Soup and Substance hosts Nataanii Means, Indigenous rapper and activist


 Hip-hop artist Nataanii Means speaks during the Soup and Substance event for Native American Heritage Month on Nov. 28 in the Bovee University Center.

Nataanii Means wants people to wake up to what is happening to Native American people in the world today, specifically in regards to their activism.

"I want people to take away a new understanding about who we are," he said.

Means, an Indigenous hip-hop artist and activist for Native American people, served as the guest speaker at the Soup and Substance event that took place Nov. 28 in the Bovee University Center at Central Michigan University. 

Attendees enjoyed chicken noodle soup and beverages, while Means told stories of his activism with the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline last year. 

"It was intense," he said. "Police sent dogs on us, kept us in dog kennels when they arrested us, all just to build a pipeline  on our own land.

"We fight these pipelines and these big companies because we've been living with this for decades. Living with the effects of genocide."

The Dakota Access Pipeline, which began it's commercial service on June 1 this year, was protested for months by Native American activists and environmentalists because it was seen as an environmental and cultural threat by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

This event was one in a series where members of the campus community and greater Mount Pleasant area were invited to gather for a soup luncheon and a substantive presentation on diversity-related topics. 

"It was eye-opening to see how people that take up less than 4 percent of this country are treated like they take up 95 percent of the country," said Chicago freshman Eugene Gutter, who attended the event.

"I don't think there are enough people who have these types of conversations, about the struggles that Native Americans face today," said Hannah Bartol, student assistant at the Office of Native American Programs. 

Bartol organized this event, sponsored by the Native American Programs office and apart of Native American Heritage month, in hopes of starting that conversation.

On Tuesday evening, Means performed some of his songs in the Kiva Theater in Moore Hall. Students enjoyed his hip-hop, with lyrics that revolved around his activism, while also learning a little bit more about the protests he described earlier in the day. 

"Supporters can help us in our fight by doing their research and getting involved with protests, and also knowing when to let other people speak, and knowing when to sit back and listen," Means said.