By Moriah Hope
“We come together to protect our people, our land, our water.
If you come with a pure heart, humbleness, and compassion, there is no wrong or right way to do this. Do what you can from where you stand.”
-Kelli Love of One Tribe
You may recall last season’s Muses article where we reflected on the relationship between music and activism, especially now with the developments at Standing Rock where thousands of Indigenous Americans and allies have gathered to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Dave Matthews, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and Jason Mraz are among the prominent artists who have showed support for Standing Rock through their musical platforms.
Musical collective One Tribe has shown up for the #NoDAPL movement in extraordinary ways. Members have been living on site for several months, and some have even been arrested for standing on the front line. Going back and forth between camp in North Dakota and touring, raising funds, and traveling with Oceti Sakowin youth runners, One Tribe’s participation continues to deepen.
SYJ: First, tell us how One Tribe was formed. Seeing that all of you are involved in other musical projects, where did the fusion of One Tribe begin?
Amber, Jordan, Mammoth & I met on Kauai and did a tour on Turtle Island together during the summer of 2015. Upon returning, we met Kelli Love in a mystical chain of events…
Then in the spring, Kelli had a vision for the song “We are in this Together,” and the song magnetized Jordan, Amber and I to Maui last spring for an intensive 5-weeks of living together, where we dreamed our journeys for the upcoming year and birthed our collaborative project One Tribe.
Our song became the anthem for the Up to Us caravan and the march of thousands in the streets of Philadelphia. This is where Moon Cat Preach (MC Preach) joined in.
SYJ: As a collaborative, what are the core values and ideals you share? What does it take for you to thrive together?
We’ve learned a lot while traveling on the road with our friends from Standing Rock about looking after one another, and we have had many opportunities to learn and grow.
It comes down to the simple acts of loving each other. It’s a vibration. It’s respect. When we pray together and play music together, we are all on that same vibration.
Communication. Always challenging, always important. I see so much generosity in this group. We value each other’s well being, making sure all are fed, housed, comfy as can be. We all understand that the music is for the movement, and so we are united by the vision of bringing as much healing as we can.
Some of the core values that I encourage within this movement are understanding, openness, and a willingness to listen.
With all of us coming from different musical backgrounds, upbringings and lifestyles, these values help us understand each individual in this conglomerate on a deep level.
The vision I encourage for One Tribe is to make music that is palpable for every person on this planet – no matter if you grew up in the hood, the suburbs, the jungle, a third world country or a farm.
SYJ: All of you have been directly involved with the fight against DAPL, standing on the front lines and even serving jail time. Has music supported you through the demands and tense atmosphere of direct action?
It takes an immense amount of inner fortitude not to lash out when faced with violence and aggression. The way I am able to remain composed is through breathing practices and staying with the meditation of song and prayer. Using sound as a way to interrupt the instinctual ‘fight or flight’ response to violence is highly effective.
Without music I would have broken down – not only our music, but also the chants of the indigenous people who have always used their songs to get through immense hardship and oppression. It’s a universal way to find strength where there seems to be none.
Music has been the medicine to really call in the virtuous qualities that it takes to get through difficult situations. To understand its power and learn to use it from a place of prayer has been such a humbling process.
Music has supported not just me but everyone on the front lines, whether it’s a Bob Marley song to pick us up, a Lakota prayer song to strengthen our warrior spirits, or just someone lightening the mood by singing something funny in moments of extreme stress.
SYJ: The entire movement at Standing Rock is built on non-violent resistance and peaceful direct action. What can you share about that?
Peaceful action is the only way to truly unite around a cause, because any form of violence will only cause more division.
Methods of peaceful protest at Standing Rock have included ceremonial prayers, drumming, and song. Sounds of peace are so effective because sound is a potent medicine that soothes the physical body. We know this to be true. There is scientific evidence to prove it.
I have witnessed the effectiveness of these prayers on the front lines on multiple occasions and interactions with the police. It was common to see the police choking back tears or swallowing hard when we sang to them.
SYJ: In what way does the One Tribe musical platform create a container for awareness and social activism?
Music builds the bridge to the heart where we can communicate our needs to the community, as well as to the law enforcement officials who are harming us in defense of corporate interests. Our goal with music is not to cause more distraction but to create healing as we protect our land and our water and each other.
We are all experiencing the power of music to unify, and for me this has changed everything.
People need songs that are real, uplifting and unifying. The beauty of the music of One Tribe is that it is all three. Each of us, strong in our own voice, supports the other by creating beautiful harmony. These songs are strong because we sing them together and they embody togetherness. This movement is strong because we are coming together.
SYJ: And how has One Tribe brought Standing Rock into that togetherness? What does that feel like?
I guess I’m still wrapping my head around all of this. One Tribe has been honored to stand with elders from Standing Rock on stage – they joined us on tour briefly – singing “one people, one nation, one tribe,” “Peaceful Warriors” or “We will be Heard.”
Wow… It feels like, this is real. Change is upon us, and we get to tell the world. So every song we write now seems to echo the same prayer… ‘Hey world, look, we really are one family, let’s love each other!’
SYJ: As traveling musicians, you understand the struggle in staying centered amidst chaos. What can you say to those who feel the call to join water protectors holding ground through the winter?
The stress of police confrontations and human rights violations can be deeply unsettling. This is not to mention North Dakota’s notoriously harsh winters, with average lows below 0°F, or -18°C.
When you feel Spirit, your body has to be prepared for what Spirit asks. I believe educating yourself on what it takes to be prepared for whatever environment you’re in is crucial.
What items does it take to be prepared? How can you prepare your mind? How can you find a support system of like-minded individuals? A lot of the answers are around us.
If you feel the spirit to act, the best you can do is be diligent with what it actually takes to keep the fire burning and not let your fuse go out. It takes some forethought and honesty with ourselves to determine what we can really put ourselves through while still being effective ambassadors for change.
Our people have been violated for so long through colonization tactics such as divide and conquer, so it requires patience, fortitude, compassion and love to break down those walls of separation that have led us to where we are.
Because I am a warrior archetype, I often forget to practice the virtues of love and compassion within myself, and without that I am left vulnerable to negativity in many forms. I find that if I take just a little time to meditate or love myself and let go of things that don’t serve me, I am able to connect more clearly with others.
SYJ: What are some of your favorite songs or musicians that have served as catalysts for transformation on your journeys?
I’m gonna break the rules here and say the entire One Tribe soundtrack. I can say that because it’s not just me, it’s my crew, my favorite songwriters, and songs that are so relevant.
India.Arie’s “Heart of the Matter” taught me forgiveness. And One Tribe’s “We are in this Together” – I have to say this song because the process of making it demanded that we really learn to be in it together and support each other. We almost quit, and made it through!
I have been listening a lot to Nahko’s new album ‘HOKA.’ I am also very inspired by Lily Fangz, Supaman, and TRIBE CALLED RED.
Trevor Hall and Xavier Rudd.
A song that has catalyzed transformation for me is “Peaceful Warriors” by One Tribe, which was channeled by our very own Kelli Love. Bob Marley has been of great help to me as well.
SYJ: What is one simple direct action (of the many) that you feel is extremely important for our global family to take right now, in our day-to-day lives?
Divest from systems that oppress us. I mean, put your energy into living your passions, and share it with others.
Grow a garden! Compost! Eat local! Gather with community! Host potlucks! Sing!
My three-year-old is a great teacher to me – he reminds me not to take things too seriously, and to find magic in all things. He helps me remember how to love and accept from a pure heart. We need to tune in with children more. The sacred little people are the leaders of our next generation!
Source your everyday supplies from local vendors and businesses. Take your money out of the big banks that fund huge oil projects, and into credit unions that don’t.
One simple action we can all do daily is prayer. I have learned from my Lakota elders never to doubt that the power of our prayer is strong.
SYJ: How can our readers stay up to date with each of you personally and One Tribe collectively?
One Tribe: Reach out, bring us to your communities! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facebook: One Tribe Movement
Facebook: Tubby Love
Facebook: Amber Lily
Facebook: Kelli Love