Bridge over troubled water
Scatter Their Own combines Native activism with rock
Among the first group of activists arrested this past summer as part of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation protests against the crude oil Dakota Access Pipeline were Scotti Clifford and Juliana Brown Eyes, a married couple who also perform as Scatter Their Own, an Oglala Lakota band from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. The band’s bluesy indie-rock anthems celebrate the sacredness of land and water to their tribe. They call their mix of activism and guitar-driven songs “Alter-Native Rock & Roll.”
“We were there at the beginning when there were only 50 or 60 people at the camp. We were one of the first 10 individuals arrested at Standing Rock,” Clifford told “One of the things my friend Hank Means, who is the son of Russell Means, said was ‘We are not protesting. We are protecting the water. We are water protectors, not protesters.’ The best thing about this movement is it has brought 300 Native American tribes together. People from all over the world are standing in solidarity as relatives.”
For several years now, the band has been touring the country, performing a set list of songs that explore Lakota identity and the band members’ connection to their heritage and to the earth. As thousands of people have converged in South Dakota to defend the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation against the oil pipeline construction, the band’s message has become as urgent as it is local. When Scatter Their Own plays on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Digital Dome at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Clifford and Brown Eyes will likely have a lot to address with the audience. Prior to the concert, on the IAIA campus, Clifford and Brown Eyes will also be leading free student workshops on how to negotiate life as a performing artist while promoting Native activism and preserving one’s indigenous heritage.
“A few years back, Scatter Their Own formed out of a social movement,” said Clifford. “The name comes from the idea that we wanted to scatter our own Lakota point of view. We wanted to scatter those concepts and philosophies, so hence the name Scatter Their Own, as in scatter their own beauty across the country.”
As a teenager, Clifford was already touring the country as a backing guitarist with Indigenous, another well-known Native American South Dakota band that mixed lyrics celebrating American Indian life with a bluesy rock style. The celebrated band has performed internationally, including opening stadium concerts for Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King.
It’s easy to see Indigenous’ influence on Scatter Their Own. While the band hasn’t opened stadiums or played Late Night with Conan O’Brien the way Indigenous has, Scatter Their Own has carved out a more indie route to developing a fan base that is both Native and non-Native. The band’s 2014 album was promoted through Native media and through its performances at the South by Southwest festival in Austin. It’s been nominated for Native American Music awards (the NAMMYs), while profiles of the band members
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