BY PETER DORFMAN
Davina Two Bears didn’t come to Bloomington to educate the community about Native American music. An opportunity presented itself and she took it.
The Indiana University doctoral candidate in anthropology hosts the WFHB Sunday morning radio show Native Spirit, which features diverse selections by Native American musicians. She didn’t create the show, but since August 2010 she has given it an authentic voice. A previous host — a young French woman — invited Two Bears into the studio to share music and talk about her native Navajo experience. When her host suggested she learn to be a disc jockey, Two Bears quickly agreed.
On the first and last Sunday of each month, she plays the music she grew up with and loves. If you’re imagining drums and powwow singing, you have a lot to learn from Davina Two Bears.
Her first music recommendation? “A Tribe Called Red,” she says. “They play electronic, techno music. It’s not what you think of as Native American, but they’re really fun.”
Two Bears selects from many genres — rock, reggae, folk, punk, hip-hop, even heavy metal. “As long as they’re Native American musicians, we play their music,” she says. Native American artists often use their music in social activism — recently in protests against the Keystone pipeline and against fracking on ancestral land.
Ed Kabotie is another favorite. “He sings in English, Hopi, and Tewa,” Two Bears explains. “I don’t speak those native languages, but it just makes the music that much more beautiful.” Like many of Two Bears’ favorite artists, Kabotie sings about places she knows, such as the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, sacred to more than a dozen tribes. “Native Americans have lived here for thousands of years,” she says. “We have deep cultural and religious attachments to these places. It’s not just real estate.”
Two Bears was raised on the Navajo Reservation, which sprawls across northern Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. She grew up hearing Navajo and Hopi radio personalities and loved the banter and the inside jokes about reservation life. But she aspires to a National Public Radio–style persona, serious and informed.
A mother of three, Two Bears makes regular trips back to Arizona. “Bloomington is a great place, very friendly,” she says. “But I would go insane if I could not go home.”