Scotti Clifford and Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford of the band “Scatter Their Own,” both Native Americans, came to speak last Thursday at the African, Latin American, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center. They discussed their Native American heritage and how it is still an integral part of their lives, their music and the way that they view the world.
The Cliffords grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in rural South Dakota. There, they learned from their Oglala Lakota ancestors about spirituality, Native American values and traditions. Scotti’s grandfather taught and demonstrated the ways in which one should strive to live a simple life, meaning one should go about life by simply being honest, compassionate and also taking time for oneself. Identity is something that people should try to find within themselves along with truth, meaning and especially peace. His grandfather also taught him the importance of having a good relationship with the earth. Many Native American tribes believe that it is vital to have a relationship with the earth before one can have a relationship with oneself, let alone with others. This makes sense, as humans and the earth survive together – they work together and need one another. It is important that for all the earth gives us, we should treat the earth with great respect.
The speakers also discussed how adjusting to non-reservation life after growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is not an easy transition. The struggle described by the Cliffords not only comes from their educational and economic disadvantages but also largely from the way societal values are not aligned with those of their tribes. It is no secret that many people today are inherently competitive, tending to focus on achieving something great for personal benefit, conscious about their image and the ways they are identified. Because of distractions like technology, material items and constant stimulation, individuals are focused on trying to do as much as they can to benefit their lives. This driving force does not align with the beliefs that people should spend more time looking within themselves and that competition is unnecessary to a
It is inspiring how much the Cliffords have accomplished, and how resilient they have been in a society that does not mimic their personal values. As self-educated songwriters, singers and guitarists, the Cliffords have successfully produced an album of “Alter-Native” rock, an arrangement of music that largely pays tribute to
their ancestors. The name “Scatter Their Own” is a rough English translation of Oglala, the name of their people.
The Cliffords spoke specifically about their song “Taste The Time.” In its lyrics, it uses Native American symbolism and imagery, specifically that of the hoop. The artists use the image of the hoop to encourage an alternative to thinking outside of the box. Instead, Scotti emphasized thinking “inside the hoop” meant encompassing all parts of life, like nature, family and history.
The political aspect of the Cliffords’ music is focused mainly on the environment. For them, the environment is a very important aspect of their spiritual philosophy, and they wish there were more emphasis on it, especially on their reservation, on which it is difficult to recycle and other ways to support the environment.
No matter what race you are, what ethnic background you have or where you come from, everyone struggles with his or her identity. We can all learn from the Cliffords’ work by beginning to look within ourselves for identity rather than trying to grasp onto societal labels for the answers.
“Their musical performance is not traditional Native American, but rather a Native American spin on classical American performance,” co-president of the Native American Student Association senior Gillian Weaver said. “I personally think it’s important to have contemporary Native American performances as well as the traditional to represent the diverse ways
Native American artists express themselves.”