Indian Giver are an anonymous Indigenous hardcore collective with members across Turtle Island (North America). The group—which has associations with prominent bands in Canada’s heavy music and outlaw country scenes—formed in fall 2019 and quickly began recording riff-heavy tunes speaking to issues of class division, racism, and the government's continued mistreatment of Indigenous communities. The intention behind Indian Giver is to offer Indigenous youth an outlet for both their creativity and their anger.
"The goal of the group is to show Indigenous youth that they can do cool shit and speak to the larger issues us and people like us are facing," said the frontman for Indian Giver, which fluctuates between two and six members. “Growing up in the punk scene there was no representation. I didn’t see people like me in any hardcore bands, big or small. By taking up space we’re showing we belong here. We want to empower Indigenous youth to take up space in their own lives.”
Indian Giver's metal-inspired art direction was created in collaboration with Indigenous streetwear brand Born in the North. The brand's creators Gregory and Christopher Mitchell are of Mi’kmaq ancestry, growing up on Canada’s East Coast before moving to New York to study. They jumped at the opportunity to design logos and merchandise for Indian Giver because of their shared ideas about contemporary Indigenous art and fashion.
The Mitchells wanted clothes that supported their community, but weren't interested in the traditional style garments they found for sale. Emulating brands like Supreme, the Mitchells started creating work that highlighted their tastes while incorporating Indigenous imagery. The clothing line dropped a limited edition long sleeve to go along with the first two tracks from Indian Giver. The shirt and the music both address a bigger issue experienced by the hardcore collective: they weren't seeing themselves represented in mainstream art and culture, but also felt that the majority of contemporary Indigenous music wasn’t speaking to their tastes or experiences.
“There is a huge shift within music, looking at the Polaris Prize and all the different representation happening in popular music,” said the Indian Giver frontman, who wore a white and red hockey mask during our chat. "People are paying attention to Indigenous artists. They’re even going out of their way to highlight Indigenous artists. And that’s great. But it’s not the kind of music that I listen to. It’s not the type of stuff we like."
By creating hardcore that speaks to their experiences, they’re hoping to prove Indigenous music doesn’t need be contained by genre.
"Indigeneity doesn’t have to look like one thing," said the Indian Giver frontman. “We needed to make a band like this because no one else was going to make a band like this.”
Throughout our interview members of the group spoke to the challenging realities faced by many Indigenous communities. A particular point of interest to the hardcore collective was safe access to water, repeatedly asking why it was acceptable for people in power to constantly dismiss this pressing issue, or why any Indigenous person should be polite about the way they’ve systematically been treated.
“Indigenous people in Canada are still largely disenfranchised,” said the singer. “There are human rights issues: the ongoing boil water advisories, mercury poisoning, the child welfare system... I’m sick of trying to write tender folk songs about it when there is so much to be pissed off about.”
Indian Giver is currently recording more music to be released next year, coinciding with its first live shows. As the band puts together tracks they want to play balls-to-the-wall hardcore, speaking hard truths with style and purpose.
“Within the Canadian music scene there is a self-congratulatory effort by settlers to pat themselves on the back for repping any Indigenous artists,” said the Indian Giver frontman. “But a lot of people seem to want one thing from us. And not everything Indigenous artists do has to be historical and nice. We can make a fucking streetwear brand. We can play fucking hardcore across the country. Being Indigenous isn’t limited to other people’s imagination.”
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