Does the eagerly awaited video, Rebel Music: Native America, herald a change for indigenous peoples in the media? Award winning singer-songwriter Inez Jasper thinks it just might. The musician, mother, and member of the Sto:lo Nation of the Northwest Territories, joins Frank Waln, Nataanii Means and Mike Clifford in the video, and here, she talks to ICTMN about the making of the film.
Are you excited about the film?
Yes! We have been waiting a long time to talk about it. We have had to be quiet, and coordinate everything so it was announced at the same time. We are all chomping at the bit!
How did this all come about?
I got a phone call from their team and I was interested in the cause and who was producing it. After a few phone conferences I agreed to do it, but I didn’t realize how profound making the film and the whole experience would be.
It was a great opportunity to be able to share my story as an Indigenous woman. This is a problem throughout North America, and from what I can safely guess, around the world. I am very familiar with these issues in my territory. Frank Waln talks about protecting the land from intrusion and the man camps and the women abused there.
It was also a great opportunity to meet the other artists. We share the same beliefs and world views, which was very refreshing and motivating, but the core messages are very different. Nataanii Means is interested in solidifying the people against suicide. Frank is speaking about the land, and we are both facing the pipeline, which we are fighting here, too. But what has become prominent to me, when people ask me if I am an activist, I tell them, I am just trying to be an Indigenous female. I am trying to share and be heard about what we need, what we want, not only for ourselves but for our daughters. And the issue that keeps coming up is that our indigenous women face stereotyping, prejudice and they are not safe.
It was a challenge to film it but the film allowed us to have a common safe space. We can’t move forward in the world without hearing each other, and the common ground is music. We all use music as a means to share. Music is universal.
Why is MTV releasing “Rebel Music: Native America” on Facebook? Why not television?
We feel we will get more traction by showing the video online. Television is changing and they are finding that people are very connected to social networking. They received 1.1 million views of the trailer in the first day! People are very excited. It will be on television, and on Hulu, and more. There will also be curriculum for teachers! There is more than enough interest from organizations that want to partner, and from film festivals.
This is maybe the first time something like this will be brought to the mainstream. What kind of an impact do you think the video will have?
Before, traditional indigenous music was limited to a niche audience. Now is the time for unity and change. It is not limited to indigenous people and this is an opportunity to learn together, share together, cry together, and come together. In the past, it was difficult to share things like this with the mainstream community and it needs to happen. That was apparent at the Climate March in New York. At the end of the day, many people in North America have not had the opportunity to learn who we are, what our history is, and where we are going. We now have a means to share that information. And we want to extend our hand, come and share, and sing, and walk with us.
In the trailer that highlights my message, the roots of what I do is just be a woman. We are spiritual lifegivers. We are sensual and sexual because we are human, but because of the colonized thought process, there is no safe space to be an indigenous woman. If you show a little bit of skin, we are judged as selling ourselves. We are expected to be buttoned up and traditional, and of course there is a place for that: in ceremony and rites of passage. There is a time and place to express your sensuality, when it is or isn’t appropriate. That is what I advocate for: to stand strong and be proud to be an indigenous woman. Know the context of when to express your femininity and when not to; to protect yourself from violence.
We are women, we are in charge of our own boundaries. We talk about being confident as an indigenous person, being able to set boundaries which is part of being an indigenous women, solidifying identity. These issues are all intertwined.
And you bring these issue forth with your music?
For me, creating and sharing music is a common experience. We are all, Frank, Nataanii, Mike Cliff and I, are all connected to our traditional music, which influences our contemporary music. It’s what makes our music Indigenous. If we fight with our fists 100 percent of the time, we will go nowhere. It can be hard. How can you have a conversation with someone when you don’t have the same mindset? That’s why we use music.
Rebel Music: Native America is one of a six-part series of documentary films about youth, music and global social change, focused on youth protest movements in the most challenging and turbulent parts of the world. The five subsequent episodes will be released in the spring of 2015 and build on Rebel Music’s first season, which debuted on mtvU, MTV’s 24-hour college channel, and is now available to own on iTunes and stream on Netflix. The second season will feature stories from Iran, Myanmar, Senegal, Turkey, and Venezuela.
It will also debut for free on leading digital download and streaming platform partners including iTunes, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Verizon Flexview, and Xbox Video.