Local singer-songwriter Steven Graves was a land management consultant in Southern California for almost 25 years before he retired in 2011 to pursue a full-time music career. The switch has been gratifying for him. “When you have a career doing something you’re passionate about that you feel has meaning, then that’s very satisfying,” Graves says. “Not everybody can do that, so I am grateful I’m able to.” And Graves is not the only one.
The Native American Music Awards (NAMA) recently nominated his song “White Buffalo,” from his 2012 album, Matter of Time, for a Native Heart Award, which is given to non-Native American musicians. The song features appearances by Curtis Fire—a Lakota elder—and his family, and celebrates the White Buffalo Woman, a sacred figure in the Lakota Nation’s religion. According to legend, she gave the Lakota people the sacred pipe, which they honored through prayer and worship. Consequently, buffalo became plentiful, and the White Buffalo Woman introduced the Lakota to the holistic worldview that defines many Native American spiritual beliefs. Graves is overwhelmed by the nomination. “It’s such an honor,” he says. “For them to acknowledge this song as being worthy of a NAMA nomination is wonderful and beautiful. I’m humbled by the whole thing. I have tremendous sympathy for what [Native Americans] have endured, and still endure today.” Beyond words, Graves demonstrates his compassion for them through his website. There, people can download his music with all proceeds benefiting native communities. “I always knew the reservations were in pretty poor shape,” Graves says, “but I did some research and it was devastating to me, the extent of the poverty and the problems. I want to do something about that.”
INFO: To vote for Graves’ song, visit nativeamericanmusicawards.com. To hear his music, visit whitebuffaloproject.com.