One of the longest struggles for human rights in the United States is rarely talked about. Indigenous Peoples in the US (and around the world) have faced colonialism, oppression, economic and environmental injustices, and violence throughout history. Many threats to their lands and livelihoods have yet to be addressed. Frank Waln, a 25-year-old Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist, uses music to make sense of the world and to spread awareness of the issues facing Indigenous people. He believes that music can help to spread this message because of the emotional response it creates.

 My music became political whether I wanted it to or not, just because I was talking about my life and the history of my tribe. [For example], the feeling I get when I think about what the Keystone pipeline will do to my home and the future for me. Capturing the way that it makes me feel and putting that in a song so that no matter who you are, when you hear or see the song performed live, you’ll be able to feel that same urgency. I think that’s where art comes in—and music especially— in things like resistance against the pipeline. It brings an emotional element that’s very much needed.

Though his music relates directly to his life, it also ties into universal emotions, which makes the music more relatable to a wider audience. This is part of the power of music as well, to reach audiences that are different, that see the world differently, and connect with them as well.

Frank has been featured on MTV’s Rebel Music, and continues to tour, performing and holding workshops with youth. He believes that “walking with young people is where I will have the most impact.” He is currently working on the release of his first full-length album.

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