Native Culture, Artown Create Closing Night Nationhood

The mission of Artown is to create a climate for the cultural rebirth of our region, the closing night of the month-long celebration was a microcosm of that goal.
To warmup 1,000-plus spectators, attendees were treated to dances and songs which have been handed down from generation-to-generation for thousands of years compliments of Lois Kane and the Eagle Wing Pageant Dancers.

Toddlers, teens, and award winning pow wow dancers dazzled the crowd with colorful regalia and energetic moves all in sync with two astounding drum groups: local talent Young Chiefs and the all-women drum group The Mankillers.

Plus the food options were notable—Indian Tacos or pine nut ice cream with Espresso, plus typical fair treats and several beverages to keep hydrated during the 101 degree heat.

All the while, an abundance of Native fine art, Native crafts, and Native merchandise beckoned visitors to explore the vendor booths which were filled with cultural treasures created with inspiration from the rich, matchless Native American culture that has flourished for millennia.

While the crowd jockeyed for optimal seating for the night’s finale, the next 15 people honored by the Reno People Project were introduced (see page 8 for complete biographies). The ceremony held on the Wingfield park stage, was part of the City of Reno’s year-long celebration of its 150th birthday.

Following the Native way, the free public event paused for Pyramid Lake elder Charlotte Harry to offer a prayer in her Paiute language.  Also, her son, Norman Harry, who is on Artown’s Board of Directors, played his hand drum and sang before introducing the main event, A Tribe Called Red.

For nearly a decade, A Tribe Called Red has been blended Native American pow wow vocals and drums with electronic dance music. Since time immemorial, Indigenous people engaged in self expression through their unique melodic songs with specific scale patterns and rhythm. From Ottawa, Canada, A Tribe Called Red has created tracks that blend traditional Native music sounds with hip hop, reggae, plus techno builds and breaks.

The fresh, electronic sounds are enough to engage the under 30-generations, however, the Native artists of the Nipissing First Nation, the Cayuga First Nation and Six Nations of the Grand River, infuse a political message with their exceedingly danceable sound.

The work of A Tribe Called Red might quite possibly be the purest, most successful blend of American Indian traditional sound with the cutting edge passion of modern day activists.

Spawned from Idle No More, fueled by the Water Protectors and the No DAPL movement, A Tribe Called Red’s skillful mix of traditional vocals with innovative, electronic compositions has never sounded better.

On July 31, the very brown crowd experiencing the final evening of Artown immediately reacted to the music.

Furthermore, the concert-goers overwhelmingly expressed their endorsement when the male trio invited three local pow wow dancers—Teresa, Tziavi and Pasutyva Melendez–to join the group on stage.

Soaring to the beat, the jingle dancer and two fancy dancers decorated the stage with additional flare and energy.

“There are a lot of like-minded people and we are trying to rally them, in the way only Indigenous people know how to rally people,” DJ NDN also called Ian Campeau told Mic, an on-line magazine.  “That’s creating nationhoods.”

And that is what Artown did in Reno on the closing night of its month-long party.