Close to a year ago we profiled local singer/songwriter Silent Bear, who started playing music at local coffee shops in the 90s, and eventually found himself writing songs with Pete Seeger. Known for his activism within the Native American community (though he himself is not of Native descent), Silent Bear has spent much of his career playing shows to benefit Native causes. So when the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.7 billion 1172-mile oil pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois, allegedly threatened the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s land (including areas significant to their culture and history), Silent Bear was quick to attend local protests in support of the tribe.
But things didn’t stop there. Silent Bear quickly learned that the man behind the pipeline, Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners, also happens to own Music Road Records. MRR recently produced a Woody Guthrie tribute album, which featured none other than SB’s late friend and musical companion Pete Seeger. It was at this point that Silent Bear felt he could remain silent no more, and began speaking out about the pipeline:
“As a musician and feeling human being, I was highly insulted that the same man that seemingly has no regard for the health of our environment and our most precious resource, the sacred water of life, would have the audacity to exploit the names of and champion the music of men who would find his actions repulsive, such as Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne and Woody Guthrie.”
Jackson Browne, who has since donated all of his proceeds of the album to the tribes opposing the pipeline, made an official statement against MRR and Kelcy Warren stating, “I do not play for oil interests. I do not play for companies who defile nature, or companies who attack demonstrators with trained attack dogs and pepper spray. The list of companies I have denied the use of my music is long. I certainly would not have allowed my songs to be recorded by a record company whose owner's other business does what Energy Transfer Partners is allegedly doing- threatening the water supply and the sacred sites of indigenous people.”
Silent Bear was also inspired to make a statement, which led him to write the lyrics of his latest protest song, “The Dakota Access Pipeline Dirty River Blues (Kelcy’s Pipeline)”, which he dedicates to “the beautiful water protectors out in North Dakota and Standing Rock”. It’s written to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” and was filmed by Black SunCinema.
Watch Silent Bear’s music video for “The Dakota Access Pipeline Dirty River Blues (Kelcy’s Pipeline)”:
SB's newest song has some powerful lyrics in it, and he's hoping it makes it's way to Warren's ears. But above all, Silent Bear most hopes that this song will inspire people locally and beyond to come together for the people of Standing Rock, and for the good of the environment.
You can see SB perform this song, along with many other original tunes, this Wednesday October 5th at the St. Julien Hotel, at a Bob Dylan Tribute event at Gold Hill Inn on Sunday October 9th, and at License No. 1 Friday October 21st. Follow Silent Bear’s continued activism here, and check out these resources to help the Standing Rock people with their cause: lakotaway.org, Standingrock.org, and sacredstonecamp.org.
For a man dubbed Silent, SB is spreading one powerful message.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.