Indian Country Today
Wanbli Ceya, also known by his artist name JUQ — a multi-award winning Oglala Lakota artist based on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota — is celebrating considerable social media success because his latest song titled “*” has been recognized and used by some of the TikTok communities' largest Native influencers.
JUQ says the creation of the song was an effort to help those Indigenous individuals who are “a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ & polyamory / non-monogamy communities” as a way “to help them feel validated and seen.”
JUQ is an openly bisexual polyamorous Oglala musician who says, “I felt the need to give myself the representation that I needed when I growing up, due to intentional systemic oppression and straightness and monogamy being rammed down our throats.”
JUQ’s song “*” has an accompanying animated video which tells the story of JUQ as a wolf puppy, who is coming home to his community and also finds three women who inspire him.
In the video are also images of Native protestors with picket signs, JUQ as the wolf puppy, the Native women in his life, Mount Rushmore with the images of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln as well as the Pine Ridge Reservation sign.
JUQ says the picket signs depict the various social issues that are by-products of a cis-het-mono normative based on white patriarchy.
“The picket signs covers several important concepts, which include giving land back to the Indigenous people, the well being of the planet, tribes pushing cultural, language revitalization to the forefront in our communities which my Dakota brother, Redwing Thomas says is not being a 'buster' and how love even prior to colonization came in all forms and how essential it is to provide our 2SLGBTQ+ / polyamorous, non-monogamous a sense of embrace and acceptance to the critiquing, dismantling of the larger oppressive systems (America, national, local, even tribal governments) that seem to only work against us in the long run,” JUQ says.
“Of course the signs also call out South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem for the harmful legislation she attempts to or successfully passes that work against anyone who isn't a straight cis monogamous white man.”
JUQ says that the love and inspiration he has for the women in his life, or his “wifeys” as he calls them, is enough to buck the oppressive system and blow up Mount Rushmore.
“The Oglala wolf puppy & his wifeys find their powers and blow up the desecrated sacred site known to my Lakota people as Six Grandfathers,' — which the U.S. now calls Mount Rushmore, the literal shrine to white supremacy, smeared with the faces of ruthless NDN killers, aka "the founding fathers" of this imperialist country.”
In animating the video, JUQ worked with Empire Animate, a Canadian-based animation company. “They had worked with Native country singer Jerry Sereda, whom I'm friends with and I just thought their work was incredible. The process took a couple months. The concept and everything you see was by me, they just got their team and brought it to life through their skills, I'm very proud of the results.”
Native TikTok influencers take notice
Soon after the creation of his song, big time influencers have taken notice of JUQ’s song, most notably, Modern Warrior, also known as Lance Tsosie, with 1.7 million followers posted a stitchable video (meaning other creators can add to his original post) contained JUQ’s song “*” playing, Tsosie received tons of responses, boosting JUQ’s video.
Other influencers included Native hip hop artist Sten Joddi who recently appeared on “Reservation Dogs.”
Stitch video "tell me your an indigenous artist without telling me, show me":
JUQ’s response to Modern Warrior
Sten Joddi @stenjodditmg:
Creating the song
“The song "*" was produced by my long-time Inuit buddy from Inari, Finland Aqqalu Berthelsen aka Indigenous DJ Uyarakq, one of the most talented Indigenous producers on Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth). He also mixed and mastered it to perfection. I came across him through a documentary by Digital Drum and we've been musical besties ever since. He's elite in every way and I will most definitely be touring with him some day very soon. He absolutely believes and sees my vision and brings it to life perfectly. He's incredible.”
JUQ says the responses to his video has been “incredible and overwhelming.”
In every way, I've just wanted to be open about myself, and show people what I feel my love story is destined to look like. There was never a point in my life prior to me coming home reconnecting to my Lakolwicohan (Lakota culture), that I didn't feel bi, polyamorous, and some ways a wild Oglala. To put so much of my truth in an animated music video, to see how many respond so positively, just got me just emotional these days.
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