(This is the Learning Episode 6 for Shane Doyle (Crow) and Megkian Doyle’s teaching unit, “Living within the Four Base Tipi Poles of the Apsáalooke Homeland.”)
Three 50-minute class periods
By Shane Doyle
SELECTED COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
CCSS Literacy SL 10-1
Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS Literacy SL 10-1d
Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
CCSS Literacy RH 10-1
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
CCSS Literacy RH 10-2
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of a text.
CCSS Literacy RH 10-3
Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
CCSS Literacy RH 10-4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social studies.
GOALS FOR UNDERSTANDING
Students will understand
- The work of a contemporary Crow (Apsáalooke) music artist
- The role of activism in social awareness and change.
- The major players at the Massacre at Wounded Knee.
- The historical climate surrounding the Massacre.
- The appropriate amount and presentation of information necessary for the public to understand and respond to social messages.
- The messages presented by Supaman, Casper, and the Indigo Girls.
- Contemporary issues facing Indian tribes today.
- Ways in which young people can have an impact upon the social events and trajectory in their communities.
- Who is Supaman?
- How does Supaman’s work create a social commentary about contemporary Crow (Apsáalooke) life?
- What role does history play in understanding the present?
- What happened at Wounded Knee?
- How did it happen (examining the social climate)?
- Who are Sitting Bull, Red Cloud and Big Foot and what roles did they play in history?
- What is activism?
- How are musicians involved in activism?
- What information does the public need to have in order to understand an activist’s message?
- How can students play a role in influencing public education about important issues?
Students will be able to
- Define some contributions Crow Indians (Apsáalooke) have made to contemporary society.
- Define the meaning and purpose of activism and understand and critique the messages contained in the activist songs included in the lesson below.
- Understand the historical roles of Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, and Big Foot in the Massacre at Wounded Knee as well as the social and political climate of the time.
- Understand the history behind events mentioned and make connections between historical learning and the activist message that clarify the meaning of the song lyrics.
- Evaluate activist information and make discriminating decisions about message content and delivery in their own work and the work of others.
- Appreciate the results of activist work done by other teens.
- Locate and research important issues and design effective social messages to communicate important information to the public about selected social issues.
- Work cooperatively with others in the design, execution, and presentation of projects for activism.
Suggested Formative Assessment of Learning Outcomes
- Class discussions.
- Wounded Knee research worksheet.
- Writing of social activism lyric.
- Word web evaluation of lyrics.
- Word web of group project images.
- Higher order thinking applied to future social issue discussion.
- Attention to the social/historical climate surrounding social thought.
- An increased desire to understand and research issues presented for social action.
- Greater scrutiny of social messages.
Culminating Performance Assessment of Learning Outcomes
- Performance of poem, song, or video.
- Performance should demonstrate clear understanding of chosen social issue, the sides involved, and the primary message they wish to convey through the performance.
- Critique of peers’ performances.
- Critiques should show evidence of independent critical thought, careful analysis of messages and issues presented, and ability to provide constructive criticism.
Christian Takes Gun is an enrolled member of the Crow tribe and a nationally-known rap artist, featured in March 2014 as MTV’s Iggy Artist of the Week. He is a NAMMY (Native American Music Awards) winner and champion fancy dancer, traveling to pow wows, schools, and live shows to perform. Many of Chris’ (a.k.a. Supaman’s) songs fall into the category of social commentary. Often the lyrics reference the past and present history of Native Americans and the Apsáalooke (Crow) specifically. In addition, his music videos often blend both contemporary and historical images to reinforce and clarify his message and symbolism. You can find Chris’ audio file about his Indian name connected to the lesson titled “What Does My Name Mean?”
In the world of music many artists choose to use their music to talk about things in the world that they want to change or see improved. They write about the bad things that are happening and the good. Their goal is often to cause you to stop and think about an issue that is important to them. When music is used in this way, it is called social commentary.
- What songs/artists can you think of who have songs like this?
- What issues are they addressing? What is the goal of the song?
- Do they want you to do something, understand an idea, be more aware, etc.?
- Now think about music videos that may accompany some of these songs. What types of images are used?
- How do the images affect your perception of what the song is saying? Do the images reinforce or strengthen a particular message? How do the images do this? What emotions does the combination of music and image cause you to feel?
- Computer/internet to access clips below and for student research
- Rhyming dictionaries
- Cell phones or video cameras
- Research guide worksheet copies
- Butcher paper
Access the National Public Radio program All Things Considered. This link takes you directly to the program aired on October 11, 2011 with an interview of Christian Takes Gun (a.k.a. Supaman) talking about growing up on the Crow Reservation (Apsáalooke) and the impact of this on his musical career.
In addition to being a rap artist, Chris is also a member of the Crow tribe and very involved in the life of the collective Crow people. He is also a champion fancy dancer.
A fancy dance competition at the Browning pow wow, in Browning Montana in which Chris (Supa Man) participated
In small groups make a quick list of what you now know about Supaman. How will what you know about him inform your experience of his music?
Introduce the concept of social commentary in the context of Chris’ observations of reservation life and of being an American Indian. “Social commentary is the act of using rhetorical means to provide commentary on issues in a society. This is often done with the idea of implementing or promoting change by informing the general populace about a given problem and appealing to people’s sense of justice. Social commentary can be practiced through all forms of communication, from printed form, to conversations to computerized communication.
Two examples of strong and bitter social commentary are the writings of Jonathan Swift and Martin Luther. Swift exposed and decried the appalling poverty in Ireland at the time, which was viewed as the fault of the British government. Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation against practices of the Catholic Church.
View Supaman’s song The Prayer. You can access this music video at the YouTube link below or as a link in the NPR transcript. Remind students to listen to the lyrics and also to pay close attention to the images used.
The music video for Supaman’s song The Prayer
Engage students in a discussion about the song. In what ways is this song a form of social commentary? What are the issues presented? What is the overall message of the song? In your opinion, who is the intended audience?
Divide students into small groups and give each group a piece of butcher paper. Ask students to draw six large circles on the paper. Play the song a second time and ask the students to write the names of issues addressed by the song as they listen. If they are able to fill six circles they may add more circles if needed. When the song is finished ask the students to each work on a circle. When the song is played a third time each of the students will make a word web drawing a line from the issue to a new smaller circle. In these smaller circles students will list the images presented in the video that are associated with each issue. For example one issue is treaty rights so “treaty rights” would be listed in one large circle. Connected to this circle would be a line to a new smaller circle that describes the image of a group of Indians signing a treaty.
As a class allow students to brainstorm social issues they feel are important to educate the public about. For more ideas, view some examples of youth-led activism projects. After coming up with a list of ideas, allow students to divide into small groups, select a social issue, engage in research, and begin writing the lyrics (basically a poem) for a song that will address their issue and achieve the goals of their commentary/activism. In order to do this well, students will need to research their issues (you may consider applying the research worksheet below to this research), decide what the public needs to know, and figure out how best to present a message about the issue. Students might also choose to apply music to their lyrics by composing an original tune or putting their words to a familiar song. After completing their lyrics, students should repeat the word web exercise as a project organizer. Students should list the issue(s) they are addressing and then organize images they would like to use to further experiment with symbolism and message. Students should be allowed to compile these images into a video to accompany their lyrics if time is permitting. Rhyming dictionaries often provide a nice catalyst for rap-type lyrics/poetry.
Each set of lyrics should be presented to the class and discussed. If students make videos, these should be presented to the class. Students should critique the presentation of the messages and discuss the effectiveness of the proposed activism through music. Some questions that can be used to guide the critique include:
- What is the message being presented?
- What is the most effective aspect of this presentation?
- What do the authors want to change?
- Are there any methods to attain the change proposed by the song?
- What aspects of the presentation impacted you the most?
DIFFERENTIATED INSTRUCTION FOR ADVANCED AND EMERGING LEARNERS
Struggling learners may wish to find a song that is already written and evaluate it rather than writing one of their own. They might also be allowed to suggest an issue and the teacher and/or other students may be able to help the student find a song about that issue that the student could critique. Students are probably familiar with different musicians who have staged concerts to promote activism about certain important social issues (Bono & U2 – AIDS, John Mellancamp, Neil Young, and Willie Nelson – Farm Aid, Bonnie Raitt – Environmental and Women’s Issues, etc.) For advanced learners discuss the goals of concerts like these and introduce the concept of social activism (in this case activism through music). “Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis. Activism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, and hunger strikes. Research is beginning to explore how activist groups in the U.S. and Canada are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activism
Advanced students may examine one or both of the songs listed below in the resources (Honor the People by Casper and/or Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Buffy Saint- Marie). You may also allow students to read the lyrics of the song (listed below). Much of the burden of social activism lies in educating the public about certain issues. Discuss what each of the songs is addressing and allow students to suggest other types of information they may want to research to understand the issue(s) presented. (Students probably will not have a good understanding of the issues presented in the songs without performing some research.) Advanced learners may also do further research on Christian Parrish, a.k.a. Supaman. Google will yield a number of recent interviews and news articles about the artist and his work.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
http://www.npr.org/2011/10/11/141238763/supaman-rapping-on-the-reservation – National Public Radio program All Things Considered interview with Supaman. You can listen to the audio program as it aired on the radio or read the transcript.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55GmgHT88Ps – video of a fancy dance competition at the Browning pow wow, in Browning, Montana in which Chris (Supa Man) participated
Wounded Knee Memorial Movie from the Wounded Knee Museum
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qw7LGMd8LFk Song: Honor the People by Casper
Casper’s Brave Underground Sound, article published in Indian Country Today and written by Brenda Norrell
http://freechild.org/youth_activism_2.htm Access this site to observe examples of youth-led social activism programs.
Idle No More http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idle_No_More Flash Mobs and Round Dance Songs for Idle No More, a group of Canadian First Nations activists.