They were scheduled to fly to Niagara Falls, even though a giant snowstorm was approaching their destination in upstate New York.
Worried about the weather, Pat Mata, drummer and vocalist for Tehachapi’s band Blue Mountain Tribe, was considering canceling the trip.
“My son, Tyler, said to me, ‘No, Dad, you have to be there,'” Mata recalled. So Mata, his wife, Bonnie, and Tyler, 24, made the plane at LAX and arrived at their destination without incident.
None of the other three band members did, so Mata had the pleasure – and responsibility – of accepting the band’s award for Best Blues Video at last weekend’s Native American Music Awards at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino near the beautiful Niagara Falls.
“I’m so proud of Pat for being there,” said vocalist and harmonica player Robin Hairston, who founded Blue Mountain Tribe 15 years ago with his son, Caleb, who sings and plays lead guitar.
“Somehow Pat pulled it off,” Hairston said. “If it wasn’t for Pat, we wouldn’t have had any representation after winning the award.”
Founded in 1998, the NAMAs have grown into a largely annual celebration that shines a light on the explosion of talent emanating from North America’s indigenous artist community.
This year’s live awards event, on the 20th, returned in impressive style after two years of pandemic-related hiatus after COVID-19 dealt a particularly difficult blow to Native Americans across the country.
Because the Nammys ceremony went dark for two years, this year’s nominees included music released from 2019 to 2021, with 37 categories including pop, rock, country, pow wow, artist of the year and many more
“We are grateful and very excited that the song and video have been so well received,” said BMT bassist Jeff “Cooperhawk” Cooper.
“We are grateful to the Native American Music Awards, who have been so welcoming to us, and all the fans who have voted for us,” he said.
Hairston, a descendant of the Chiricahua Apaches, was also thrilled by the national recognition.
“More than 2,000 Native American bands entered the Best Blues Video category,” he said. “We’re very excited that it happened to us.”
They started out as a “regular classic rock bar band,” he said. But as they matured and became even more aware of the richness of their heritage, and the tragedy of their history, they realized that they had a deep expression to draw from as Native Americans and artists.
The song recorded in the band’s award-winning video is titled “Pray For Our Planet,” a direct response to a request sent to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Native American artists by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a Native American spiritual leader American Lakota, and a prominent voice in the protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The request was simple and direct:
Pray for the planet and spread the word.
According to Cooperhawk, a Cherokee and professor of chemistry at Antelope Valley College, the Blue Mountain Tribe song is “a hymn for everyone to pray for our planet to the Creator for peace and well-being.
“It’s a call to people,” he said, “to be part of the solution and work together.
And that includes both indigenous peoples and everyone else, he said.
Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @semayerTBC.
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