The sounds echo for generations... well before these states were united. Well before North America's indigenous people were forced from their land by settlers.
"No matter where you live in America, you're living on occupied land that indigenous people were murdered," says rapper/activist Frank Waln at the outset of "Native America: 7th Generation Rises," the latest episode of MTV's "Rebel Music." The half-hour special, which debuted on MTV's YouTube channel, is a deep look at the mindset and musical response of young Native American musicians and activists using their voices to speak truth to their sometimes difficult daily reality.
Drawing from the high rates of sexual violence against Native women and high suicide rates among Native teens, musicians like Inez Jasper from Chilliwack, British Columbia, look to create positivity and inspiration with such uplifting anthems as "Dancin' on the Run," a plea for unity punctuated by traditional animal-skin drum beats over an EDM swirl of sound.
"The 7th Generation is going to rise in America and all the world is going to see these young kids saving the earth," says activist Robin Lebeau. This generation isn't just writing songs as a creative outlet, but also as a means to tell stories, to wake up minds and to speak out against the continued injustices they see perpetrated against their people.
These activists and artists are bound by a single prophecy, which says that out of a time of crisis, a 7th generation will rise to restore the Earth's balance. They may be that generation, and the burden of being that change is firmly on their shoulders. And it's a weight they're happy to carry in the hope that they can change even one life and lift their people to greatness.
Chinle, Arizona, rapper Nataanii Means knows that the highest suicide rates in the nation are found among Native people and hopes his music can help turn that statistic around. "With my music I'm trying to reach these kids... I'll be successful if just one kid comes up to me and tells me my music helped him," he says.
Taking a common refrain heard around the nation over the past year in relation to the death of young black men at the hands of police, Means’ friend and collaborator Mike "Witko" Cliff adds, "native lives matter," a refrain heard at demonstrations demanding fair police treatment of Native people.
South Dakota's Waln says the lessons he was taught about the traumatic treatment of indigenous people struck a deep chord within him, inspiring a look around his home on the Rosebud Reservation and seeking inspiration from his people's story. "I think there's a connection between traditional storytelling and hip-hop," he says of the way he weaves beats, rhymes and NA music with lessons about protecting the Earth and each other. "My people have been storytellers for thousands of years and this is just a new way to tell our story."
Facing the threat of the controversial Keystone pipeline cutting twice through South Dakota's Ogallala Aquifer -- a key source of water for Waln's reservation -- the rapper joined a movement rallying against the project that could destroy the land if oil were to leak from it.
"My ancestors fought and died for me to even be alive," he says about the thoughts that helped inspire his song, "Oil 4 Blood," which rails against the proposed pipeline. "I have a responsibly. If we don't pick up that fight, who will?... The only thing I knew how to do is write a song."
Just as Waln has taken up the cause of fighting Keystone, Jasper focuses much of her attention on bringing light to the problem of missing and murdered native women and girls. "It's the system that it to blame and the system needs to take responsibly for it," she says of the historical stereotypes and trauma that may have contributed to the nearly 1,200 cases of missing or murdered indigenous women.
So, while Waln travels to Washington to urge President Obama to veto Keystone (which he did), Jasper organizes self-defense classes and songwriting workshops for girls as a means of empowerment and strength. It's more than music and goes beyond dreams of stardom or fame. It's a gift that, literally, gives back and inspires.
"I know that I'm one person and I can't change the world," Jasper says. "But I can hopefully use my pull as an artist to influence my audience and hopefully we together can make some change. We can empower the young women like my daughter to learn how to walk through this world boldly but carefully."
Tune in every week for new episodes of "Rebel Music," which premiere each Thursday on YouTube.com/MTV.