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From powwow to hip-hop: hear Indigenous voices of resistance and reclamation

Jarrett Martineau
Reclaimed: Episode 9, August 30, 2017

We'll be back in November!


For Indigenous people, life and music are all about continuum and creation. We walk with our ancestors behind us and the coming generations ahead of us. That means we carry responsibilities to those who have gone before and those yet to come. This week's episode of Reclaimed explores songs and sounds of Indigenous resistance and reclamation. Meet some of the artists taking up the fight.

Naát'áaníí Means

Naát'áaníí Means is the son of Russell Means, one of the American Indian Movement's best-known and most charismatic leaders. And, like his father, Nataani has got warrior's blood running through his veins. He is Oglala Lakota and he's using hip-hop to carry his people's struggle — and his father's legacy — forward.

"I feel like I have the voice to speak to my generation, to awaken the masses and make a country see the forgotten people of America," he says. "I want to make people relate to our history and stories in modern times."

John Trudell

From the re-occupation of Alcatraz Island to the fight at Wounded Knee, Indigenous people were in the midst of a wave of activism and struggle to reclaim their rights in the late 1960s and '70s.

John Trudell was a leader and an iconic voice at that time — the height of what became known as the American Indian Movement.

He was Santee Dakota and an activist, artist, actor, and poet. But he also made and loved music. He recorded some incredible albums over the years that set his unique poetry and spoken word to inspiring musical accompaniment.

Sadly, Trudell walked on to the spirit world in 2015. But his legacy continues to inspire generations of Indigenous artists and activists to protect their land, culture, and spirits.

Here's an iconic album he recorded back in 1983, that blends Trudell's potent poetry with powwow music.

David Strickland

If you don't know about Mi'kmaq hip-hop artist David Strickland, that's likely because he's been working behind the scenes as one of the most accomplished and acclaimed hip-hop producers of his generation.

He's a heavyweight — he's worked with major hip-hop artists from across North America for almost 20 years. But now he's stepping out from behind the boards to bring all of those relationships together through his own music.

"It's important for Indigenous youth to know that we have contributed to hip-hop and that it's part of our DNA", he says. "The four elements of hip-hop — bboy/dance, MC/storytelling, graffiti/visual art, DJ/drum — from our vantage point, is a reincarnation of Indigenous culture."

Hip-hop has long been a powerful platform for storytelling and resistance, and Strickland is using it to give voice to Indigenous songs of survival.


Cris Derksen

Cris Derksen is pushing the form beyond what people think powwow music is supposed to sound like. She's Cree/Metis and she's a Western classically-trained cello player. But she isn't interested in being tied to classical or "traditional" forms.

She's all about the hybrid and the mash-up.

Her incredible latest album, Orchestral Powwow, mixes Western classical instruments and arrangements with powwow drum songs to haunting and powerful effect.

Cris is at the vanguard of the next wave — unafraid to make bold experiments in sound and composition that reflect the uniqueness of her own artistry, while paying respect to the various lineages she's inherited as an Indigenous artist.


Jeremy Dutcher

Another Indigenous artist breaking open the boundaries of genre and tradition is Wolastoq composer and vocal artist Jeremy Dutcher.

Trained as an operatic tenor, and fluent in his Wolastoqey language, Dutcher's music artfully blends Western classical and Indigenous sounds by combining the operatic power of his voice with melodies and archival recordings from his Wolastoq (Maliseet) Nation.

Dutcher prioritizes the Wolastoqey language in his music in hopes of inspiring other young Maliseets to learn this endangered language.

He's all about bringing Indigenous music to a classical audience and classical music to an Indigenous audience. What he makes by combining both worlds is astoundingly beautiful. Look out for his full First Play Live Session on CBC Music when Reclaimed returns in November.

Reclaimed returns in November

Reclaimed will be back on Wednesday, Nov. 1, and every Wednesday after that at 7 p.m. on CBC Radio 2.

In the meantime, please keep listening to — and sharing — the show, and send us your music! Listen to past episodes of Reclaimed here.

If you're an Indigenous artist who would like to submit music to Reclaimed, please send your tracks to with the subject line "Attention Reclaimed." And write to us with your music suggestions and to let us know what you think of the show at

Reclaimed playlist for Aug. 29, 2017

- Nataani Means, "Creation"
- David Strickland, "Rez Life"
- Laura Ortman, "My Soul Remainer"
- Rei, "Hāti"
- Kelly Fraser feat. Thor, "Nallinimi"
- Tchtchu, "My Love my Life"
- John Trudell, "Keeping Dry Tomorrow"
- Shingoose, "Silver River"
- Midnite Express, "Contest Song"
- Cris Derksen feat. Balck Bear, "East Winging It"
- Jeremy Dutcher, "Honour Song" (First Play Live session)
- Tall Paul, "Prayers in a Song"