Supaman rapped in Apsáalooke and spun around in his fancy dance regalia in a video that won an MTV Video Music Award on Sunday night in Inglewood, California.
Christian Parrish Takes The Gun, who performs as Supaman, got just four days notice that he could be part of the big show at the Forum. He reached out to his mom and Della Big Hair to help get an outfit ready.
"I wanted to carry my family with me," Supaman said. "It was such a spur-of-the-moment thing, but I wanted to represent my family and my Apsaalooke people."
His mom suggested he wear a bonnet and the face paint of his Crow family when he walked the red carpet, which was actually blue. His wife suggested he wear his fancy beaded cuffs.
Big Hair designed a shirt for him in just one day, and Supaman was off to meet up with Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas and the MAG7 — the six other Indigenous hip-hop artists featured in the video “Stand Up/ Stand N Rock #No DAPL.” It also features actress Shailene Woodley performing spoken word poetry.
Even though Supaman didn't appear on stage at the award show, he considered the honor a highlight of his life.
"I'm from Crow, raised on the rez," he said. "I'm blessed. It's the power of believing you can do something big. I am an example of that."
Supaman described the “contagious light” that had him returning four times to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where he performed at the site of the Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access pipeline.
"The ones who were there for the cause were filled with love, and they stood in the face of evil and let their light shine," Supaman said.
When he performs for Montana school groups, Supaman introduces himself in the Apsaalooke language and gives a blessing, but he needed help from a friend to turn these lyrics into the Crow for the video: “Today we have life because of water / Respect my Mother Earth / Keep in mind our children and their children / Stand up together with your words and defend her.”
The video was released on Dec. 6, 2016, and it drew immediate attention. It now has more than 8 million videos on YouTube.
Plans are to record with Taboo and the MAG7 at some point. In the meantime, Supaman is recording a song with Grammy Award-nominated artist Maimouna Youssef and opening for Michael Franti in Taos, New Mexico, on Sept. 30.
"Already my inbox is blowing up," Supaman said. "It's definitely a boost."
Northern Cheyenne and Crow fashion designer Bethany Yellowtail chanted "mni wachoni, water is life," in the video, and also attended the award ceremony.
Taboo, who has Shoshone heritage, said the song is meant to promote awareness and to be an anthem for indigenous people.
Supaman said the entire Standing Rock movement earned the VMA.
"Yes, I won the award, but it was the people on the front lines, the young that started that movement that are the winners," he said. "This is dedicated to all those who don't talk about it, all the older ladies and the aunties that were there on the front lines who just truly have a heart for the people and for the protection of drinking clear water."
Other musicians featured in the video are Apache and Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation flutist Tony Duncan, Navajo vocalist and model Kahara Hodges, Seminole singer Spencer Battiest, and Plains Cree MC Drezus.
All six entries in the VMA category Fight Against the System were given the award. The winners included Grammy Award winner John Legend.
In 2014, Supaman won the award for best music video at the Aboriginal Peoples Music Choice Awards. The video was shot in the Billings Gazette's Enjoy Studio and features Supaman performing "Prayer Loop Song" while wearing his fancy dance regalia.