The following was originally published at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.
Lula Wiles is an Americana trio that effectively uses traditional music forms to provide relevant commentary on current issues. Made up of Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin, they recently released their sophomore album, “What Will We Do.”
One of the more political tunes on the album is “Good Old American Values.” The lyrics are a biting satirical critique of America’s long history of subjugation of Native Americans.
For Obomsawin, who is of Abenaki descent, there are personal reasons for recording this song. In the album’s liner notes, Obomsawin shares, “As an indigenous songwriter, I hope that it becomes equally unacceptable to write and sing anti-Native lyrics as it now is to write and sing anti-black lyrics.
“Unfortunately, Indian hating is a good old American tradition. In fact, American culture has depended on it,” Obomsawin adds. “The best I can offer is to reclaim and re-purpose the rhetorical and aesthetic space of country music carved out for me by colonialism, in pursuit of beauty and truth.”
The lyrics, “Good old American cartoons/ Indians and cowboys and saloons/ It’s all history by now/ And we hold the pen anyhow,” draws attention to how colonialism contributes to the dehumanization of indigenous communities.
Throughout the history of music and other forms of media, cowboys are often romanticized, while Indians are vilified. American expansion at the expense of Native Americans is still celebrated.
The ongoing disregard for indigenous people is currently displayed by building pipelines on sacred land and through blatant cultural appropriation. Those who speak out to protest the unjust seizing of native land are often criminalized.
Lula Wiles stand against attacks on indigenous people and challenge the whitewashing of American history.
Listen to “Good Old American Values” by Lula Wiles: