RED LAKE, Minn. - Dancers and audience members alike will thrill to the exciting rhythms and vocables of Battle River, this year's National Powwow Northern host drum. Battle River, one of the most popular drum groups ever to hit the pow wow highway, is an extended family of award-winning traditional singers and composers. The drum group, members and friends of the renowned Kingbird family, are Anishinabes from Red Lake. These champions have taken top prizes throughout the United States and Canada, and have recorded extensively.
Battle River consists of Mack Kingbird, Keveon Kingbird, Kevin Kingbird, Don Kingbird, Gerald Kingbird, Mike Thunder, Mike Roy, Jon Prentice, Bob Barrett, Pibbs Baker, Elliot Cloud, Terry Sengoles, Justin Smith, Frank Graves, Greg Thomas, Cecil Nepoose and Willy Strong.
''We all started singing when we were about 3 or 4 years old over at my Grandma's house,'' Royce Kingbird told Jim Bailey in a 2004 interview to explain the impressive array of talent in this extended family. ''All my cousins and my brothers sang.''
Battle River, organized in 1991, is best known for their more traditional ''straight'' songs, but has proven time and again that they are equally as capable with word songs. Their renditions of Grass Dance, Shake Songs, Crow Hops, tricks and sneak-ups never fail to energize a crowd and inspire dancers to engage in dazzling displays of fancy footwork. With amazing leads and seconds, this drum group has honed a strong reputation throughout Indian country for their unique and extremely powerful style of Northern singing.