Nahko and Medicine For the People (Interview)

by Good Sign on September 11, 2015

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By Kevin Alan Lamb

The time has come for the people of this planet to wake up, look inside themselves, and discover the chemistry capable of igniting a spark in the hearts of those sleeping while this earth and its inhabitants suffer. Born benevolent beings, hearts are hardened while dreams deferred due to the perpetuated dissonance of what it means to be humane. Darkness resides behind closed eyes that refuse to see potential in all people, yet no matter the sickness, there is Medicine for the People.

“I am a miracle made up of particles
and in this existence,
I’ll stay persistent,
and I’ll make a difference
and I will have lived it”

Every day Nahko Bear wakes up unable to grasp how we arrived to this state of complete chaos in the United States, yet he still “believes in the good things coming.”

Adopted at nine-years-old, his mother was raped by his father, producing a warrior intent on restoring integrity to music, and humanity to the planet. An Oregon-native, born of Apache, Puerto Rican, and Filipino descent, it wasn’t until Nahko Bear went to Alaska that he started really wondering where his family was. While it is human nature to wander and wonder over our origins, what we ultimately discover often leaves us paralyzed in dismay.

“Papa got shot in the head.
He got what was coming to him, now he’s dead.
Child molester, 36 years old.
Left four kids and a wife in the cold.
Great grandfather got shot in the back.
Protecting Filipinos
from the corporate attack.
And great grandmother
shot herself in the mouth.
She was ready to go,
and I could hear her shout
She says,
‘Oo so thankful, oo so thankful’
‘Oo so thankful, oo so thankful’”

Discovering his roots may have knocked the mighty Bear to the ground, but he didn’t stay there long. With the knowledge of his past, came the calling for his future, and Tribe.

“I saw the power of forgiveness and the way it changed me. If certain things hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be here. It’s hard to truly accept. Everyday I’m working through stuff to help me uncover what I’ve blocked, and really learn what it means to unconditionally love. It taught me about being selfless.”

Gratitude ought to be a class taught in elementary school. The existential beauty of freedom is being traded for entitled privilege. Communities thrive with the basic understand that we offer our time, energy, and gifts to help others when they are in need; yet, the alleged “Land of the Free” continues to squeeze life from where it is fleeting. But no matter this sickness, there is Medicine for the People.

“It’s a hard place to come to because of the pain we carry. I’m not sure people can or need to (shift from entitled to grateful). Not everyone is meant to, or destined to.”

While the word “medicine” is perceived in the Western world as medical treatment, prescriptions, and dependence, the American Indians adopted the word in the sense of “magical influence.” Forgiveness offers an opportunity to remove one’s self from his or her immediate pain and suffering, and transcend to a higher plain where struggle is recognized as opportunity for growth.

“That’s funny you ask that because I was just talking to my Filipino family who were trying to teach me to say Medicine for the People in Tagalog. One way means drugs, one means healing. If you are into food, plants, medicine, earth stuff, your understanding of medicine is different than Western medicine. Western medicine conjures a certain idea… We’re offering a cool, revolutionary way to talk about music. Music can be healing. That’s the thing about words; they have so many meanings.”

With our words we will change this world by understanding what it means to be a part of it. Everyday we me must work on taking better care of ourselves, so we are open to, and moved by helping others.

“Everyone is in a different stage on in their journey. A lot of self-care needs to take place on a deeper level. But you can be involved no matter your stage in development, because you’re always working on yourself… capable of having breakthroughs in the midst of your activism.”

No matter the courage or weariness in your heart, helping hands, shared vibrations, and true community are the best medicine. The plight of struggle will disable the most familiar routine; and while its weight may seem to take every bit of breath from your lungs, there is an undeniable force for good in this world capable of combating any and all opposing forces. With strength in spirit, strength in numbers, and strength in each other, there is Medicine for the People.

“I think humanity means common ground. I can see in the business culture and Western culture, the old guard wants to blame, wants acknowledgement for what’s been done to them, while the Western world has some seeking of roots to do. But we all share the same breath, and drink the same water. We share that as humans even though in places like Australia, the US, and Nazi Germany there have been acts to breed out the savage. We’re a complicated species… A generation coming into a new paradigm that thinks we know where we’re coming from, and where we want to go.”

With freedom comes the choice to live in ignorant bliss, or dare to be activated and pursue your potential for the sake of your soul and humanity. The state of affairs on US soil fails to embody the vision of an American Dream. The pursuit of happiness has been traded for the pursuit of material possession with little regard for the people and the planet; but do not fear, there is Medicine for the People.

“As a musical collective, our mission is to be the motivation and inspiration for all that have become members of our Tribe. Within our global community, we have access to the tools needed to make changes, take action and spread awareness of how to live in harmony with Mother Gaia herself. We are honored to be a force of attraction for positive and creative minds during these often-corrupt times. With your trust and support, we humbly accept this role and speak our prayers of intention to take direct action… ‘Hoka Hey’ means, ‘today is a good day to die’, but perhaps with your help, it could transform into a better day to live.”

Along with the mission statement above, Nahko and Medicine for the People advocate for Honor the Earth, Honor the Treaties, Be the Change Charities, Project Survival Media, Conscious Alliance, 350.org, Earth Guardians, and Do It For The Love Foundation. Their music is a bridge for a broad culture that cannot be confined, defined, or deterred. Every day the range and reach of their message stretches across the oceans, from mountaintops to the valleys below, because it is time… for Medicine for the People.

“Family for sure. My mom, dad, a lot of simpleton peeps along the way with one act of kindness, and the accidental growth of the movement and music” help Nahko ‘Believe in the good things coming’.

This simple, yet profound lyric from “Black As Night” is giving the world something to believe in without the strings attached. Twenty-nine-year-old Nahko wrote the signature song while gazing at the moon, drinking wine, with his dear friend and canine when inspiration struck.

“Koda. I got him in the Flathead area in Montana. He died in May, from cancer. RIP Koda Bear.”

The Medicine Tribe exemplifies Nahko’s innate nature as a gatherer, always searching for his family, while helping others discover theirs through music. He is a shining star that refused to be diffused by darkness. His mission is permission to carry on despite despicable acts of the weak, cowardice, and evil.

“Holy holy grandmother we sing,
Wash us clean of our pain and suffering
Give us strength for a new beginning
In my deepest grace I sing”

Pain and suffering reside within the beating heart, bones, and breath of each creature fortunate enough to breathe another; but the choice to play the victim or the hero is yours. Even amidst an ancestry plagued with bloodshed, if given the opportunity to bring back anyone from the dead for just one more day, Nahko’s selfless nature shines through.

“All the people who died… what if they stayed? In terms of true artists: Leonard Cohen and Jimi Hendrix. Activists: Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.”

When gazing upon real heroes, it is curious to wonder who are theirs?

“Travis Pastrana was my hero when I was 13-16. He completed the first ever double backflip in the X games. I was really into Jim Carrey. He made a commencement speech at Maharishi University…You know what I’m talking about… He found humor, and laughter is the best medicine. I’ve always wanted to make people laugh. I was a nerd, a goofball, homeschool, I didn’t have people skills. It took me a while to be me.”

Every human on this planet possesses something unique to share to counteract the pain and suffering of others. The following is an excerpt from Jim Carrey’s moving commencement speech:

“What’s yours? How will you serve the world? What do they need that your talent can provide? That’s all you have to figure out. As someone who has done what you are about to go do, I can tell you from experience, the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is… You are ready and able to do beautiful things in this world and after you walk through those doors today, you will only ever have two choices: love or fear. Choose love, and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.” Jim Carrey

Hope resides in children’s eyes, the joy of laughter, and the tenacity of love. It is broadcast from warrior hearts who take the stage, and with it, a movement for people to hold on to, find their humanity in, and dare to speak up, speak out, and remind others what integrity looks, feels, and sounds like.

“Conor Oberst, Bright Eyes. I followed him since I was a kid. He’s number one… was always there for me. Another more recent, in the last 10 years, more hip-hop, K’naan, from Somalia. He taught me how to tell a story through hip-hop. Taught me to write syllablistic poetry. And Paul Simon, can’t forget Paul.”

If Nahko could cover just one song, it would be “You’re the One I want” from Greece. If he had to pick a favorite Hunter S. Thompson book, with difficulty, it would be Gonzo Girl. And if he could record one album while spending one month on a boat with anyone, it would be The Avett Brothers.

“Releasing our third record in October, and it’s been a long time coming. Feels like I’ve been waiting forever. We don’t want to burn ourselves out, so we take every moment to chill. I don’t know what the future has in store, five years, 10 years from now, but I’ll never stop playing music, these songs. Only positive vibes on what’s to come.”

Even the greatest energy source in the universe experiences death by supernova; Nahko Bear is a shooting star this world needs not burn out, nor fade away. Where darkness resides, stars must shine brightest. Where sickness endures, music must make magic into Medicine for the People.

“When I was six my great aunt bought a piano and six months of lessons for all of us. I was the only one who stuck with it. Jerry Garcia’s horn teacher was my first piano teacher – Mrs. Parrot, she was 81.”

On behalf of all this earth’s creatures, thank you Mrs. Parrott.

“In the moon of the budding trees
I was gifted new eyes to see
All of the shifting shape and ways you can be
Wake the dreams into realities
Wake the dreams into realities”

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