“It’s kind of been madness at our house,” Ginger Dunnill tells me. “Standing Rock has taken over. … We go every summer to see Cannupa’s family and we’ve been to the camp twice, once in June and again in August. … I think everybody is starting to feel it in a way, but for me and for him specifically, we’re feeling it.”
Dunnill is probably best known as Miss Ginger, a local DJ who kicks out the dance jams pretty hard, but lately she's been casting a wider net, both as artist and activist. She's married to Cannupa Hanska-Luger, a well-known local Native artist who was born near Standing Rock, thus the special interest in the current political climate in North Dakota and the protesting of the straight-up evil Dakota Access pipeline. Protest or not, Dunnill says her family would be visiting Standing Rock anyway, though they're proud to have thrown in with the other Native nations. "It's about family," she says. "We're going to access all our resources and approach this in a punk-as-fuck way—we are not afraid."
Dunnill herself hails from Hawaii, though she's spent enough time in New Mexico that she may as well be from here. Either way, Standing Rock has brought together Native nations in a completely unprecedented way. In other words, the tribe to which one belongs doesn't matter to the cause so much as the intent.
"Native or non-Native, whatever," Dunnill says. "What's important is to start doing, because we were raised in this system that was created by our parents' generation and their parents' generation and we now realize that this is not working for us, and we need to de-colonize our way of thinking."
So how does this fit into the context of a music column? The short answer is that movements such as Standing Rock have always stoked the fires of punk rock activism and music in the hearts and minds of the angry and the disenfranchised. The long answer has to do with a new yet-unnamed collective of Native artists and musicians located throughout the country spearheaded by Dunnill and Luger. Using file sharing system Dropbox as a hub, Dunnill and company will create audio-visual arts pieces informed by their cultures but with a more contemporary eye toward production.
"When we went up there, we rented a drone and took all this video following the line of the water and the lay of the land. I also had this field recorder, and I was recording these soundscapes like the camp, people singing, the birds singing, the water flowing," Dunnill says. "We're going to be writing music based on these land lines, which is something that people used to do—they'd create songs that told them how long it would take to get from place to place. But now we're thinking, let's bring this cultural practice back, only let's use MIDI composing or something, let's reimagine it for our generation."
It may sound like a relatively small effort when compared to those who are protesting daily but, according to Dunnill, it's every bit as important. "For Indigenous people, there is no separation between art and music, life and ceremony, and that's something we've been colonized into forgetting," she says. "All these songs that are thousands of years old being sung at the camps, all this music coming out and that we're doing, it's to remind people how connected everything is."
For the time being, Dunnill appears as Miss Ginger after the upcoming dress rehearsal for the 25th annual HeShe Bang in Madrid on Friday. (As of press time there were still some tickets available for the event itself, held on Saturday, but it always sells out.) The event mixes music, comedy, drag and more to benefit charity and this year's proceeds go to the Madrid Emergency Medical and Dental Fund. "I love performing in Madrid," says Dunnill. "Whether there are three people or 300, they're always present out there in a way that I haven't felt in a long time."
DJ Miss Ginger
9:30 pm Friday Nov. 11. Free.
The Mine Shaft Tavern,
2846 Hwy. 14, Madrid,