SHERIDAN — Applause and laughter echoed throughout Kinnison Hall. Illuminated by red glow sticks to raise awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women, a crowd nearly filled the auditorium at the Sheridan College Whitney Center for the Arts Wednesday night.
The audience attended a unique performance by Christian Parrish Takes The Gun, a member of the Crow Tribe who goes by the stage name Supaman. The Sheridan College Native American Club organized Supaman’s performance for the second year. Last year’s concert was held following racial slurs directed toward two Native American students in September 2017
In his onstage introduction, Supaman said he appreciated the event’s origin.
“It came from something kind of bad and negative and they turned it into something powerful and good,” he said.
Before a two-hour show that involved a mixture of comedy, hip hop, traditional Native American music and personal stories, Supaman, a 2017 Video Music Awards winner, spoke with The Sheridan Press. He discussed his musical evolution, misconceptions about his culture and potential changes to help improve the lives of Native Americans.
The interview has been edited and condensed.
Press: How’d the performance last year come about?
Supaman: Some slurs were directed at certain students and things like that, so they kind of wanted to address that. They wanted to address what was going on and kind of bring that good vibe back to, “Hey, not everybody is that way in this community, at this college.”
Give non-Natives another perception of Natives as well. There’s a lot of business that comes from the (Crow) Reservation (in southern Montana) here to Sheridan, so they’re always seeing Natives, and it’s just a different culture. To have the performance, it was kind of a way to give them a different perspective about Native culture and values.
Press: When you heard about the incident with racial slurs, was that surprising to you?
Supaman: No, it wasn’t surprising at all, because those things are normal with the border towns of our reservation … It wasn’t surprising at all, which is unfortunate.
Press: What’s the best part about being Native American?
Supaman: Probably the connection with your people. You have a history that can go back generations to generations in my family and to know that I was connected in that way and be a part of that. Having different values and kinships, belonging to that culture … To be connected with that sacred and ancient culture is amazing.
Press: What’s the toughest part?
Supaman: Colonization has an effect on the people, and we’re still feeling those effects in a negative way. Those are the hardest things, to see people struggle with alcoholism, suicide … Not only just my own people but everywhere, all over the United States, and because of what was done to the people, there’s that effect that happens. We have to get ourselves mentally out of this hole we were forced in.
Press: Hypothetically, you’re President of the country. What changes do you try to make to help Native Americans in the U.S.?
Supaman: Shoot, that’s huge. I would rightfully return the land back to the people (from) all the treaties that were broken … That’s justice right there. That would be one of the first things I would do.
Press: Why do you think that’s so important?
Supaman: Because it’s justice. It’s the right thing to do because over the years that has had an impact, being lied to by the country you are in.
Press: Has your music evolved over the years?
Supaman: I actually started as a Christian artist, all my stuff was gospel rap, things like that … Always staying positive, and I would see the lack of education at my performances. People didn’t know about Native issues or things like that, because I was never a “Power to the people”-type of rapper, but I saw that lack of education of stereotypes. Simple things like the history of the country from a Native perspective wasn’t being taught at all … I felt that it was kind of my responsibility to start sharing more that comes from the culture and the Native perspective, and kind of shed light on those things that people don’t hear about.
Press: What’s an overlooked aspect of your job, or something people may not think about or consider?
Supaman: I would say the busyness, like being really busy and kind of overwhelmed at times, you know? Overwhelmed with business and at the same time being a family man and trying to balance that.
Press: When you’re performing, what’s your mindset? What do you hope to provide to the audience?
Supaman: I want the crowd to leave my performances feeling better. Happy, laughter, joy, also love and living in the moment. Hopefully these performances bring those people back to the essence of what really matters, which is family, time spent with your loved ones. That’s what I hope that they leave with is just an overall happy state … Also educated as well, like, “Everybody feeling good?” But at the same time, “Hey I got a little new perspective here. Cool, I got that.”
… I have a lot of activist friends who are all militant … The way they present their stuff is kind of like in an angry way, which has its place, too … But that’s not for me. I always like to come out and use [my] skills, which is art, to educate.
Press: It seems like music is a pretty good way to make that connection between people.
Supaman: Definitely. As long as it’s positive … When I wear my outfit, I don’t think I could do that and represent in that way if I was talking about drinking and doing drugs and me wearing that outfit. I would be like, “Get that guy off the stage, you can’t do that.” If you’re doing positive things and trying to reach out with good intentions, I think it’s better presented in that way.
Press: Do you ever feel pressure to represent your Tribe or Native American people?
Supaman: No, it’s just automatic for me to represent Appsalooke people. I’m proud to do it. I guess there’s not that pressure because I feel I’m doing it in a good way. I’m not a historian, I don’t know everything about being an Appsalooke … There’s a lot that I don’t know, but I feel in my spirit that I’m doing the best I can, and I’m confident with that.