Thursday, January 8, 2015

Indian Power: Keith Secola and "NDN Kars"

About a year before Megan and I moved to New Mexico, we made a vacation in the Land of Enchantment. We had no idea that we were going to be moving there, we just had never been and wanted to see a new state. One of the lasting images I have from that vacation was my first sight of an Indian car. We were driving in our rental car to Chaco Canyon, an amazing place that everyone should visit. The road to Chaco Canyon was unpaved and, even worse, it was a washboard road meaning that it had regular grooves in it so that driving over it was sort of like running fingernails over a comb. There was nothing around - very little evidence of human habitation. The slower you went, the more jarring it became but the faster you went, the less traction you had. Because we were in a rental car I was being very careful because I didn't want to throw a rock up into the oil pan or puncture the radiator. So, we're tooling along at about 35 miles per hour when I look in my rear view mirror and see a car trailing a big cloud of dust coming fast upon us. It passed us on the left, barreling by in a spray of rocks, dirt and dust and I could see that it was a four door sedan, probably an early 90s or late 80s model, full of long-haired young Indian men. Then, up ahead of us, it appeared to crash off the road. It suddenly veered left and disappeared off the road. We drove up, me preparing to get out and see if there were any survivors, but as we got closer I realized they had gone off on a road or path that only they knew, and there they were, trailing a cloud of dust out on the desert off-road. They hadn't even slowed. As I watched the dust cloud get smaller as the car moved away from us through the desert, I wondered where they were going, and marveled at this beat up car that could take that kind of punishment.

When I first heard NDN Kars on KUNM's Singing Wire program, it immediately brought the car we had seen to my mind I didn't have to wonder where that sedan full of Indians was heading any more. It just made sense. Megan loves this song, and our colleagues on Singing Wire, a show hosted by Native Americans that highlights Native American music, play it almost every week. NDN Kars is by Keith Secola, an Ojibwa from Minnesota. A graduate of the University of Minnesota in American Indian Studies, Secola plays guitar and flute as well as sings. His band, mostly known as the Wild Band of Indians but also as the Wild Javelinas and the Wild Onions, plays rock influenced by Native American folk music and reggae. An award winner for best artist at the Native American Music Awards in 2006, he is also an environmental and Native rights activist. NDN Kars has been called by some the Native American national anthem, and can be found on his 2006 album Circle. The song above is the original studio version, but Secola and the band joined with Shawn Bernard (tragically paralyzed in an attack in October of 2014) and Joey Stylez to create this fun remix of NDN Kars (below).