'Becoming You' by the Indigo Girls

ATLANTA - "The struggle can be long and hard; change can come so slow, lots of people suffer in the meantime so we have got to keep encouraging each other. We have to keep working," stated Indigo Girl Emily Saliers.

The Indigo Girls have persevered and their latest release "Becoming You" is being heralded as a welcome return to the folk/rock duo's roots. The 12-track album was quietly released in March. It is the GRAMMY award winning Indigo Girl's 11th release since 1989.

"Becoming You" highlights the vocal and songwriting talents of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers while scaling back on the lavish instrumental productions of the past few albums. Even so, nearly a dozen musicians were used in the work's assembly.

The Indigo Girls somehow manage to find time for more than just recording in the studio. They have fought for environmental causes since the early '90s and they have just wrapped up their fifth Honor the Earth tour with renowned activist Winona LaDuke.

This year's Honor the Earth tour focused on renewable energy resources such as wind farming on reservations and the injustices inherent to other methods of energy production that tend to abuse Indian lands.

"Honor the Earth is a foundation and an advocacy organization," said vocalist and guitarist Saliers in an April 4 interview with Indian Country Today. "We support front-line Native American environmental work and we want to increase funding and support for Native communities who are protecting the earth. We deal with environmental justice and indigenous knowledge."

When asked how the non-Native group got involved with such lofty causes Saliers responded, "I think we just believe in the grass roots activism that we have seen Native communities undertake. We are deeply concerned with things like Yucca Mountain that are just completely morally wrong ? We just wanted to get involved with that and be part of change. We are quite inspired by the work that is being done."

The eight-stop tour began April 10 at St. Olaf College in Minnesota and climaxed on Earth Day, April 22 at the University of Northern Colorado. The dates featured a 45-minute acoustic performance by the Indigo Girls, a LaDuke lecture and a question and answer period.

In the "practice what you preach" approach to environmental awareness, the Honor the Earth tour bus ran on a clean-burning alternative fuel, B5 biodiesel, which is produced from domestic, renewable resources.

"Honor the Earth was very involved with stopping the mining in the Sweetgrass hills area," Saliers responded when asked for specific examples of the group's efficacy.

"In the 2000 elections we spent some time in Montana helping to raise awareness and get out the Indian vote and I think there were six new political positions for Indian people in the state.

"You don't want to say 'Well we went there and we did that,' but when you are there and working for something and then good things come out of it - you have to believe in a connection."

The modest Saliers was coaxed into adding "We have raised over $500,000 that has been directly granted to groups to protect sacred sites or cultural preservation or environmental battles and other stuff."

From the Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining protests to the Gwich'in Steering Committee's opposition to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, Honor the Earth's grantees list reads like the headlines on ICT's editorial pages.

To get involved with the Honor the Earth Foundation write to 2104 Stevens Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minn. 55404, call (612) 879-7529, visit www.honorearth.org or e-mail honorearth@earthlink.net.

The Indigo Girls are planning more tour dates this summer in promotion of "Becoming You." Visit www.indigogirls.com for current schedules and news.