A Tribe Called Red performs before packed Reno crowd to cap 2017 | FirstNationsFocus.com

A Tribe Called Red performs before packed Reno crowd to cap 2017

By Jarrette Werk | First Nation's Focus
Tim “2oolman” Hill, middle, hypes the Reno crowd on July 31 while Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau, left, and Ehren “Bear Witness” Thomas look on.
Photo: Jarrette Werk
Editor's note:  This story was first published in the August 2017 edition of First Nation’s Focus.

RENO, Nev. — Wingfield Park in downtown Reno was packed the evening of July 31 as A Tribe Called Red performed on the closing night of the city’s month-long Artown event.

Hundreds of pople of all ages were captivated by unique and different sound of the three-man DJ group from Canada.

Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau (Nipissing First Nation), Tim “2oolman” Hill (Mohawk, of Six Nations of the Grand River), and Ehren “Bear Witness” Thomas (Cayuga First Nation) banded together in 2008 to form A Tribe Called Red.

Their modern take on traditional powwow, hip-hop and electronic music and dancing makes for an unforgettable experience.

“One of the things I love about what these modern indigenous artists are doing is bringing their traditions into the new and modern era,” said Teresa Melendez, powwow club coordinator for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, during an interview with First Nation’s Focus at the July 31 concert. “Nothing is static, so of course our art is going to involve, (and) our ways of expressing ourselves as indigenous people is always going to evolve.”

Melendez and her two daughters were asked by A Tribe Called Red to dance on stage in front of the crowd during the performance.

“I’ve been dancing for 25 years, and over the years I’ve performed in shows like this before, but what made this time different was I got to dance with my daughters,” said Melendez. “Just getting to see their excitement and enthusiasm was so special to me.”

Melendez’s daughters, like many young indigenous children, grew up listening to ATCR.

“My oldest daughter said she couldn’t believe she was dancing with ATCR, and when we were done with the performance, my youngest daughter wanted to do it again,” she said.

Melendez also works as a college success coordinator for the American Indian College fund.

From an educator’s perspective, she said, “we need indigenous people to capitalize on these platforms so that our thoughts, ideas, and perspectives are shared with the world.”

ATCR has had that opportunity to share their culture with the world, having performed at venues such as Coachella, Bonnaroo, AfroPunk, Osheaga and New Orleans Jazz Fest, among others.

According to their website, the group garnered mainstream recognition when the band became the first indigenous group to win the Breakthrough Group of the Year award at the Juno Awards (Canada’s Grammys) in 2014.

ATCR was also long-listed for Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize in 2012 and 2013 and its debut album was included in the Washington Post’s top 10 albums of that same year.

“If you’re an indigenous person living in a country that was forcefully colonized, it’s all too common to find yourself underrepresented and misrepresented if not blatantly and systematically devalued and attacked,” according to a biography on the group’s website. Positive role models and a positive self-identity are hard to come by, yet the Canadian DJ collective A Tribe Called Red is a modern gateway into urban and contemporary indigenous culture and experience, celebrating all its layers and complexity.”

ATCR definitely put on an amazing show in closing out Reno’s Arttown, bringing people of all different backgrounds together.

The free event was sponsored by Reno Arts and Culture Commission, Circus Circus Reno, Nevada Health Link, REMSA and RSIC.

Before the show, RSIC hosted a cultural sharing event that encouraged the public to watch and participate in basket-weaving, dancing, singing, art and food.

Accordng to RSIC, the colony saw the event as an opportunity to not only interact with people, but to bring the public into their traditional culture.

Visit atribecalledred.com to learn more about A Tribe Called Red, and visit renoisartown.com to learn about Reno Artown.

Jarrette Werk (Aaniiih) is a journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno, who worked this summer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group as an intern, writing and taking photos for First Nation’s Focus. Email him at intern@firstnationsfocus.com.


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