September 15th, 2007 by Buffalohair admin
I am very fortunate in that I have the opportunity to meet artists from all genres and cultures in the entertainment world. But it is rare that I come into contact with an individual who is an enigma shrouded in mystery. Born in American and raised in jolly old England Rick Dakotah has always been immersed in music for it was his passion almost from the time he was born. Surrounded by musicians from all genres, he was enriched with classical music. At an early age his world was not only music but also various other aspects of the entertainment world. He was on stage as well but ultimately he decided that was not his bag. Music was his passion but he was not satisfied as just a musician he wanted to write his own music as well.
When in England living in boarding schools he was infused with the European pop scene and enriched himself with music from all genres ranging from classical, jazz to pop. With ears glued to the radio his voracious appetite for music enabled him to absorb every song, tune, lyric and melody the Marconi would feed him. He self taught himself to play every instrument he came into contact with including the piano and the guitar. Little did he know that some day he would be known the world over as a master of his craft with numerous CD’s in sound shops throughout Europe and the world. He was elected into ASCAP membership and before long he was an ASCAP Composer/Author/Publisher. But it was a long journey for this mysterious artisan for he also carried with him on this journey a secret. It was a secret he withheld from the public’s eye for many years. And today, I was given permission to revel what his burden was.
Though he has become a great success with many doors open to him worldwide. It was not always like this for he had to struggle with who he really was. He was forced to mask his true identity since the music industry was ill prepared for the likes of him regardless of his talent and skills for Rick Dakotah, aka Thomas Tecumseh Mckenney, is an Ojibway. He was adopted and relocated to England at a very early age and raised as an Englishman across the Great Pond. Though he’s been accepted as a European he was Native American. And he’s lived with this secret until now.
Rick and I have discussed possibly running a feature on him here on VUE and at first he was hesitant since he like so many other Native artists have lived in a veil of secrecy. He was fearful of discovery and ultimately being typecast in a mold not of his own design. I told Rick that I would respect his privacy and would never divulge his secret. But then one day I received a message from him and I quote:
“Now I am known all over the world. And not just in one genre, or ethnic group. But I could do them now because I have gotten myself into the biz, and am secure, as far as being known for my music, not who I am. Eventually I will “will” all my royalties etc to ndn country. My people and whomever. That is my plan for my life. Forget my privacy; it’s time for me to do what I came here to do! (On this earth) It’s time my people knew of me.”
In an effort to reclaim his roots he searched high and low for his birth parents but it was a bitter sweet journey for this maven of the music world.
“I found out my real parents died this year (they never let me find out who they were) and after along BIA ordeal they told me I wasn’t eligible for my inheritance. Wonderful! Oh well. Hell in America again!”
Sometimes it is hard for us Natives to understand why a person would cover up their identity. But there is a stigma within the industry regardless of genre. We are typecast and forced in to stereotypical roles on the silver screen, stage acting, music and other forms of art including painting and sculpting. Early in his career Rick tried to break out into the music world only to be stopped in his tracks by an unscrupulous recording executive.
“I also tried out for a major record company (C.R) many years ago and was told that my music was good but I wasn’t Indian enough!!! I informed them of my heritage but they said come back when I’ve got something more Indian. I never wrote to any company ever again after that insult, and have done everything myself from then on. I guess I am glad I did that or I would have been typecast back then.”
I applaud Rick’s courage to step up to the plate and be counted fore he is a champion and a true warrior who truly has come home to help his people. And I thank him for using NativeVue as the last stronghold to make his stand as a Native American Artist and World Class Performer. To purchase and hear his music, please visit his website at: www.rickdakotah.com. Also check out our Music to Our Ears Forum for more information.
And as they say in Ojibway; Gigiwaabmiin-nagootch