Supaman and Kitto give voice to indigenous artists

Taiwana Shambley, A&E Editor

The Augsburg Indigenous Student Association (AISA) brought out rapper Supaman at “The Art of Resistance,” on Jan. 31st, a night in celebration of native people.

Reuben Stately, performing under his stage name Kitto, opened up the night with a heart-touching performance full of pain, grief and resistance. Kitto performed four of his songs, some of which are available on his Soundcloud. In the first song, “Dreams Come True,” he does justice to some of the pain and trauma that he’s gone through, refusing to only speak on the pain he’s healed from. He followed that up with “Escape,” a roar of resilience. (He also produced both of these tracks himself.) “I’m 18 and indigenous, the world on my shoulders,” Kitto declares to the attentive crowd, asserting that he’s still here. Despite years of genocide and massacre, alcohol addiction, mass incarceration and fable retellings of Native American history, the Dakota tribe, his people, are still here.

     After watching Kitto’s set, the crowd waited for Supaman. Supaman began his set engaging with the people, as he says native folk often do, with a prayer in his native tongue, Siouan. He cracked some jokes, sharing with us his lowkey aspiration for stand-up comedy. Then he exploded into performance. Producing the beat on the spot, Supaman rhymed over flute melodies and looping beatboxing tunes. He sings, “I pray for the ones listening right now/ Struggling feel like giving in right now/ I pray for you, pray that you come back home/ Pray that you understand, you never alone.” Then he danced on for the audience. He commands the stage with fluid  footwork, fun, step-heavy dance. His attire was from the Men’s Fancy Dance, the most contemporary style of Powwow.

Supaman is a member of the ​Apsáalooke tribe, a indigenous people of present-day Montana. He honors all the native people in the room, having them stand for a moment of recognition. Native people are still here. They are resilient in the face of eradication, Supaman says to the crowd. His song “Stand Up/ Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” with MAG7 and Black Eyed Peas member Taboo won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Video with a Social Message in 2017. He also was one of the main advocates for the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, frequently visiting Standing Rock to perform, speak and show his support.

Throughout the night, Supaman used call and response techniques. He engaged the audience with thoughtful spiels and wasn’t afraid to make them get out of their seats and move. As a audience member, he resonated with me by being his full honest self, confident enough in his artistry to freestyle. He borrowed New York rapper Supernatural’s “Random Object Freestyle,” where each member of the crowd holds up a random item for him to rap about.

As a non-Native black person, it’s important for me and other folks to know the right way to practice other people’s cultures, the right way to be a guest of someone’s culture. It’s also important to understand that when you actively don’t show out for other oppressed peoples, when you’re unwilling to support a culture that is not your own, your idea of liberation and freedom only includes people that look like you. Freedom ain’t freedom if everybody ain’t free.

The Art of Resilience event was super joyful and inspiring. Pop out to AISA’s future events! AISA’s President and Vice President ​Arianna Antone-Ramirez and Isaiah Simon Co-MCed the event.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 8, 2019 issue. 

Supaman speaking at The Art of Resilience event in Hoversten Chapel on 1/31. Photo by Hibaaq Said.