RED LAKE -- The camera soars over and through Red Lake: the water tower, powwow grounds, boxing club, grocery store, the remnants of St. Mary’s Mission Church, an “it’s life or meth” skull and crossbones. It lingers on a girl dancing in a jingle dress, a boy thumping on a drum, four survivors of the 2005 Red Lake High School shooting. It frames a Red Lake Middle School student.
“Red Lake Nation is where I’m from,” he intones. “There is no second life. So we have to make it right. And make our future bright.”
That type of powerful, often-mesmerizing imagery weaves its way through “Where We Belong,” a song and music video almost entirely conceived of and performed by Red Lake Middle School seventh-graders that’s already notched tens of thousands of Facebook and Youtube views since its online debut Wednesday morning. The video can be found on the Red Lake Secondary Complex Facebook page.
School staff and a handful of professional musicians polished the video and song and helped students brainstorm parts of it, but the core artistic thrust was all the school’s 80 or so seventh-graders. Minneapolis musician Lady Midnight prompted students to think about what a warrior is, or what happiness is as they worked in the school’s mini theater.
“Happiness is your homie, right?” she asked rhetorically, the song’s beat underscoring her question. “Your homie helping you and offering you something, right?"
The song’s beat, lyrics, and subject were all put together from scratch. Students brainstormed some of the topics and concepts they wanted to cover, then Tami Liberty, an Ojibwe language and culture teacher, printed out and showed them related photos. That produced ethereal lyrics like “the lake is on fire / eyes in the clouds,” she said.
One student suggested adding chimes, so school staff brought in chimes. Another suggested the sound of a jingle dress.
“So we went and got jingles,” Liberty said.
The song has been on the school’s to-do list since it joined the Turnaround Arts program a few years ago, Principal Mark Bensen said. It’s patterned after similar ones by N’we Jinan, a mobile recording studio and video production team that’s produced videos in American Indian and First Nations communities across North America.
“My dad and my stepmom are like, 'I'm so proud of you, that was cool,’” said Reina Strong, who helped sing “Where We Belong”’s chorus. “I'm like, 'I know!’"
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqHfJi01RiU