From: The Stream

How is rapper Frank Waln changing perceptions of Native Americans?

Lakota artist mixes hip-hop and history to highlight the experiences of indigenous people.

The legacy of broken treaties, settler colonialism and Native American genocide are constant themes set to a hip-hop beat in the songs of Sicangu Lakota rapper Frank Waln.

Born on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in rural South Dakota, Waln uses music as a way to call out historical wrongs and uplift American indigenous youth, many of whom struggle with poverty, violence, suicide, and inter-generational trauma. 

In Waln’s 2017 album, “The Bridge“, his songs highlight issues including cultural appropriation, stereotyping, murdered and missing indigenous women, and treaty rights. On the album’s opening song, “What Made the Red Man Red”, he says: “Tell me why you think the red man is red / Stained with the blood from the land you bled / Tell me why you think the red man is dead/ With a fake headdress on your head”. On the track “7“, Waln rails against the erasure of indigenous stories from US history, yet is hopeful that the current “7th generation” has risen to tackle the hardships faced by his community: “Let us ride on the lands where our ancestors died / breathing life into our cultures they said were petrified / they tell a history that our peoples don’t recognise / the US government should be charged with genocide”.

In this episode, we’ll look at how music is challenging narratives about Native Americans. We’ll hear more about the inspiration for Waln’s songs and get a first listen to some new music from his forthcoming album. Join the conversation at 1930GMT.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Frank Waln @FrankWaln
Indigenous hip-hop artist

Read more:

Frank Waln’s The Bridge is the sound of an indigenous generation rising – Revolutions Per Minute
Protest song of the week: ‘Victory Song’ by Frank Waln feat. Kodi Denoyer – Shadow Proof

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