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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A night of righteous tunes by Indigenous musicians at Northern Quest

When discussing music and life on the reservation with singer-songwriter Tony Louie, the subject turned to Mildred Bailey, arguably the greatest Indigenous singer in North American history. Bailey is a historic figure, who enjoyed great success as a jazz singer during the 1930s. However, Bailey somehow slipped through the cracks of entertainment. It’s as if Bailey has been erased from music history.

“Erased is the perfect word to describe those who have made accomplishments in the Indigenous world,” Louie said, while calling from his Inchelium, Washington, home. “We’re no stranger to that word. What we’ve been battling as a native people is that eraser.”

Louie, 32, is a member of the Colville Reservation in Inchelium, which is 80 miles northwest of Spokane.

“I’m a nomad. I’ve lived all over the place, including Spokane,” Louie said. “But home to me is the Colville Reservation. That’s where I had my musical education.”

Louie, who will perform 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Native Jam at Northern Quest Resort and Casino, has been detailing the Native American experience through his compelling songs for over a decade.

“Writing is this amazing outlet for me,” Louie said. “It’s therapeutic. I have a message for everyone.”

Louie offers an eclectic sonic menu, which includes country, rock, hip-hop and R&B.

“I’ve never committed to one sound,” Louie said. “It all just flows out naturally. It depends on what I want to do. Sometimes I want to rock out. Sometimes I’m in a country mood. No matter what, it’s all organic. It’s all about staying true to myself.”

Expect a number of tunes Louie learned while growing up on the reservation.

“I’ll play some res jams that are meaningful to my people back home,” Louie said. “I picked up so much in my little village. It’s a nostalgic thing for me and it did well last year when I played at Northern Quest.”

It went over so well at Northern Quest that the Native Jam went from a free event in the intimate High Ball to a ticketed show Friday at the Pend Oreille Pavilion which will feature Louie, who will headline and fellow Native American singer-songwriters Isaac Tonasket and Tyus Beebe.

“We’ll each showcase our skills during our sets and try to have as much fun as last year,” Louie said. “The venue is banking on me bringing my following along. I have fans since I’ve been doing this for literally half of my life. I’ve played a lot of shows in Spokane bars and all over the Inland Northwest. I bring all of that experience with me and the songs that have been inspired by what I’ve dealt with in my life.”

James Pakootas, who also grew up on the Colville reservation, directed the film “HIStory,” which features Louie. The five-minute short is a compelling spoken word piece with Louie focusing on the horrific traumas of the indigenous.

“History always paints a black and white picture/ the whole country rocks native mascots, go figure/ I truly feel any soul that claims to be American should pay homage to our skins on the reservation/ Killed raped and sold for this land/ Genocide at its finest killed the Indian/ Saved the man” is part of Louie’s spoken word performance.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about who we are, the Indigenous, and what we’re about,” Louie said. “I’m trying to set it straight through my music and art.”