POWELL — By the time hip-hop artist Christian Takes Gun Parrish, a.k.a. Supaman, took the stage Friday, he had already danced his way into the hearts of visitors at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West while sharing his messages of hope.
Hours before the concert, Parrish, athlete and school teacher Scott Flat Lip and Hunter Old Elk, curatorial assistant in the center’s Plains Indian Museum, invited the public to a dancing tour of exhibits in the center, using each stop to speak of a bright future — as well as remembering the past.
“What we are trying to do is come together today and share our stories with one another. That way we have a better understanding of each other as human beings,” Parrish told a large crowd while touring the Whitney Western Art Museum.
A member of the Crow tribe, Parrish’s international fame is growing as a musical performer and spokesperson for American indigenous issues.
He lives on the Crow reservation in Montana where he is known by some as Aweaakeen Baa Aachile — which means Good Fortune to Mother Earth in his native Apsáalooke language.
Parrish said he has dedicated his life to spreading a message of hope, pride and resilience through his art.
His recent songs, “Prayer Loop Song” and “Why,” have gone viral on social media, being viewed by millions on YouTube and Facebook. The exposure has made his appearances in high demand, giving him the educational platform he wants. He has won several awards, including an MTV Video Music Award and a Grammy.
Parrish is attempting to change stereotypes of indigenous people, not only from America, but around the world.
“That’s why we’re here today,” he said. “We’re trying to rethink the way we learn about indigenous people by supporting our indigenous authors, supporting our teachers and educators, so the real culture and the storytelling is coming from the people itself, rather than a non-native perspective.”
During the tour, children carried signs addressing stereotypes.
“We are not your spaghetti western Indians,” one sign read.
Parrish also urged those in attendance to care for the environment.
“Hopefully, Yellowstone Park will never look like New York City,” he said. “It’s up to us to protect our sacred sites. It’s up to us to protect the water. Not just indigenous people, not just native people, but each and every one of you here today. It’s your responsibility to make sure our sacred sites and places are kept the way the creator made them.”
It was his engaging nature, use of deliciously bad “dad” humor and way of inviting open, honest conversation through his art that drew hundreds in at a Friday night concert at the Robbie Powwow Gardens.
He joked about his previous attempts at employment at the beginning of his concert: “I wanted to be a track coach, but I kept getting the runaround,” Parrish said to laughs and groans. “It wasn’t until I became a taxidermist before I got a head.”
Though relying on humor, the seriousness of his message showed through. Shortly after stepping on the stage dressed in headdress and “fancy dance” clothing, many in attendance rushed the stage to interact more closely.
“This is not a costume,” Parrish said. “A costume is something when somebody dresses up to be somebody else or something else. This is a part of who I am.”
Old Elk was thrilled to have Supaman at the center.
“I think it’s critical to highlight his story as a contemporary artist,” she said, “because he represents Indian culture in such a positive manner and his message transcends many different cultures.”