How many Native women have you supported today?
If the answer is none, think about why that might be. Do you interact with Indigenous populations? Are you spending time and energy learning about Native organizations and movements?
If Indigenous women aren’t popping up in your timeline or on your street, it isn’t because they don’t exist; rather, the lives of Native Americans, particularly Native American women, are specifically overlooked by institutions of power, including media outlets, health organizations, universities, and more. But whether we are looking or not, Native Women are living and creating in the current day. Contemporary Indigenous art is filled with innovative women making work worth watching, reading, and listening to.
Whether you are spending today with family or friends, take some time to invest in the lives of Indigenous women by viewing, sharing, and paying for their art. Aren’t sure where to start? Check out our list of five contemporary Native American artists to watch below.
Zaragoza released her debut album in June of this year, but she’s been playing and writing music since childhood. Fight For You is a breezy eight-track collection, brilliantly highlighted by Zaragoza’s clear, relaxed voice. The album’s content is deeply impacted by Zaragoza’s multi-ethnic and national background, as well as the Native Peoples’ fight for clean water and against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Of the album, Zaragoza says: “My goal with this album is to inspire people to fight for what they believe in. Our voices can be heard – we just have to choose to use them!” A portion of the album’s proceeds will be donated to Indigenous rights organizations.
Twin sisters Dani and Dezy are based in Southern California, but they regularly tour the country to mentor youth through the Native American Youth Music Program, which they founded. The two strive to bring guitars to every Native American reservation, alleviating the pressures of historical trauma on Native youth by providing a creative outlet. Their recent video “Sweet Grass / Water is Life,” influenced by the impacts of oil pipelines on their Hidatsa Waterbuster Clan community, was screened at the 42nd American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco.
Destiny Frasqueri, known as Princess Nokia, recently went viral when she was filmed throwing soup at an aggressive man shouting slurs in a New York subway car. But Frasqueri’s advocacy work goes far beyond subway intervention. Outside of her work in the studio, Frasqueri heads “Smart Girl Club,” a collective which seeks to provide safe space for and encourage collaboration between women of color, through the lens of “urban feminism.” Her first studio album, 1992 Deluxe, reflects this message of informed and inclusive feminism: tracks like “Brujas” highlight Frasqueri’s connection with her Afro-Indigenous family and their traditions, while breakout hit “Tomboy” centers her experiences as a New York youth. 1992 Deluxe, which was released in September of this year, is already making year-end lists, and for good reason.
Crain’s 2017 album, You Had Me At Goodbye, is decadently instrumental: confessional and emotionally compromising music which devastates at the same time that it uplifts. Next time you feel like treating yourself to a good cry without, you know, having to listen to Sufjan Stevens, take a trip through Crain’s oeuvre. Crain is barely 30, but You Had Me At Goodbye is her fifth full-length album; after recording music for more than ten years, her album notes state that she “wanted to have some fun.” Though You Had Me At Goodbye isn’t exactly dance music, there’s a noticeable level of play within the artist’s enigmatic lyrics and sound choices.
An accomplished composer of independent film scores, Ortman’s own music is visceral and compelling, drawing on her skill as a classical musician as well as a love of experimental sound composition. She’s a prolific artist, with 22 releases on bandcamp alone, as well as a number of prestigious awards under her belt, but manages to make each release pleasantly surprising. Her latest album, My Soul Remainer, was released in June of this year.
And because the “Americas” extend north of the border as well, here are a few Canadian artists I can’t stop listening to.
Tagaq has been making waves since winning the Polaris Prize with her 2014 album, Animism. Her latest, Retribution, is breathtaking. It’s the type of album you listen to once, and then send to everyone else you know.
Eidse’s bandcamp describes her music as “mellow alt-pop,” but frankly, I don’t find anything about her voice to be mellow. Her self-titled EP, released in 2016, is dreamy; with each note stretched as far as possible, Eidse’s vocal performance lands like a silk parachute, or a slow-rolling fog.
On The Fight Within, released earlier this month, Iskwé pairs modulating vocals with lush, electronic beats. Dissect it or dance to it–Iskwé’s music is moving, both in its content and message, and in the music’s heavy, visceral sway.