Hailing from the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe reservation in Northern Wisconsin, Darren Thompson has been a well-known artist since his debut album in 2009, “The Song of Flower: Native American Songs from Ojibwe Country”, as well as being a sought-after public speaker, educator and facilitator.
He started playing the flute while in his undergraduate studies at Marquette University in the early 2000’s, citing that it helped him focus while studying. Having no prior musical experience or formal training, Thompson taught himself to play the flute from his dorm room in his spare time, while also fighting the racial divide that is still a prominent issue at Marquette. That’s an impressive feat for any medium, and hard work proves to pay off as Thompson most recently was named the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation Artist in Residence for the month of October.
According to the foundation website, the Artist in Residence is given the opportunity to educate the public on their specific medium; through either demonstration or lecture and discussion. Thompson feels that being selected as both an American Indian and a music artist is a tremendous accomplishment. “I cannot believe from what started as a curiosity has led to having the opportunity to sharing your passion with one of the most recognized organizations dedicated to showcasing American Indian peoples in the world. For me personally and artistically, it is a sure sign of determination and believing in your dreams. There are also bigger implications to the opportunity – the one chance of sharing your community with not only the thousands of visitors who visit Crazy Horse Memorial, but the organization itself. The relationships and experiences cultivated from this experience can enrich so many people and I am so honored to have this privilege. “
Thompson’s most recent album release, “Between Earth & Sky: Native American Flute Music Recorded in the Black Hills”, was celebrated with a release party hosted at Sage & Silver Americana Gallery and Boutique in Rapid City, SD in mid-July. He credits his influences for this album to the cultural resurgence happening within the American Indian community, as well as the constant reminders of the struggles that all Indigenous people have faced throughout history and of course, our connection between earth and sky.
You can listen to and also purchase the musical works of Darren Thompson on his website, or hear him in person at the Black Hills Unity Concert, a gathering to raise awareness and protect the sacred Black Hills on August 28-30th, 2015.
Tara Rose Weston is an Oglala Lakota photographer from the Pine Ridge Reservation, currently living in Rapid City, SD. Keep up with her on Instagram @rwxse.