Start your new year off right with a Tribe Called Red – and see if you can stereotype THIS

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Many of you know just how riled up I get when talking about cultural appropriation and willful ignorance of things like protecting Indigenous knowledge, or just not showing any damn RESPECT for things people really know nothing about.

I wanted to alert you all to some amazing Native peeps that are taking de-bunking Indigenous stereotypes to a whole new level – via music, dance, electric beats, hip-hop, and mind-blowing remixes to decolonize you all over – especially in those hard to reach places.

They are A Tribe Called Red and they hail from un-ceeded Algonquin territory in Ottawa (Canada). I’ve been going to their monthly Electric Powwow dance parties for a little while now where I’ve been known to shake my butt off and whisper politikin’ sweet-nothings into my friends ears as the unrepentant drum mash-ups beat on. I actually got to meet one part of the Electric Powwow craze DJ Bear Witness a while back when I emceed an Indigenous women’s spoken word show where he played a 65 minute beat set to an anti-war critique of colonization.

So I was beyond pleased to learn that MTV writers are now picking up on their stuff and making progressive-for-MTV-statements about them like, “it’s as right on and brilliant as a fashion shoot with emaciated European models in war bonnets is ignorant and lazy.” Which is interesting because lest we forget that MTV also produced the Dudesons who as some may recall me writing about here, very famously rode the train of appropriation and kept going west on their “Cowboys and Findians” episode that had just about every Native stereotype you can think of (and attempts from community to pull the show off MTV and issue an apology were unsuccessful). Not to mention of course the myriad of racist typecasting that plays on MTV 24/7.

Part of the reason (and there are many reasons) why I call myself an Indigenous hip-hop feminist is because I’ve often felt like hip-hop for me is a way to reclaim my roots and speak my truth where it’s been erased in the sea of people just not getting it, and that the process of colonization is pretty linear to where hip-hop has gone from its origins (you know, been exploited, appropriated, commercialized, capitalized off of, etc).  A Tribe Called Red reclaims all that and more with fiercely composed electric beats, some hip-hop, and centralizing the many voices of our peoples whether through traditional singing or the creation of new stories in song that talk about our time. Watch any of their videos and you will see that it’s a take-no-prisoners approach in facing what everyone else thinks about us, and what we know is the truth. You decide what you see.

So here’s to another year of fighting cultural appropriation – and yes we’re going to keep on fighting. I mean, what’s another year after more than 500 of this? At least we’ve got beats for the battle where we’re calling the shots to keep us company. Who’s calling who an Indian now?!