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50 Faces, Part X: Dennison, Kinew, Jasper, Judd, A Tribe Called Red

Five more of our 50 Faces of Indian Country: Kassidy Dennison, Wab Kinew, Inez Jasper, Steven Paul Judd, and A Tribe Called Red
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This'll do it! The last of our 10 installments of entries in the 2015 50 Faces of Indian Country. It's been a long ride. We've looked at politicians, authors, entertainers, activists, athletes -- the leaders and role models of Indian country. And it wasn't easy getting the list down to 50; many people were left out. But those are merely the seeds of a list to come -- the 2016 50 Faces of Indian Country! Watch for it. But first, enjoy our last (but not least) five faces from this year's list.

These profiles were included in a special issue of our weekly e-newsletter; for the growing archive, check out The 2015 50 Faces of Indian Country.

Kassidy Dennison

Photo courtesy kassidydennison.squarespace.com

Devyn Dennison

Kassidy Dennison is the darling of Native rodeo, but don’t underestimate how tough she is. She was the first Navajo barrel racer to qualify for the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, is a five-time Indian World Champion All Around Cowgirl and, in 2011, she became the first Native woman to earn a spot on the Classic Equine Brand team. After the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last year, Dennison moved up in the rankings from tenth to fourth in the world in her event. On her website, Dennison says, “It has been my lifelong dream to become a professional athlete in the sport of rodeo. [It] has definitely taught me to be a winner. Not only in the rodeo arena, but more importantly, in the arena of life.” On Nov. 1, 2014, also the first day of Native American Heritage Month, the city of Gallup, N.M. honored her with “Kassidy Dennison Day.”

Wab Kinew

Photo: Anthony 'Thosh' Collins

Wab Kinew

Journalist. Educator. Author. Activist. Rapper. Wab Kinew, Anishinaabe, is a man of many talents and a star on the rise in Canada. Kinew established himself as a voice for Indigenous Canadians as host of 8th Fire: Aboriginal Peoples, Canada & the Way Forward, a four-part documentary that aired on Canadian TV in 2012. His career in TV journalism also includes the program Fault Lines for Al Jazeera America and a stint filling in as the host of Q after the departure of Jian Ghomeshi. He’s employed by the University of Winnipeg as Associate Vice-President of Indigenous Affairs, and he may be eyeing a career in politics. He seriously considered running for a leadership position in the Assembly of First Nations in 2014.

Inez Jasper

Photo: Karolina Turek

Inez Jasper

A musician, activist, mother and member of the Sto:lo Nation, Inez Jasper emerged as a strong Native voice when she was featured on the MTV program Rebel Music: Native America. In her music and on-stage persona, Jasper tries to strike a balance between strength and sensuality, cognizant of the issues of violence and abuse that threaten Indigenous women. “We are spiritual life-givers,” she says. “We are sensual and sexual because we are human, but because of the colonized thought process, there is no safe space to be an indigenous woman. ... That is what I advocate for: to stand strong and be proud to be an indigenous woman.” Jasper’s most recent album, Burn Me Down, was nominated for the Juno award for Aboriginal Album of the Year, and won Best Pop Album at the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Awards.

Steven Paul Judd

Photo: Sky Cheshure

Steven Paul Judd

Steven Paul Judd, Kiowa and Choctaw, is the Renaissance Man of Native art and entertainment. His initial trajectory put him on a path to success as a filmmaker – he’s directed features (American Indian Graffiti, Death Factory), shorts (including “Search for the World’s Best Indian Taco”), and a music video (“The Storm,” by Doc featuring Spencer Battiest); he’s written scripts (for Shouting Secrets and the Disney XD series Zeke and Luther); and he’s even done a little acting. But a few years ago, he took a turn into studio art, and began churning out clever paintings that mixed American pop culture with Indian imagery and in-jokes, and some of that imagery spawned a t-shirt line. He’s currently channeling his vast energy into “Ronnie BoDean,” a short film starring Wes Studi that Judd would like to make into a feature film or even TV series.

A Tribe Called Red

Photo: Falling Tree Photography

A Tribe Called Red

Last year, a Tribe Called Red was named as the breakthrough group of the year at the 2014 Juno Awards. Their music has been called “pow wow step” – an amalgamation of electronic dubstep and Native American traditional drum and singing. Lauded as truly unique in their approach to fusing these musical genres, A Tribe Called Red, based out of Ottawa, Canada, reels in crowds at festivals all over the globe with their cutting-edge take on EDM (electronic dance music). But don’t expect to attend one of their performances if you are bringing a chickenfeather headdress or plan to show up in redface. The trio – Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau of the Nipissing First Nation, 2oolman, a Mohawk from Six Nations, and Bear Witness of the Cayuga First Nation – have asked their fans to not don faux headdresses for their shows, calling it an offense to Native American cultures.