Native American/First Nations Music:

5 Songs By Native Women To Be Totally Obsessed With RN

By Lenny Peppers


Growing up, mom listened to music from Redbone and Buffy St. Marie on our day trips to get groceries in Billings, MT two hours west of my home on the N. Cheyenne rez.

Today we call to my experience with hashtags like #DecolonizeMusic, but back then, my AIM mama was just listening to what she liked. Ultimatly, she spurred a love for music in me that inspires me to grow the same passion for music in the spirits of my own children. I still get the ‘sways’ when I hear The Weight by Winterhawk.

So now you know. I am hopelessly devoted to my Native playlist. Here are my top five Native jamz to sustain me through the cold winter moons until I can visit home in the spring.

Leave me some comments to let me know which songs by Native women/nonbinary people from your list.

5. Indians Never Die by Black Belt Eagle Scout

Indians Never Die is from the soulful and sophisticated debut album, Mother of My Children by musician Katherine Paul (aka KP/Black Belt Eagle Scout). I should mention that this is probably one of my favorite entire albums this year. It’s all so good, but alas, I had to pick a favorite and at the moment of this blog post, this is it.

Self described as a “radical indigenous queer feminist” her music is a mirror into her life as a Native American woman from Northwest Washington state. This jam is a chilled-out siren song to help me to relax and remember how Native art and music is resistance and brings me right back down from my daily existential crisis.

4. Whiskey Knows by Desiree Dorion

Indigenous Canadian folk/country goddess, Desiree Dorian is one to watch with her sweet and throaty crooning that makes you check your heart to make sure it’s still beating. Especially with the hit single Whisky Knows from the album with the same name.

In 2018, she took home the award for Songwriter of the Year at the Manitoba Country Music Awards for her work co-writing Whiskey Knows with Chris Burke-Gaffney. It is just what I needed to swing my fringes to.

3. The Hallows (Vol. 1) by RudeGang Entertainment

So anyone who knows me, knows how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE the horror genre. Halloween is my fave holiday, I am working on a podcast about Natives and scary movies, and I even T.A. an actual modern horror film course at our local university.

This song combines both my love for music and horror films and brings up the issue about the treatment of Natives in film. Don’t get me started, I will go all day about that. I also truly appreciate the commentary about fake Native American costumes in the lyrics of this tune.

What’s better than music, film, politics, and horror all smashed into one deliciously fun jam? I will tell you what, or rather who– Mamarudegyal MTHC. I already loved her performance with Radina in honor of International Woman’s Day but this is so good! You can check that one out here on the Rapid Fire Youtube site.

It was released last Halloween by RudeGang Entertainment , Hope, Doobie, Mamarudegyal MTHC, with the announcement of their new Indigenous producer “Onata”. You can check out (and donate) to their Patreon page HERE. #SupportIndigenousArt

One last thing. RudeGang, if you all are out there in the internets somewhere, please HMU and let me know if I can use your song for my horror podcast intro.

2. Driving to Standing Rock by Raye Zaragoza

What do we doin?/The people are under attack/What do we doin?/The water is under attack/What are we doin?/The earth is under attack/Stand up! Fight Back!

I mean come on! With lyrics like that, Raye Zaragoza has riled up my Cheyenne fighting spirit and I am ready to hit the stage and fight back.

As an activist and comedian, sometimes it’s hard to get up on that stage some nights. But when I have a power playlist with people like Zaragoza, I know that anything worthwhile is going to take hard work.

The harmonic almost chirp of her soft voice gets your feet tapping and your heart souring. Don’t let her gentle sound fool you, though. She is a badass whose music can get a people up on their feet and activate the activist within. She is no doubt changing the world with her music.

If you get a chance listen to her other songs like Warrior, American Dream, and Fight For Peace on her Youtube Channel HERE.

1. Healers by iskwē

As a mother of six, it is so important to get my kids listening to music by Native musicians– people who feel what it’s like to be indigenous in today’s world. iskwē is one of those performers who I insist is a must.

Born in Winnipeg, Canada, this pop and electronic singer combines tribal language/music and power chords to send a powerful message. WE ARE STILL HERE.

She has won several awards and recently released her newest music video Little Star which you can find HERE.


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