Indian Country on MTV: Frank Waln, Inez Jasper, and Nataali Means

We would like to say thank you to Frank Waln and other Indigenous artists featured on MTV’s Rebel Music: Native America for being role models for all Boys & Girls Club members who aspire to make a mark on society, and especially to Native youth. The episode teaches Native youth the importance of voicing their own experiences.

Rebel Education

Recently MTV broadcast Rebel Music: Native America, a segment of its series Rebel Music devoted to Indigenous hip hop artists. Rebel Music showcases young people around the world who are raising their voices through music to demand change for a better future. Since debuting last year, Rebel Music has featured artist-activists from Afghanistan and Egypt, and in 2015 Myanmar and Senegal are just a couple of places where Rebel Music will give voice to creatives fighting for change.

The 11/13 Native America episode featured Frank Waln, a 25-year-old Sioux Lakota Indian from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, and other young performers including First Nations’ Inez Jasper from British Columbia, and Nataanii Means of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. The content of Rebel Music: Native America is extremely well suited for teens in leadership programs, and in music and art programs within your Boys & Girls Club. Rebel Music developed a Teacher's Guide, Context Lesson Plan, and Episode Discussion Guide that meets Common Core State Standards for grades 9-12. The three lessons, The Effects of Poverty on Native Americans, Native American Suicide, and Stories from the Pine Ridge Reservation, examine Native history along with stories of youth today, and are a means to help youth deepen their understanding of the issues that influence indigenous communities.

Activism through Art

Watch “Aboriginal”, an inspiring video from Frank Waln that was featured in last week’s program. Full of stunning imagery, and filmed on the Rosebud Reservation and at the American Indian Center of Chicago, the video tells Frank’s story of growing up on a reservation and eventually leaving to pursue education and a music career. This is a powerful young person to which many youth can relate. Frank raps about how alienating it feels to go months without seeing another Native person, and about being perceived as “a mascot/ just a thing that I wear up on my clothes now” instead of as a person. Read the full lyrics here.

Frank Waln has been steadily gaining visibility, not just as talented performer, but also as an activist advocating for human rights. This year, along with Nataani Means, he performed at the Youth Convergence for the People’s Climate March in New York; he performed with Willie Nelson and Neil Young at the “Harvest the Hope,” protest concert against the Keystone XL oil pipeline in Omaha, NE; and filmed the video “Outside the Lines” at the American Indian Center of Chicago for an ESPN show on the current mascot controversy.

Indigenous Role Models

In a 2013 video filmed at Chicago’s Field Museum, Waln speaks directly to Native youth, telling them to pursue higher education because it will help them to follow their passions, and also addresses the need for Indigenous people to have more representation in popular media. We reached out to him to see if he had any words to offer to Boys & Girls Club youth. What did he say?

"Find what you love and do it no matter what. Figure out how to give back to your people and community. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and respected."