Indigenous (band)

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Origin Marty, South Dakota, USA
Genres Blues rock
Years active 1998–present
Labels Pachyderm Records
Vanguard Records
Blues Bureau International (current)
Members Mato Nanji
Derek Post
Charles Sanders II
Past members Horse
Brent Fitz
Chaney Bryant
Michael Bland
Ray Mehlbaum
Jesse Tate
Kris Lager
Jeremiah Wier
Andrew Tyler

Indigenous is an American blues-rock group that came to prominence in the late 1990s. The band originally consisted of two brothers, Mato Nanji (Maiari) ('mah-TOE non-GEE' vocals and guitar, born 1974), Pte ('peh-TAY' bass guitar), along with their sister, Wanbdi ('wan-ba-DEE' drums, vocals), and their cousin, Horse (percussion).

Their music is heavily influenced by guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. Mato Nanji's style and skill has drawn comparisons to each of these guitarists. The band has also shared the stage with artists of varying musical genres such as B.B. King, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, the Indigo Girls, Jackson Browne, Dave Matthews Band, and Los Lonely Boys. The band has headlined its own tours several times.

The Nakota Nation members grew up on South Dakota's Yankton Indian Reservation, where their father, Greg Zephier became a spokesperson for Native American rights. A musician in his own right during the 1960s and '70s, Zephier provided his children with records from blues musicians such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Freddie King, and taught them to play their respective instruments. The family started touring together, and soon the children were performing on their own.

Musical career[edit]

The group released their debut album, Things We Do on Pachyderm Records in 1998. In 1999, Indigenous won three Native American Music Awards for their debut record, including two top honors: Album of the Year and Group of the Year. A video for the lead single and title track was directed by

The track "Now That You're Gone" peaked at #22 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, making Indigenous one of the first Native American bands to break into that realm. named the band Blues Artist of the Year, and soon after they were featured on broadcast shows such as NPR's "All Things Considered", "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "CBS Saturday Morning," and "Austin City Limits". B.B. King became a self-proclaimed fan, and invited the band to join his Blues Festival Tour.

Later that year, Indigenous released an EP, Blues This Morning, and a full-length album, Live at Pachyderm Studios in 1999, and continued the momentum. Live at Pachyderm won two Native American Music Awards for Best Blues Album and Group of the Year in 2000. Their next LP, Circle, settled into place in Billboard's Top 10 blues albums after its release in 2000.

Following this was the 2003 self-titled album, Indigenous (Zomba), and then another EP, Long Way Home in 2005 (on their own record label). This seven-song EP contains five originals, as well as an acoustic version of a song from Things We Do, "Rest Of My Days", and a live version of their first single, "Things We Do". After recording their 2006 album, Chasing the Sun (Vanguard) the band split. Mato carried on with the Indigenous name and toured with a new line-up that included bassist Chaney Bryant and drummer Ray Mehlbaum in support of the album. In 2008 Mato wrote and recorded the album "Broken Lands" which was released on August 12, 2008. Most recently, the band released "The Acoustic Sessions" on June 8, 2010.

"Time is Coming" (2014) proved to be one of Mato Nanji's best recordings so far. It is described in reviews as "closer to rock than blues."[1] This follows the last CD entitled "Vanishing Americans"(2012) that paid special homage to Mato father, Greg Zephier, Sr. It is dedicated to indigenous youth and all young people on indigenous reservations.[2] His 10th commercial album, Vanishing Americans, released on Blues Bureau International, a division of the Shrapnel Record Group, is yet another testament to the master songwriter/guitarist and lyricist’s long-running commercially successful career. The CD is stunning evidence of his growth, enhanced, and ever-improving vocals, song writing, and guitar playing and is sure to WOW even his staunchest music fans. It won the Native American Music Award's "Album of the Year" award in 2014. The CD honored Greg, who was a well known and highly respected spiritual advisor and spokesperson for the International Indian Treaty Council, an organization based in New York City near the United Nations (UN) that represents over 175 Indigenous Red "Indian" Nations and Peoples across Great Turtle Island (the "western hemisphere"). Nanji said about Greg, "he was my favorite musician...I just felt it was time to pay tribute to him and his band."[3]

Greg's "Indian Name" - who he was - was "Yankton Boy", while son Mato Nanji's is "Standing Bear", in honor of his famous great grandfather (on his mother, Beverly's Ponca Nation side) of the same name, who went to court in the late 1800s to prove "Indians were human beings" in the eyes of the court and in the eyes of the American people. On May 12, 1879, federal judge in Omaha, Nebraska ruled that "an Indian is a person" within the meaning of habeas corpus. The federal government had failed to show a basis under law for the Standing Bear's arrest and captivity. It was a landmark case in America, recognizing that an indigenous "Indian" is a "person" - a human being.

Greg Zephier was an influential indigenous peoples activist and also happened to be a musical genius. He was the guiding and founding member of his group of his brothers - who he taught to play all the instruments of a band, called "The Vanishing Americans." The band toured nationally in the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, playing on the same bills which included legends such as Bonnie Raitt. The music Vanishing Americans performed back then heavily influenced Mato and his love of music. While Nanji isn’t quick to label his sound to any particular genre, the influence of the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Carols Santana are undeniable. But ultimately it’s all about the music. "It all goes back to what my dad taught me. He never said: Oh, this is blues, this is rock. He just said: If this is good music, it's good."

Mato's latest three albums were Broken Lands, 2008, The Acoustic Sessions, 2010, and Indigenous featuring Mato Nanji, 2012, were evidence of his continued growth and ever-growing-expertise in writing and playing music.

Nanji has also been a member of the Jimi Hendrix tribute, Experience Hendrix, since its inception in 2004, touring annually with the group. This past January, Mato even performed at the American Indian Inaugural Ball to welcome in the newly elected President of the United States. "The Americans have their leaders, too." stated Nanji.

The past two years have turned out to be very busy years for Mato and Indigenous. In addition to a successful tour supporting his last album Indigenous featuring Mato Nanji, and the Experience Hendrix tribute tour, he also recorded two compilation albums with fellow musicians from the Experience Hendrix tour. Three Skulls & the Truth with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi All-Stars was released in September 2012 by Blues Bureau International.

Mato was the primary influence of Otis Taylor’s latest 2013 CD release, My World Is Gone in which he appears singing and playing on six of the beautifully Taylor-written album's thirteen tracks. Nanji also toured with Otis in support of the album release this past March. In support of the latest Jimi Hendrix release, "People, Hell & Angels", Nanji appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on March 12, 2013 along with his fellow Experience Hendrix tour alums and blues greats including Buddy Guy, Billy Cox, Chris Layton, Brad Whitford and Marty Sammon. Mato continues each year touring with the "Experience Hendrix" tour.

But this "VA" album of all pays special tribute to Yankton Boy, whose wisdom and instruction in not only music but in life itself has led Mato to the precipice of his music career. It celebrates a father teaching his son to hunt, to master tools, and to provide for his family, to be responsible to himself, his wife, and his children as Mato was instructed by his father. And more importantly, the new album draws attention to the ongoing plight of Indigenous Red "Indian" Nations and Peoples against the onslaught of "European progress" and its devastation and depletion of the sacred water, land and resources of Great Turtle Island, the "western hemisphere."

"VA" celebrates the successful - despite the world's most overwhelming odds - survival of Indigenous Peoples. From 100 million flourishing, content, and peace-loving human "Two Legged" beings, diminished to barely 1 million by the year 1890; from attempts to being forced into "U.S citizenship" and being "American" in 1934; and then fighting back and regaining indigenous nationhood and preserving a nearly lost Way of Life thanks to people like Yankton Boy who discarded his "American" label to return to his "Ihanktunwan Nation" - his Indigenous roots.

This album celebrates, draws attention to, and worships, the sacred lives of the 100 million Bison, 100 million Elk, 100 million Deer, 100 million Eagles, and 100 million Antelope nations who, 524 years prior, were so traumatically and drastically murdered by European invasion and subsequent occupation that educed and nearly annihilated these most precious Animal Nations that Indigenous Peoples revere and look up to for guidance and spiritual contentment. Vanishing as an "American", Greg Zephier, through his steadfast work and dedication, saved his son from the dominating society's lack of reverence for natural life and the lack of respect of the natural world. Greg's teaching thrusted Mato into the world of the past, where understanding, appreciation, and respect leads daily living.

A citizen of the Nakota Nation, Mato grew up on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation in what is now called "South Dakota." The Ihanktunwan DaNakota are the caretakers of the sacred Red Pipestone (misnomer "peace pipe" bowl) Quarries in southwestern Minnesota. The Ihanktunwan originated from within the sacred quarry site, coming forth from there as human "Two Legged" beings 63 million years ago - the Red Man's "Adam and Eve garden of Eden." Today the Red Stone is an Endangered Species - being used for other trinketry instead of its sole purpose, Red Stone for the Canunpa.

While heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana and the like, Mato's biggest influence was his father. "My dad was my biggest influence as a musician. He never forced me into being a musician: I just found his guitars", says Mato. "At the time, I knew he was a guitar player and singer, but I didn't know he had been a traveling musician. He never really bragged about anything. Yet he was one of the best musicians I've come across."

Nanji further recalls, "When I got started, my dad gave me a guitar and tuned it once, then told me to start figuring it out. I started spending tons of time listening to his records, and have listened to and learned from a lot of different people from Howlin’ Wolf to Pearl Jam, but my biggest influence is still my dad. And the big thing he told me is to find my own sound by taking what I like from everyone and mixing it all together."

And Mato Nanji has done just that - learning all the tricks of the trade from dad, the great spiritual advisor and mentor - from the man men respect and admire, resulting in a truly fantastic album of his truly unique signature Indigenous Blues Rock sound.

Greg Zephier/Yankton Boy "Greg Zephier, Sr.", was a great historian and Treaty spokesperson, an expert orator or "itancan" ("expert", misnomer "chief"). He was one of a handful of prominent indigenous statesmen of the 20th century, like that of Phillip Deer, Creek Nation, and Mathew King, Lakota Nation. Greg Zephier, Sr. traveled to the United Nations in New York City and Geneva Switzerland on numerous occasions to speak on behalf of the Red Man, as well as traveling to Russia, Japan, and Germany.

Yankton Boy drew attention to the plight of Indigenous Red Nations and Peoples against the onslaught of "European progress" and its devastation and depletion of the sacred water, land, trees, animals, insects, and resources of Great Turtle Island, as well as their continuing violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and Article VI of the US Constitution. Carrying on his father's tradition as father and mentor, Mato Nanji (born June 4, 1974) and wife Leah make their home on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in south eastern South Dakota.

Mato was raised for many years in the country at the Sun Dance Grounds along Seven Mile Creek near Marty, SD, riding horses and enjoying the fresh air of the beautiful Yankton Nakota Homelands. Mato was home schooled briefly - only attending the "white man schools" for a few early years of his youth - yet mastering English and corporate business practices, all while maintaining a traditional, indigenous outlook on life. His lovely wife, Leah, has co-written the last few Indigenous albums with Mato and provides the fantastic back up vocals on many of the Indigenous albums, most notably "Broken Lands". They have successfully raised and provided for five beautiful children

The band continues to tour, adding the group "The Plateros" of the Navajo Dine Nation.

Discography and awards[edit]

Native American Music Award for Album of the Year, Group of the Year, and Best Pop Group
Native American Music Award for Blues Album of the Year, Group of the Year
#3 Billboard Top Blues Albums
#3 Billboard Top Blues Albums
#2 Billboard Top Blues Albums
  • Broken Lands (Vanguard, 2008)
  • The Acoustic Sessions (2010)
  • Indigenous-Featuring Mato Nanji (Blues Bureau International, 2012)
  • Vanishing Americans (Blues Bureau International, 2013)
  • Time is Coming (Blues Bureau International, 2014)


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