Spend an evening in celebration of Native culture through contemporary music and storytelling Aug. 13 during Welcome to Indian Country, presented by the Billings Symphony. This event kicks off the symphony’s robust 2022-2023 season, featuring 30 events at 13 venues throughout Billings.
Welcome to Indian Country is a five-piece Indigenous music ensemble joined by Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest, a storyteller and member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. Together they share original compositions, poetry and songs, paired with wit, satire and wisdom to honor Native elders and ancestors. Their performance unearths the depth, joy, and solidarity that Indigenous people find in their community, culture, and family.
“We all need a good celebration, and music is the language of the soul,” said Andre Bouchard, the show’s producer and director. The outdoor event takes place at 406 Events Lawn at Red Oxx in east Billings. Doors open at 4 p.m. and gate access is located at 323 N. 14th St., on the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue.
The Billings Symphony has also partnered with the Pretty Shield Foundation, which will erect teepees in the traditional Apsáalooke (Crow) style starting at 5 p.m. with a cultural presentation on the teepee by William Snell, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council and president of the Pretty Shield Foundation.
Welcome to Indian Country begins at 7 p.m. and includes an array of compositions by Native American artists with material written by Priest specifically for the performance and based on interviews with performers. The ensemble includes musical director and trumpet player Delbert Anderson (Diné); fiddle player and guitarist Nokosee Fields (Osage); vocalist, pianist, and guitarist Lyz Jaakola (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior); drummer and percussionist Nicholas Lucero (of Peruvian and Spanish descent); and bassist, singer, composer and songwriter Mali Obomsawin (Odanak First Nation, Canada).
“There’s so much richness and love that we can share,” said Bouchard, who was born on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana and is of Kootenai/Ojibwe/Pend d’Oreille/Salish descent. “Music is the medium. Storytelling is the medium.”
Bouchard is the founder of the nonprofit Indigenous Performance Productions, based in Olympia, Wash. The organization aims to spread the word about the prominent roles Native artists play in the development of American music and performing arts.
“We’re excited to be in Montana,” said Bouchard. “I have a place in my heart that will always be in Montana.”
Find tickets, priced at $40 for adults and $20 for students, or subscription packages online or by calling 406-252-3610. Wood-fired pizza by Mike Cotta and full bar will be available at the event.