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Surfari: Native Sounds

By Rogi Riverstone
(February 25, 2001)

"We live, we die,
and like the grass
and trees,
renew ourselves
from the soft clods
of the grave.
Stones crumble and decay,
faiths grow old
and they are forgotten,
but new beliefs are born.
The faith of the villages
is dust now,
but it will grow again
like the trees."
--Old One, Wanapum--


A funny thing happened when I dragged my stereo speakers out onto the porch on Sunday afternoons. I always had a yard full of kids: playing, making things, gardening, chasing chickens, tormenting dogs and cats. I wanted them to hear something besides (c)rap music for a change.

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday afternoons is to listen to KUNM fm's "Singin' Wire," a Native American public radio program in Albuquerque. People from all over the area phone in requests.

Well, we'd be out there, doin' our thing, and passers by would smile. But when Keith Secola "NDN Kars" came on, Native American adults would appear out of nowhere and begin dancing, singing and whooping on the sidewalk in front of my house. Go here to hear NDN Kars and other Secola sound files.

This song is an anthem to the warrior and adventurer spirit that has been so buried and strangled in modern times. Everybody in the 'hood could relate to driving an outlaw lemon: embarrassed at the condition of an old clunker, but loyal to this stallion that gallops them from "Rez" to "Rez" down lonely miles of blacktop; spitting dirt and gravel on open, desert roads: dodging Mr. Officer.

The kids would look at me and giggle. I could only shrug philosophically and tip my head to my own rusty clunkers in the driveway. They understood.

"I will follow
the white man's trail.
I will make him
my friend,
but I will not bend my back
to his burdens.
I will be cunning
as a coyote.
I will ask him to help me
understand his ways,
then I will prepare the way
for my children,
and their children.
The Great Spirit
has shown me -
a day will come
when they will
outrun the white man
in his own shoes."
--Many Horses--


Well, Native American Music, for the first time in history, became a category at the 2001 Grammies. It took ten years of campaigning, documentation, numbers crunching and dedication on the part of Native Americans to convince the Grammy powers that be. I'd bet they'd do it again in a heartbeat, if necessary. Native American music has only existed on this continent for a few, thousand years. The Grammies have existed for a whole, few decades. Better late than never, I guess. The winners for best Native album of the year were producers Tom Bee and Douglas Spotted Eagle for the album, "Gathering of Nations."

Spotted Eagle has a PDF file, documenting how the album was recorded. You can cut & copy this URL: and paste it into this PDF File Converter to read it. The photos will look peculiar, but the text is intact. For photos, see the following link.

Gathering Of Nations Pow Wow is a really big deal, both for the Native American scene and for poor, little Albuquerque, New Mexico. It's absolutely huge, and it lasts for days --both before and after the actual, scheduled events. It will be held April 26-28, 2001.

Native People come into town from everywhere. Beamers, Volvos, old station wagons, mini-vans, pick ups, campers, motorcycles fill the streets with bumperstickers proclaiming, "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee," "America: Love it, or GIVE IT BACK!," "My other car is a pony" (or "Pinto" or "Mustang"), "Got Fry Bread?," "American Indian Movement," "Official Indian Car," "Think you can trust the government? Just ask an Indian!" "This truck powered by InjunUity!," "NDN Power!" "F.B.I.: Full Blooded Indian."

On the municipal buses, I meet folks, straight off reservations, who've never been to a "big" city before and look alarmed, confused, proud and happy, all at the same time.

Most Pow Wows around the country are located on state fair grounds and other, non-urban places where people can camp right beside the dancing and shopping. It's a cross between summer camp, United Nations conference, political rally, beauty contest, family reunion, Olympics, church, party, home town carnival, singles' dance and pot luck.

Gathering of Nations is held at the University of New Mexico Arena (lovingly called "The Pit," locally), surrounded by office buildings, and concrete parking structures. It's an urban scene with prehistoric roots. It's lap tops and bear claws, pagers and bone whistles, video cameras and sand paintings.

Hotels fill up. Sleeping bags unfurl on local hosts' floors. Campgrounds on the outskirts of town sprout tents and occasional teepee. It's heaven.

The "Gathering of Nations" album includes recordings of various artists who attended the event. It's rousing, moving, inspiring music by musicians from all over North America.

Best Native American Album
Grammy Nominees


Gathering Of Nations
Douglas Spotted Eagle & Tom Bee

Cheyenne Nation
Joseph Fire Crow

Veterans Songs
Lakota Thunder

Tribute To The Elders
Black Lodge Singers

Peacemaker's Journey
Joanne Shenandoah

NDN Radio on the Web

I just love NDN Radio. For one thing, Native People can make me laugh until my sides hurt. It's eclectic, joyful, angry, spiritual, irreverent, traditional, experimental and never predictable. Native Peoples work in all genres: Pow Wow, hip hop, jazz poetry, traditional/contemporary fusion, folk, rock, reggae (I know, it sound pretty "Huh?" but it works), orchestral, funk.... There is no "Native Sound;" that's what makes it so interesting.

There are lots of other places to hear Native Sounds on the WWW, so I'll take you on a little tour.

The first place everyone should check out is American Indian Radio On Satellite (AIROS). They have a live, streaming link near the top, on the left side bar, specifically for WebTV users.

Native American Music Radio Programming has links to a couple dozen radio stations.

Google Web Directory, Native American Radio Programs links to various stations and programs, with brief descriptions of each.

OpenHere: Native American Radio has links to various stations and their live, streaming audio.

The People's Paths has a mirror site in Cherokee, as well as English, and has links to radio broadcasts all over North America. - Native American Spirit has MP3s to hear, albums to buy and links to Native radio.

The contemporary (1990's),
traditional hair accessory
on the Rez is:
1. A leather-wrapped feather
on a quilled medicine wheel.
2. A beautifully beaded
3. A bright pink,
fuzzy elastic hair band
that your niece left
on the bathroom sink.

The contemporary,
traditional cuisine
(Indian steak)
on the Rez is:
1. Beef.
2. Buffalo.
3. Bologna

Contemporary (1990's),
traditional clothing
for women on the Rez is:
1. Oversized T-shirt,
jeans and sneakers
2. Oversized T-shirt,
jeans and sneakers.
3. Oversized T-shirt,
jeans and sneakers.

Contemporary (1990's),
formal clothing
for women on the Rez is:
1. CLEAN oversized T-shirt,
jeans, sneakers
and a borrowed shawl
2. CLEAN oversized T-shirt,
jeans, sneakers
and a borrowed shawl.
3. CLEAN oversized T-shirt,
jeans, sneakers
and a borrowed shawl.

Funny Stuff

I love NDN humor. And there's a lot of it. Native America Calling, a call-in radio show, has its own humor site with RealAudio archives.

Club Red has RealAudio clips from their radio show archives.

And, if you go to Dead Dog Café, you not only get RealAudio archives, you can participate in interactive sites, such as Roll Your Own Authentic Indian Name Generator. Mine is Theresa Informative Ram. I don't know why. But, except for the "Theresa" part, I like it.

The Dead Dog Cafe
Comedy Hour

Be it hereby
declared and proclaimed
that on
Thursday, February 22, 2001
The wheels were 'spun' for


and she will henceforth
be known by her new

Theresa Informative Ram
Stay Calm...
Be Brave...
Wait for the Signs

Original Joke
Q: How do you get 5 NDNs in a bath tub?
A: Throw in a basketball.
Q: How do u get 5 NDNs out of a bath tub?
A: Throw in a block of commodity cheese.
by Rogi

Native Music Links

Native American Music Awards has been around a lot longer than the Grammy category and, I suspect, directly influenced their nominations.

WWW Virtual Library Index of Native American Music. Songs Of The People.

Native American Music Links is just what it says. It's a beautiful site, too.

American Indian Music Festival sponsored by Dineh College.

Pow Wows

Pow Wows are held all over North America, all year long. They range from small events, sponsored by local public schools to huge events like the Gathering of Nations. There's probably one near you.

So you won't feel awkward, or make someone else uncomfortable, read Rules or Pow Wow Etiquette before you go. Basically, if you act like a guest in someone's home or church and not like a tourist at an amusement park, you'll be OK. When in doubt, just ask.

The food is home-cookin'. The music is intense, live performances. The dancers are gorgeous. And the arts and crafts for sale can empty a wallet faster'n a raccoon can ransack a campsite.

2001 Pow Wow Calendar

Pow Wow Highway

"We shall live again;
we shall live again."
--Comache Ghost Dance Song--


Author's Note: Independent record producers don't drive limos (well, maybe they'll rent one for the kids' prom). They don't live high. They work long, hard hours to produce music that reflects their hearts, their talents, their visions. That's why you don't hear about them on the entertainment TV shows. This is especially true with niche markets, such as "ethnic" music.

Sounds Of America Records is a home town, family run production company. For the first time since writing Surfaris, I was actually able to make a local call to one of my "links." In fact, I could have walked there from my house. Can you imagine how hectic and busy these people have gotten, since one of their recordings just won the first-ever Grammy for Best Native American album?

Mary, over at SOAR, was nice enough to e-mail me some materials I needed for this article within hours of my phone call. I expect she hasn't stopped running since Grammy night.

I'd like to thank her, SOAR, KUNM fm, the folks at Singin' Wire, and all the independent producers and performers who have made my life so beautiful by their work.

Walk In Beauty,


P.S.: Something's up with WebTV's ability to play RealAudio G2 and RAMs. I'm bummed. Of course this had to happen, just when I wrote this Surfari. :( Keep checking back, though, with these sites. Someday, we'll be able to hear them again. ~~RR

Native American Clip Art by

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