Monday, January 9, 2012

Native Voices

Fancy Dancer Rylan Baker - Photo courtesy Google Images and

Every January the cowboys come to town. All things cowboy and western - from livestock to leather boots, felt fedoras to bucking broncs – gather at the Coliseum to swing their tails and tell their tales in Denver, Colorado. For a few weeks in January, the well-known and infamous National Western Stock Show which began its century-old tradition back in 1906, comes to town. The Stock Show, as it is known locally, was born 106 years ago as an idea invented by livestock growers in Colorado to boost recognition (and sales) for their work (i.e. livestock and agricultural products) and compete with more popular meat-producing cities in the east such as Kansas City and Chicago. January was chosen as a great time (after the holidays and a winter lull in sales) to command attention from the public. It has been a dramatic draw ever since, growing from a local event to a national one. For more information see

However, long before all the old world animals such as sheep, cattle and pigs were introduced to the Americas by European invaders and shown at the stock show; the magnificent American bison (Bison bison) roamed the western Great Plains. Before the West was overrun with gun-clad cowboys and Stetson-hatted stockman, there lived an indigenous people. These people hunted the wild game and bison of the region and this food source was crucial to survival. Interestingly, today the bison is finally being recognized as an important source of nutritious, low-fat and naturally grass-fed meat.

They were the original inhabitants - native peoples that inhabited this new world - and they were comprised of well over 500 tribes, numerous nations, and countless clans. While the Spanish Conquistadors were annihilating the peoples in the southern regions - Mexico, Central and South America - the English, Dutch and French were incrementally taking over the North American region. The take-over was complete long before the 19th century came to a close. Like many things from nature that are made near-extinct, their habitat was stolen to make way for a new society and ways. Not only did they bring non-native animals, birds and plants, but diseases such as smallpox which devastated the native populations. These first people’s way of coexisting with the land - the native animals and plants - was destroyed and the American Indians were relegated to spend their lives on reservations. The land of the reservations was too small to sustain a hunter/gatherer society with enough habitat to support herds of native animals. Their ghosts whisper to me of tremendous loss and what it means to be made powerless and marginalized.

Miraculously every Sunday morning without fail at 7 a.m. they have been given a voice to be recognized and heard. Colorado hosts a public radio program called alter-Native Voices in Denver and Breckenridge on KUVO (89.3 FM), in Vail on KVJZ (88.5 FM), and live-streaming on  For one hour on Sunday morning Susie Aikman, your host and DJ, shares the music of such talents as: Arvel Bird, Bill Miller, Buffy St. Marie, Brule´, Jana, Red Feather Woman, Robert Mirabel, and Carlos Nakai. Interwoven into the playlist are stories, brief history lessons and Native American community events shared to enlighten the listener. Every Sunday, Bumble and I share morning coffee and awaken our ears to hear these voices. It is like being in a church filled with Great Spirit. Tune in and listen to an alternative voice and you will not be disappointed.

Another January tradition happening in Denver that balances the cowboy event of Stock Show is the Colorado Indian Market and Southwest Showcase held January 20-21-22,2012. Beautiful artwork, pottery, jewelry, clothing, furniture, and entertainment are tightly packed into the Denver Merchandise Mart. Here on their stage you can experience live the music you may have sampled listening to at alter-Native Voices. This month you can hear the music of award-winning Brule´ and Shelley Morningsong, and experience Tom Ware's American Indian Exposition Dancers. Watching Native American dancers is heart-stopping. The energy, rhythm and colors will mesmerize and make a deep impression. I urge you to hear these native voices (on the radio, at the upcoming Colorado Indian Market or a local Pow Wow) and to be changed forever!

Three children dancers - Photo courtesy Google Images


1 comment:

  1. The photos really spruce up the blog and make it tantalizing.