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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 6, 2002 - Issue 58


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Vocal support with an MTV beat

by by Diana Campbell Staff Reporter Fairbanks Daily News Miner
credits: VOCAL PROTEST-- Robbie Romero of the band Red Thunder plays the song "Heartbeat" in the lobby of the TCC Building Monday. Romero is touring six Alaska communities to promote awareness of Gwich'in Athabascan resistance to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The crowd moved in as Robby Romero, also known as Red Thunder, began to sing at a reception for him sponsored by Tanana Chiefs Conference.

A yelp of recognition came from the back of the crowd as Romero began the chorus of "Heartbeat," a song made famous by a statewide television show called "Heartbeat Alaska."

"There's a heartbeat, loud as thunder," Romero sang as he strummed his acoustic guitar, adorned with a single eagle feather.

"Revolution is in the air," he softly sang.

Romero is touring six Alaska communities, along with a film crew, to support the Gwich'in Athabascans and their fight against oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He hopes the finished half-hour show called "Thunder Storm" will air April 22 on MTV. He's made several such music and social video commentaries. One, called "Hidden Medicine," is currently running on the Sundance Channel.

"I'm happy to do what I can to protect the Gwich'in land and way of life," Romero said to the more than 40 people who came to hear him sing. "I've been fighting with people a long time to protect the refuge and protect the Gwich'in culture."

Romero, an Apache, formed the "alter-native" rock band in 1990, and debuted as part of MTV's "Street Party."

He became known in Alaska in 1994 with his album Makoce Wakan. A single from that album, "Heartbeat," became the theme song for "Heartbeat Alaska," an award-winning show that spotlights Alaska Native village news hosted by Jeannie Green.

At the reception in the lobby of the Chief Peter John Tribal building Monday, Romero sang several songs from his albums. The most recent one, "Hidden Medicine," features songs from the documentary airing on Sundance.

Romero was accompanied by Dune Lankard, an Eyak man from Cordova, and Sarah James, a spokeswoman for the Gwich'in Steering Committee. The group will leave for Arctic Village and Venetie for concerts this week.

Lankard told the crowd he gave up his fishing career in 1989 on the day the Exxon Valdez spilled crude oil into the Prince William Sound. The crude coated miles of coastal beaches with sticky black crude, killing fish, wildlife and birds and halting commercial, sport and subsistence fishing.

The pair observed the 13th anniversary of that day on Sunday with a concert in Anchorage.

"Exxon has not lived up to promises, have not cleaned up their mess," Lankard said. "So why should we ever think about handing over the keys to the refuge?"

James said their fight was about subsistence.

"We have a right to have that healthy caribou on our table," James said.

Robbie Romero-Red Thunder
In 1990 Robby formed Red Thunder, an alter-native rock band with roots deep in the heart of Indian Country. Red Thunder debuted from the Apache Territories of the Southwest as part of MTV’s Street Party broadcast.

Anchorage, AK Map

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Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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