Activist, Entertainer, Educator: Renee Roman Nose’s Visionary Voice!

Posted By PowWows.com January 25th, 2015 Last Updated on: January 25th, 2015

Visionary. Voice. Vibrance. Renee Roman Nose inspires many through her music, speaking, comedy, acting and example. A Southern Cheyenne, she is a passionate advocate for the environment and for others. Renee Roman Nose shares her motivational enthusiasm and brings a smile to all of us in a delightful visit here on Powwows.com and in two interviews on A CONVERSATION WITH DAWN KARIMA.

Visionary Voice Renee Roman Nose!

Visionary Voice Renee Roman Nose!

Interview by Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor

Renee Roman Nose captivates her audience!

Renee Roman Nose captivates her audience!

DK: An honor to visit with you! Please introduce yourself to us?

RRN: I am Renee Roman Nose, I am Southern Cheyenne. My father was Clifton Roman Nose and my mother is Winona Maupin-Youngren. I attended Eastern Oregon University, receiving a Bachelor's of Science in Anthropology/Sociology and a minor in History. I then attended Oregon State University and received a Master's of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a major in Applied Anthropology, and double minors in Art and Ethnic Studies. I've worked in Indian Gaming, Education, Marketing and Sales, and recently founded my own company, Fierce Courage, focused on on providing wellness in the workplace facilitation as well as workshops on: team building, healthy relationships, healthy workplace, diversity training, among others.

Activist, Entertainer, Educator Renee Roman Nose!

Activist, Entertainer, Educator Renee Roman Nose!

DK: You're known for so many talents! How did you begin to sing?

RRN: I have been singing since I was very young. My Mom always sang to us on road trips, saying, “I can't carry a tune in a bucket, but let's sing!” My Mom would share stories about how she learned over 90 verses of On Top of Old Smokey in the one room schoolhouse she graduated high school from in Crow, Oregon. She only remembered 6 verses after all the years in between and I wrote them down when I was 12 and I've taught those to my children as well. My Mom encouraged me to sing in school, so I joined the choir, then the madrigal group (Bel Cantist) and later, the jazz group in high school. From there, I sang in the college choir, and at family events, and eventually as a part of my stand up comedy routine.

DK: Comedy! Native Humor is a highlight of our culture! How did you start performing?

RRN: When I was in grad school at Oregon State (attended 2005-2009), I was asked to do stand up at the Native American Longhouse, to MC at campus events and then this expanded as I moved into my career working for Northwest Indian College. I began performing at Tribal events at the Tulalip Resort, Wildhorse Pass Casino, among other places. I integrated singing a cappella into my stand up routine, parodying songs and using those lyrics to build my routine around. I began doing theater in my teens, performing in both high school and community theater. I enjoyed being in the musicals most of all. Since then, I have done comedy, been an MC at many events, done modeling, voice work, extra work, and had a supporting role in Some Days are Better than Others, an independent film written and directed by Matt McCormick. I am also a Spoken Word Poet, and have performed my poetry throughout the US.

DK: Wow! So much talent! So MANY talents! What's a recent highlight of your performing career?

RRN: My favorite recent event was being half-time MC at a LaCrosse game at the ComCast Arena in Everett, WA.

DK: Such a powerful intersection between culture and tradition! How does your Tribal heritage appear in your life as a way of life? How does culture impact the way that you live and the way that you utilize your gifts and talents?

RRN: I am Cheyenne, every moment of every day. My rich, cultural heritage is woven in everything I do and everything I am. I only do my comedy for Tribal events, as sometimes our humor does not translate well to non-Tribal people. I integrate my culture into my poetry, into my public speaking engagements, into my activism and into every aspect of my life, public and private.

DK: How does following our Native traditions help those who are struggling? What do you hope your audiences learn from you as they experience your talents?

RRN: By continuing to practice our traditional Native life ways, we are honoring the sacrifices of those who have gone before. We are continuing a long and proud tradition of being people who care for the earth and one another. Violence is not traditional, our people are struggling to cast off the non-Native life ways such as violence against women and children, by remembering who we are and where we come from we are then able to strengthen our own resolve to stay clean and healthy, and to create safe and loving environments for future generations, to break the cycles which were thrust upon us to destroy our cultures and our people.

I enjoy making people laugh, even when it's at my own expense. I love creating comedic poetry, as well as writing work which reaches deep into the hearts of others, perhaps articulating feelings they hadn't been able to themselves. My stories, and my experiences (both positive and negative) are utilized to help others. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they are just heart breaking. It's my hope that my music uplifts others, or makes them think. Last year Paco Cordova worked with me to produce my first CDs, “Native American Anthem” and “As the Rez Turns”, both of which feature Peter Ali on Native flute alongside me doing spoken word. It is my hope that my music and my poetry inspire others to tell their own stories, in whatever way works for them.

DK: You're very popular with young people. How do you share our marvelous Native life ways with the next generation?

RRN: I think that when you can connect with the hearts of others, you have a gift, one which you must treat with care and respect. By integrating our cultural practices into our everyday lives and events, we are showing our youth the way to walk in two worlds. I laughingly tell people that I walk in one world, but I dance in the other. The songs of our pow wows resonate through us, lifting our feet when we are tiring, making us laugh when we are sad, dance when we want to sit, remember when we're down. Music can do all of that. Our music, the music of thousands of years is a gift we can continue to give to future generations.

DK: You're a Champion now, but everybody's got their something. What are some of the obstacles you had to overcome in order to achieve the success you enjoy now?

RRN:I don't consider myself a champion in any way. I consider myself to be an activist. I have had to overcome physical, mental and verbal abuse. I am the survivor of two attempted rapes. I am no one's victim. My stories, my path, has not been easy, but whose is? When I was in high school, my school counselor suggested I go to vocational school. I didn't know what that was and hadn't even taken a shop class throughout high school. I had been a student leader and consistently on the honor roll. I walked out of his office and thought to myself, “No, I'm going to college.” I knew college was the stairway out of poverty and the way to make my dreams a reality. I had many struggles while in college, and a gap of over 20 years between starting and finishing my bachelor's degree. There were people who tried to discourage me, I left them behind. The people who love you are the ones who encourage you, who believe in you, who push you to follow your dreams, not to abandon them. Something most people don't know is that I was dropped from my graduate program at OSU, the Dean of the program thought it was taking me too long to finish, when all I had left was my defense of my thesis. Fortunately, President Ray (President of OSU) advocated for me and I was able to jump over that last hurdle and now have that piece of paper I fought so hard for. He believed in me. I will never forget what he did for me.

DK: Mighty words from a mighty heart! Right now, take a minute and encourage someone else who is desiring to achieve their own goals?

RRN:To be a performer, you have to be willing to go outside yourself, to push yourself to do things you may not even think you are capable of. I worked for Walt Disney World/MGM Studios in The Spirit of Pocahontas Stage Show several years ago. I wasn't sure I could do it, but my friends and family were convinced and talked me into auditioning. It was one of the most fulfilling gigs I've ever had and most of the people I worked with then are still my friends today. Five standing ovations a day, it was an amazing experience!

I have no patience for Native performers who are using alcohol or drugs. You are an inspiration to our youth, you are a role model, please set an example for them to follow which doesn't include self-destruction.

DK: You're extremely uplifting! Are there artists who encourage you?

RRN: My first album was Carole King's Tapestry. I sang the title song a cappella as an audition piece. I got the part. I loved that album and wore it out, singing those songs hundreds of times thus far in my life. I love ballads, songs which tell a story and move me. I love the music of Shania Twain, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, LeAnn Rimes, Linda Ronstadt, Jewel, Bonnie Raitt, to name a few.

Most of my family sing traditional songs, pow wow songs, sweat songs, peyote songs. When I'm feeling down, or homesick, I call my brother, Clifford Little Elk, and ask him to sing to me. It always uplifts me, always makes me feel better. He's my favorite singer.

My favorite musicians are those who are dedicated to their art, who live healthy lifestyles and are able to share their view of the world with others in a good way. Peter Ali, Star Nayea, Swil Kanim, they are my musical heroes. When you see them at events they are genuinely interested in talking with you, if they have time. They care about their communities and their culture. Their performances embody that. They are amazing people performing and sharing their culture with others, all the time.

DK: If you could offer any advice to someone who would like to learn more and possibly start performing,what would it be?

RRN: Sing, or perform, from your heart. Practice, practice, practice. If you're starting out, don't feel bad about performing for free once in awhile. It's good practice and will help you hone your art and your skills.

DK: If you could offer any warnings to someone starting out in music, what would you caution them NOT to do?

RRN: Don't perform for free forever! You have bills to pay, too. Your art has value. Stay clean and sober, you'll remember more and be remembered and admired. Behave as if your eldest elder is there beside you.

DK: I'm learning so much from you and I want to make sure we enjoy as much of your wisdom as you possibly can! Anything else you want us to know about you?

RRN: Your prominence as an entertainer and speaker can be valuable to your community in many ways. I've been honored to have been a small part of the change of Columbus Day in Seattle to Indigenous People's Day, through Seattle City Council, a successful venture proposed by Matt Remle, and supported by countless others in Washington State. I'm also a supporter of Idle No More, and a frequent lecturer on the importance of VAWA to Indian Country.

My travels and adventures have taken me to Alaska, all across the US and Canada, and to parts of Europe. I value the people more than the places, and treasure the friendships made from each adventure. Making new friends is one of my favorite things about my adventures and I hope that your adventures bring you great joy and love as well. Your voice and talent are valuable, use those skills in a good way. That is all I have to say.

DK: Thanks so much for sharing with us. We sure do appreciate you!

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