, named after the 1958 influential rock and roll anthem by Shawnee Link Wray, reveals the unrecognized Indigenous contribution to several genres of music across history. The influential lives of these people wowed viewers as their background was not commonly known trivia.
Simple folk music was soon electric guitars and thrashing whips of dyed hair. The film included the backgrounds of Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osbourne, Buffy Sainte-Marie, swing’s Mildred Bailey and The Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo.
“The movie was really interesting. I’m a big music lover,” said guitar playing Brody Allen of Onigaming First Nation. “[I] never knew how much influence indigenous peoples had on music.”
The final set of musical performances occurred subsequently to the film opening with Natalie and then Connor with a second original piece. Closing the evening was the debut of the 19 year old, Cayne Kakeeway. Accompanied by community member Glen White on guitar and Connor on keyboard organ, Cayne rapped his own composition of self-written lyrics.
The event had been brought to the attention of renowned guitarist, Stevie Salas. Salas has worked among the more larger bands of the rock genre, most notably Hardware. He has also collaborated with music giants such as Justin Timberlake, Mick Jagger, and Rod Stewart.
Both Salas and Tim Johnson, Executive Producers of the film, agreed to answer community gathered questions following the event through Naotkamegwanning Mazina’igan. These will be answered in our next issue.
In recognition of Orange Shirt Day, Hockey Hall of Famer speaks at Indian Horse screening
By: Xavier Ranville and Wynter Taylor
It was a chilly last evening of September when Naotkamegwanning’s roundhouse was filled with more bodies than it has had in a long time – dedicated to residential school survivors.
The 40 plus community members and guests of all ages enjoyed traditional foods as wild rice and bannock before sitting down for the big screen and local George Kakeway’s similar story of residential school survival through hockey.
“Be who you are because that’s how you survive,” said Kakeway in discussion after the award-winning film adaption of the novel by the late Northwestern Ontario’s Anishinaabe Richard Wagamese.
Indian Horse, follows the fictional Anishinaabe character Saul, and his experience at residential school and his talent through hockey. The story captures many of the realities of racism and ill treatment Indigenous persons have faced.
The film left many people in tears touched by the story, either seeing for the first time on screen the real experiences of their loved ones or because they had no idea of this part of Canada’s history and what they went through.
Like many adults and elders like Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation’s George Kakeway, the story of Saul and his peers was very much a reality.
“As a survivor it becomes very hard to express what we went through,” he said in the community discussion.
George was taken from his home in 1951 at the age of 6. He talked about his time at St. Mary’s Catholic Residential School in Kenora, that his hair was cut bald and punished for speaking Ojibwe. He expressed that this place, along with its sanitarium, was one of the loneliest places.
“The intent was to assimilate us, not to educate us,” he said.
Like character Saul, he was an orphan at age 10, and hockey had come available for him and he excelled, not just out of interest but a method of survival from experiences.
He said hockey gave him the opportunity to chose to go to Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Residential school which let him study and also gave him time to play hockey. His focus led him to become the chief at his home at the young age of 25.
In October of last year George and his team were inducted into Manitoba’s Hockey Hall of Fame.
September 30, Orange Shirt Day is not just the last day of the month but a national movement, and proposed national holiday of sharing residential school experiences. It remains a hard day for many elders to relive and share, taking courage.
While having heard about residential schools, Judi Cannon, a non-indigenous attendee, was overwhelmed to learn about what was going on inside and outside of the residential schools.
“I can’t even believe it would happen,” she said. “I don’t understand how people could treat other people that way.”
Cannon, Director of Ontario SPCA for Partnerships and Community Outreach, along with her crew were invited into the community for their second year extraction of unaccounted for dogs.
Event was put on by the community’s journalism trainer and the community’s Women’s Shelter.