Sunday morning at 10am KFAI Radio (90.3 FM in Minneapolis, 106.7 FM in St. Paul) will air a program of Native American protest music produced by Hymie’s as part of it’s WAVE Project. The show will be on at 6pm, and will be stream-able online sometime after that (we’ll post a link when it’s up). We hope you’ll tune in for our program, and also support KFAI during their current pledge drive.
Last year I posted a series here on the Hymie’s blog that incorporated my interested in American history, which is what I studied at the Unversity, not record store-running or music blogging (those weren’t classes yet). The inspiration for the series was graffiti I saw on Columbus Day 1999 under the Highway 55 bridge over Franklin Avenue. Columbus was a murderer.
I guess I had never thought about our national observation of Columbus Day in the context of his actions, which was introduced to me as a teenager in Howard Zinn’s best selling A People’s History of the United States. Today it is less controversial to talk about the legendary mariner’s legacy of brutality towards the Arawaks and the other native people he met upon arriving in the New World than it was when Zinn published his controversial book in 1980. I had also read Dee Brown’s book, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, and been deeply moved by the native perspective on the “conquest” of the west. My militant views were only hardened after reading Vine Deloria Jr.’s “Indian manifesto,” Custer Died for your Sins, and the Peter Matthiesen history of the Leonard Peltier case, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.
But it was passing those words on Franklin Avenue that led me, for the first time, to ask why there is a national day of observance for Christopher Columbus and not one for the people who lived on this continent for centuries. It was just before six in the morning and I doubt I had even remembered it was Columbus Day until I saw those words on the wall: Columbus was a murderer.
A few years before that my father worked for the Mille Lacs Ojibwe, and in their government I saw people passionate to preserve their culture while preparing their children for the future, a duality that has challenged the identity of native people since the disastrous policies of our government attempted to terminate their culture during the cold war. My father eventually bought a home up there on the lake.
(I’d also like to point out that the Mille Lacs Band owns a bank, Woodlands National Bank, with branches all around the state including one here in Minneapolis on Franklin Avenue. When we set out to save Hymie’s Records from liquidation the bank we had been with for years – even buying a house and a truck through them – hardly gave our business proposal a moments thought. We were rejected without explanation. In all, seven banks, including one in our neighborhood that claims to be the nation’s #1 lender to small businesses, rejected the business plan, and it was clear in most interviews it had not even been read. The people at Woodland’s National Bank read our business plan and grilled us with an hour’s worth of very hard questions. We were sure it was the eighth and final failed interview, but they saw the potential in this business which has since grown exponentially, moving to a more secure, larger and far nicer location, and introducing all kinds of exciting events that support local music around the Cities – none of which would have been possible without their support in our vision!)
I wrote a series for the blog you’re reading, where we try to highlight music that deserves more attention than it’s received. Many of the songs were from records that are out of print, and none are likely to be played on the radio. I have always admired the generation of Native Americans whose protests, writing and hard work led to meaningful improvements in the lives of their people, notably the passage of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. When President Nixon proposed the latter in 1970 he refuted the forced integration of the failed cold war era “termination policy.” While much work was left to be done, the 1975 congressional act was exactly what Tom Bee had asked for in the song “End” by XIT:
There were many great Native American artists recording at this time, in all fields of music. Tom Bee, who later wrote and produced a track for Michael Jackson and recorded with Smokey Robinson, is one of my favorites. I also really enjoy the folk singer Peter LaFarge, whose songs are still often covered, and Redbone, best known for their #4 hit “Come Get Your Love.” They also recorded a song about the Alcatraz occupation, a song about Wovoka, the Paiute Indian who began the Ghost Dance movement in 1889, and “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee,” a song about the 7th US Cavalry’s savage massacre of the Lakota people at Wounded Knee in 1893.
I have received emails from readers all around the country who enjoyed hearing these songs again or were excited to have discovered them for the first time. I have met Native people who have told me stories of AIM’s history here in Minneapolis, and a Menominee Indian whose story of being bullied in public schools as a child broke my heart.
Here are the five post from the week of last year’s Columbus Day if you’d like to go back and read them:
This is my Last Post about Native American History, I Promise
(Ha, another promise broken by the white man)
Monday I intend to post some new songs I have recorded off records over this past year. As soon as KFAI provides streaming of the program I produced for the WAVE project I will share it here on the blog, too.
Thanks for reading. Tomorrow I will post a trashy metal record again.