By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – In an hour-long performance, Supaman is able to transcend his audience through a multitude of emotions and valuable lessons, both personal and historical. The Apsáalooke rapper and dancer, dressed in traditional Crow regalia, mixes rap and traditional Crow song and dance with stand-up comedy, as well as stories of his troubled childhood growing up on the Crow Reservation, including battling alcoholism and the foster care system.
Supaman, whose given name is Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, was part of the Arts Council of Big Sky’s Artist in Residence program with Lone Peak High School on Nov. 16 and 17. The Arts Council coordinated with history and social studies teacher Tony Coppola as well as Shane Doyle from the Montana State University Office of Public Instruction, who is an educational consultant on Native American Studies.
“We strive to use the Artist in Residence program as a way to expose the students to diversity and culture through the arts,” said Megan Buecking, the Arts Council Outreach and Education Coordinator. “Supaman combines music, dance, traditional regalia to engage his audience with the concepts of contemporary Native American culture.”
Supaman is featured alongside the Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo in the music video “Stand Up /Stand N Rock #NoDAPL” earning him an MTV Video Music Award in 2017. Along with his success, Supaman produces his own albums, which he feels ensures its authenticity.
“We listened to these rappers, we listened to what they were saying,” Supaman said, remembering his early days as a DJ. He spoke of the oppression Native peoples have faced and continue to face in the U.S. “What they were saying kind of resonated with a lot of Native Indigenous people because they were talking about being oppressed …we can relate.”
Supaman spoke to the high school students seated in the auditorium about the importance of passing down traditions and of keeping the language of his people alive. He performed the “Men’s Fancy Dance,” as well as the “Crow Hop,” explaining the different elements of his regalia and spoke of the annual Crow Fair. Most of all though, Supaman shares his stories to connect with his audience—to ensure they know they are not alone in their endured hardships.
“When you’re vulnerable, like I was on stage telling my story about my childhood, there’s people in the crowd who listen and they might be able to relate to that story,” he said. “You never know how far your music goes out and touches people, you know, or their situations or whatever it is, as long as you stay open to that, you know, and you give yourself in a genuine way, it impacts people. That’s bigger than any award or money or anything like that.”
The Artist in Residence program is funded by a grant from the Montana Arts Council and the Indian Education For All program. Due to COVID-19 the performance and workshop was spanned over two days so the students could all see Supaman perform in-person at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. The show can be viewed on the Arts Council’s YouTube channel.