Native hip-hop artist Supaman kicks off new Washoe Tribe grant for youth
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — Young adults and families of the Washoe Tribe put their arms in the air for some high-energy beat-boxing and rap music from Supaman on Jan. 5 at the Douglas County Community Center.
Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, professionally known as “Supaman,” is a Native American (Apsáalooke) hip-hop artist and fancy dancer of the Crow Agency in Billings, Montana.
He combines traditional Native American culture with modern hip-hop and influences to connect with youth.
“His goal is to reach out to reservation youth,” said Washoe Tribe Healing Center Therapist Mariah Jeremiah. “It’s very different for kids growing up on the (reservation). He reaches out and talks about suicide prevention and staying clean from drugs and alcohol and really what it’s like growing up on the res.
“Many kids look up to him.”
The Jan. 5 concert in Gardnerville served as the kickoff for “Gemle?payes,” which is Washoe for “don’t lose heart,” and is the name of a Native Connections grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“The vision of the grant is to engage youth, community members and tribal leadership in overall wellness for the Washoe Tribe,” said Washoe Tribe Health Director Angie Wilson. “It is important because there is a high suicide rate in young adults and it is our role to reach out and support them.”
Empowering youth to become leaders
The Gemle?payes grant is a mental health wellness project specifically for Native youth (up to age 24) and their family. The goal is to create a community engaged in mental health awareness and wellness to decrease suicide and substance use/abuse.
The grant is being used across the Washoe Tribe’s colonies, including locally in Dresslerville, Stewart, Washoe Ranch and Carson, as well as the Woodfords Community near Markleeville, Jeremiah said.
“This grant thrives on youth generations to come, and connections between the tribe,” Jeremiah said. “It is being used to encourage youth to get involved and be leaders through their culture and influences.”
Jeremiah said the grant will help support a Young Adult Leadership council for ages 18-24, and council members can join at age 10.
The groups will host regular meetings, travel, spearhead events and provide skills such as leadership and resume creating and job searching.
“It’s a great way to get involved and have some fun, and so we don’t get caught up in something that is going to harm our lives or body,” a youth council member said at the Jan. 5 concert.
Jeremiah said the grant is community based, and a key asset of it is to cultivate connections through culture, language, health and relationships so that young tribal members may lead healthy, happy lives.
“It’s important that we do a lot of different things for the youth and interact with them,” Mahlon Machado, Vice Chairman of the Washoe Tribe, said. “The young folks are going to be our future leaders, so it is important to give them the skill sets they need.”
Supaman’s message: Take action with your ideas
Several representatives from the Washoe communities were present Jan. 5 to support the grant, enjoy the performance and encourage youth to have some fun.
“It’s really good for our youth to come and look up to someone,” said Irvin Jim, Chairman of the Washoe Tribe Woodfords Community. “Many times, kids on the reservations don’t know how to be themselves — or are afraid to — because of the many influences, and they have to be a certain way. This just kind of shows them that just because they live on the reservation, they don’t have to act like it.”
As if echoing that statement, Supaman encouraged the crowd young and old to be themselves and take chances.
“Sometimes the Creator gives us unique ideas in our spirit and minds to uplift the people in some way or another,” he told the crowd. “Those ideas will just remain there and maybe even die, unless we take action and put movement to them on earth.
“If you have an idea that’s been on your mind, I encourage you to put actions to it — life is too short not to.”
Sarah Drinkwine is a reporter for the Record-Courier, a newspaper within the Sierra Nevada Media Group, which publishes First Nation’s Focus.