Rappers Nataanii Means and Witko Come to Tyendinaga

TYENDINAGA – On Monday, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory hosted an evening for the youth at the community centre from 6-9 p.m. The event was called “Empower,” and sought to get youth involved by providing an open mic for young rappers to display their skills. There was also a Q & A for a couple of rappers from South Dakota who put Pine Ridge reservation on the map with their artistry.

Featured on MTV’s Rebel Music, “a powerful new series that explores the lives of young people who are using art and music to ignite change around the world” (MTV World), Nataanii Means and Witko are beating the odds and taking a stand against racism, poverty and just about any other topic they might be asked to speak about. Monday night they were asked to share their experiences to help empower the Tyendinaga youth.

An event coordinator had heard Nataanii and Witko would be in Toronto at York University and she felt it would be an “excellent opportunity to bring them into our community to share in expression with our youth and our people.” She went on to say, “The point of the night was to showcase young indigenous artists role modelling healthy expression, specifically for the benefit of Tyendinaga’s youth.”

Earlier in the day they stopped at Quinte Mohawk School and talked to the grades 6-8. They showed them the episode of Rebel Music entitled “Native America,” which can be viewed at http://trti.me/cXLtU.

After the episode they also had the opportunity to write poetry with some of the classes and talk about some of their experiences.

Means’ first impression of our Haudenosaunee community was one of honour because they were greeted with a social in Akwesasne organized by Tahanikonrahthe Brant.

Means was very impressed with our young men and women dancing and singing at the social, saying, “The youth, honestly, inspired me. We first pulled in and they had a social for us and it was the younger folk dancing and singing. And that’s big because in my community, it’s never usually the younger folk that acknowledge us in such a respectful way, culturally.”

The youth in attendance at the council house were very excited about the evening. Spencer Smart, a young Tyendinagian, said, “I’m here to enjoy the wonderful hip hop show. I love hip hop. There is a strong hip hop community on this reserve, whether we know it or not. You can kind of see it tonight. It was really good, I loved the show.”

Karontatsieh Green stated, “I’m here to support this event in general because I think it connects with the youth, definitely. It’s just something they can all relate to, something we are all familiar with.”

During open mic, Tehanikonrahthe Brant, the young man who organized the social in Akwesasne, was also the DJ for the evening. He rapped a song he wrote, and sang it entirely in Kanyen’keha.

Judging by the number of youth in attendance who took their own messages to the stage, the night was a big success.

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