Christian Parrish Takes The Gun has been dancing at powwows since he was in the fourth grade. And, he's been spreading his message of sobriety through hip hop as Supaman for more than a decade.
Now he’s got the chance to increase his audience by about 50 million people. Takes The Gun flew to New York on Monday to prepare for his role in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning. The parade will be televised from 9 a.m. to noon on NBC.
His music, pairing hip hop with Crow chants and drumming, will be featured on the Native Pride float with nine other Native Americans. He is the only Crow Indian on the float and he doesn’t take the honor lightly.
“I dance for the people,” Takes The Gun said. “Whether you’re native or not, I dance for you.”
The weather forecast for New York City on Thursday is for wind, possibly strong enough to ground some of the parade’s signature giant balloons. Takes The Gun said he’s ready for anything.
“I know how to dance with the wind; I’ve competed in Browning," he said. "You have to lean into it and make sure it doesn’t blow you over.”
Takes The Gun is a fancy dancer who travels around the U.S. and Canada to dance and rap about pride and standing strong against bad influences. He used to separate his two passions — dance and rap — until he ran out of time at a Native Heritage Day celebration at Montana State University in Bozeman.
“When I couldn’t change outfits one evening, I rapped in my regalia and everybody liked it,” Takes The Gun said.
When he shows up in his regalia to perform hip hop, he knows he shocks some people.
“I’ll get up there and people will picture this native guy talking like a chief,” he said. “Then I’ll start beat boxing and rock the mic and showing them some Native humor.”
Growing up on the Crow Reservation, Takes The Gun regrets not learning much of his ancestral language until after graduating from high school. Now he introduces himself in Crow and often says a blessing before he performs.
“I always start with something like ‘Good fortune on Mother Earth and my clan,’ ” he said.
Takes The Gun and his older brother, Tony, had their coming-out ceremony as Crow dancers when Christian was in fourth grade. He eventually chose to perform and compete in fancy dance, a contemporary style of Native dancing that originated with the Ponca Indians.
“During the Buffalo Bill's Wild West shows, they exhibited the first fancy dance competitions and people liked that style,” Takes The Gun said. “When we are dancing, you can’t tell a Crow from a Blackfoot or Cree, but when you look at the beadwork, you can tell. The Crow beadwork is more geometric.”
Since it is traditional to wear outfits created by family members, Takes The Gun is happy to show off his “Supaman” medallion beaded by his wife, Angela, and his buckskin beaded moccasins made by an aunt. Angela was working until the last minute on a new outfit for Takes The Gun to debut in New York, substituting the pale pink beads with florescent pink so he will show up better on television.
Takes The Gun’s outfit is embellished with white ermine streamers and deer-hoof jangles to make noise. Most fancy dances last about three minutes because the 360-degree spins, aerials and side kicks take so much effort. Takes The Gun said he can last through 10 dances in a row, which is what he expects to perform in the parade on Thursday.
“I try to be creative and borrow moves from dancers I look up to,” Takes The Gun said. “JoJo Shield, a Lakota/Crow, is the dancer I respect the most.”