The United States is a settler colony with few connections to the land both historically and culturally. President Donald Trump is a Frankenstein creation of a settler colonial society. His administration is what a country gets for slaughtering indigenous Americans, pushing them to the margins, and systematically abusing them and the Earth for hundreds of years.
The movement at Standing Rock around the Dakota Access Pipeline project inspired a number of Americans to confront their relationship to the land. With the dire threat of man-made climate disruption, this is more important than ever.
In 1996, Litefoot, one of the first Native American rappers, recorded a rap song that provided an unflinching look at American history from an indigenous perspective. It also confronted Americans with the truth of their relationship to the land, as well as Native Americans.
“Forget a treaty, I still call them all crooks,” Litefoot raps in the first verse. “A reservation’s the apology. Anthropology shows the truth. But they still won’t acknowledge me.”
“And now they talking this ‘My Country ‘Tis Of Thee.’ And my people they went through misery. Raped our women and killed our children. Replaced all the greenery with concrete buildings.”
Litefoot describes how indigenous people were forced to carry identification. It resembles forms of apartheid imposed on people in other countries of the world.
In the second verse, Litefoot raps about shooting Colonel Custer if he comes around.
The third verse returns to the land and its pristine glory before colonization. “Picture a beautiful country with green trees. Living in peace, you see thousands of teepees. Living off the land and our own laws.”
There were no Presidents. There was no deficit. There were no government flaws. But now, indigenous Americans are living in poverty. They were also taught the concept of property.
“Now tell me, how do you put a price on nature. They degrade ya. No more meadows, just reservations that look worse than ghettos,” Litefoot adds.
The hook of the song corrects a beloved national anthem. “This land is our land. This land ain’t your land. From California to the New York islands.”
Litefoot was offered a record deal in the 1990s by RCA if the lyrics of his music were not “Indian.” He rejected the offer and started his own label, Red Vinyl Records.
More than twenty years later, Litefoot still makes music and speaks out in defense of indigenous people.
He told HipHopDX.com in December 2016, while addressing the threat posed by the Dakota Access Pipeline:
We have to create a bridge of understanding of what sovereignty is, what treaty obligations are, about who has responsibilities in that and why it’s a problem. I think from my perspective, even though the pipeline doesn’t go directly through reservation land, all of those farmers and people living on that land right now at one point in time, the land of those people. You can’t say today just because the boundaries of the reservation, which Native Americans didn’t create and was created out of agreements with the federal government who told us what we could have, somehow in that negotiation, you have people 100 or 200 years later say that’s not our treaty land. Hold on a minute, you guys were talking about treaties and sectioning off the land. That doesn’t mean that people weren’t buried on whoever’s land. That’s where my people were buried on and you just can’t run a pipeline through there and disrupt their resting place. Go around it or reroute it. Don’t blow something up cause you don’t understand the history of what has happened here. I go back to people reclaiming control of the narrative. Until we do that, unfortunately, more stuff like this is going to happen.
Litefoot has a new album called “Redvolutionary,” which will drop in June.
Listen to Litefoot’s classic rap, “My Land”:
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