by Lamine Kane
Usually when we speak about Native Americans, we fail to integrate all aspects of their lives in the discussions. It is almost as though we ignore all the happenings revolving around Natives. In this blog, we will talk about Gary “Litefoot” Davis and how he was inspired by hip-hop, a powerful megaphone for the voiceless, which was born in the 1970’s in the Bronx. Though hip-hop was born in the African American community, it has built and spread a large movement to express, stand and fight for people to be free and safe all across the globe. Litefoot, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in the 1990’s jumped into the movement as the first Native American from a federally recognized reservation to use the megaphone and be the voice of his people.
In 1995, during the beginning of his rapping career, Litefoot, in an interview with E.K. Caldwell for his book Dreaming the Dawn: Conversations with Native Artists and Activists, describes how he was told by a record label that they would give him a deal “on the condition that his lyrics not be Indian…because Indians don’t buy tapes – they buy alcohol” (Caldwell, 63). This motivated the artist to establish his own music label, Red Vinyl Records. When I read this, I could not stop thinking about what I learned in ETST-240(Native American Cultural Expressions), that Native American reservations are some of the poorest places in the country and face among the highest crime, suicide and high school dropouts as a result of alcoholism. Litefoot grasped the culture of hip-hop because Native Americans have been oppressed the longest in the United States and the least listened to. Hip-hop was talking about their struggles: poverty, crime, drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy and a lot of things that happen in marginalized communities similar to those living in reservations and Litefoot related to that. From this position, he wrote and performed many songs in regards to Native American lives.
Litefoot released 12 albums with popular songs such as “For My People,” “Concrete Soldier,” “Warriors Road (feat. Steve Reevis),” and “My land,” which tells the story of the pain white people have inflicted upon Native Americans throughout history. In “My land,” he changes an American anthem in the chorus saying: “This land is our land/This land ain’t your land/From California to the New York islands,” which highlights my most important lesson learned from ETST-240, listening. He raps “So forget what you heard in your school book,” adding “A reservation’s the apology/Anthropology shows the truth/But they still won’t acknowledge me.” This song says a lot and remind me of what I learned, which is that we are to listen and explore beyond what we are told about Native Americans, especially in regards to Native sovereignty. Native Americans are more than just history and are still here to be heard and acknowledged. It is up to our generation to give back what was taken. Gary “Litefoot” Davis is a rapper, entrepreneur, actor, designer and author.
Caldwell, E. K. (1999). Dreaming the dawn: Conversations with native artists and activists. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
L. (2014). My Land. Retrieved November 25, 2016, from http://genius.com/Litefoot-my-land- lyrics
Litefoot – Native American Musician, Actor, Author and Speaker. (n.d.). Retrieved November 26, 2016, from http://litefoot.com/