Illustrating the Native American experience

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Three Native American artists shared their own personal experiences and conflict regarding their ethnicity (The Mirror/Paige Murray)

As the temperature began to drop and the night sky settled over campus, Bishop-Leher field was brought to life with the sounds of artists rapping inspiring pieces and students clapping to the beat, all while colorful lights flooded the field.

The University of Northern Colorado’s Native American Student Services hosted Silent Sounds on Thursday night, a concert with performances by three Native American rap artists, Tall Paul, Mic Jordan and Frank Waln. The three artists told their own stories through their music.

“The night is about giving the community a chance to get exposure to Native American music, art and food so that they may have a better understanding of what Native American looks like in the modern day,” said Kaila Ward, the event coordinator for the NASS.

Storytelling is a skill set that often comes naturally to those from the Native American Culture, and each person uses their own medium to share those stories.

The night began with students getting to eat American Indian tacos from Tocabe, a food truck, parked outside of the concert area. The tent quickly filled with students, families and many others, all eagerly waiting for the performance to begin.

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Tall Paul started the concert off with his upbeat and energizing songs. Each spoke of something different and personal to him. He dedicated one of his first songs to youth that he worked with and his child. He talked about the struggles of growing up in a culture that is often misunderstood and how it can be hard to overcome those misconceptions.

Following the energetic performance of  Paul was Mic Jordan with his acoustic songs and more mellow vibes. His pieces, though just as meaningful and impactful, presented a more emotional response from both himself and the audience.

Similar to Paul, Jordan dedicated one of his songs to his two year-old daughter. According to Jordan, he had been a stay-at-home dad for a year, and thus got a better understanding of what it was like for his mother to raise him. Throughout that time, Jordan wanted to write a song for his daughter, a piece that would explain everything he thought and felt about her.

While performing the song, tears came to his eyes and he had to take a moment to compose himself because of how meaningful the song was to him because of how much his daughter meant to him.

To wrap up the concert, Frank Waln was the last to perform. His pieces, like the others, shared about growing up and the struggles that he faced personally; some of these included having an abusive father, being bullied and being against the view of Indigenous people inflicted by most of the world.

In particular, one song Waln talked about and later performed was his own remake of the song “What Makes the Red Man Red?” from the 1953 Disney movie “Peter Pan.” Once Waln was old enough to understand what the song was saying, he set out to make his own version of the song, one that would speak true to his people. The song began the same as the original, but after being asked “what makes the red man red,” Waln brought in his own lyrics of what it meant to be Native American.

Though all the men had their own songs and way of performing, they each had pieces that were meant to inspire youth to live life to the fullest.

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