For the People Festival Leaves Lasting Impact in Rapid City

Brandy Calabaza · May 10, 2022

For the People Festival Leaves Lasting Impact in Rapid City

Over a thousand people came together for the first-ever For the People Festival headlined by over a dozen Indigenous artists from across Turtle Island, after an earlier planned event went awry.

Indigenous artists and musicians from across Turtle Island gathered in Rapid City, South Dakota on Saturday, April 16, in the first-ever For the People Festival. The live concert hosted at Rapid Skillz Sports Complex was emceed by Whitney Recountre and featured a special line-up of musical guests and entertainers including Antoine Edwards, Opie & Des, Ekitchetu, Def-I, Fawn Wood, Terrance Jade, The Bearhead Sisters, Tonia Jo Hall, Gunner Jules, Spur Pourier, Jaque Fragua, Night Shield, DJ reHst, Dawson Dayne, Let it Bee, and Stacks Thunderhawk.

Artists pictured with NDN Collective and Rapid Skillz crews at the end of the For the People Festival. Photo By Marty Aranaydo for NDN Collective.

The atmosphere at the For the People (FTP) Festival was energizing and a positive affirmation for organizers who rushed to bring the event together. Many of the artists at the FTP Festival were originally slated to perform at an event to occur that same weekend, billed “Akisa 2022: In a Good Way,” but backed out of the event just days before, reporting that the the event’s promoter, Brandon Ferguson, failed to communicate with them about pay, travel costs and hotel rooms.

With many of the artists having already made their way to Rapid City, they were left with little to no options. Faced with a challenging situation, a group of the artists sought out the support of NDN Collective to ensure the show would go on.

“We took a really unfortunate situation and did our best to make something really positive out of it that both uplifts the artists and creates something healthy and positive for the Native community and our allies in the broader community here in Rapid City,” said NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen. In less than 24 hours, NDN Collective secured the venue, made travel arrangements for the artists, and the For the People Festival was born.

Through their music and art, they bring us medicine and help us radically imagine the future we are fighting for. The FTP Festival was a celebration of Indigenous cultural power and talent

Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO

With over a thousand relatives in attendance, the festival was an experience that honored the artists and brought the people together, showcasing the pure love that each artist has for music, entertainment, and community. For many in attendance, this event was one of the first public concerts they attended in over two years since the start of the pandemic. From start to finish, the festival radiated elements of connectedness that exist uniquely within Indigenous gatherings.

“Saying last night was amazing is an understatement,” said singer and musician, Fawn D. Wood (Plains Cree and Salish). “It was truly an event I’ll never forget.”

“Nanaskamon (I’m thankful) for NDN Collective for making this beautiful event happen,” Wood wrote on social media. “In my whole time as an artist, I’ve never experienced moments like this where I had the crowd singing with me– it absolutely blew me away, and I really had to thank the team that worked so hard to make this happen in such short notice and I really believe when things fall into place like that it’s truly meant to be.”

Fawn Wood sings to the crowd at the For the People Festival. Photo By Aria Stafford for Rapid Skillz.

A mutual love for music, entertainment, and laughter brought the people out and the energy that was shared at the For the People Festival was one that inspired the attendees long after the concert. 

“We here at NDN Collective believe in honoring and supporting Indigenous artists,” said Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective President and CEO. “They are the connection to the past, present and future. Through their music and art, they bring us medicine and help us radically imagine the future we are fighting for.”

“The FTP Festival was a celebration of Indigenous cultural power and talent,” Tilsen continued. “It was an honor to support these artists and uplift the spirit of the people!”

Click on photographs to expand

“[For the People Festival] was beautiful. I’m honored to have been able to help organize and coordinate the show,” said Umonhon and Lakota hip-hop artist Antoine Edwards. “Artists were coming forward with concerns, and NDN Collective was more than willing to help. Artists were put in bad situations full of uncertainty and thanks to the [NDN Collective] team, they found hospitality, support, and made good memories.”

In the end, strong connections were made, many laughs were shared, and the vast talent of Indigenous artists that we are blessed with throughout our communities was uplifted. The chaos and uncertainty that existed before was left behind, leaving one fact that remains certain– Indigenous artists possess the power to bring the people together, and on their own terms.

At NDN Collective, we are honored to have been asked by the artists to support the For the People Festival. Music is medicine and Indigenous artists are the voice. They continue to bring prayers of healing with their songs and lyrics, many carrying depictions of the realties we face as Indigenous Peoples. As they share their gift with us, it is also a collective duty to ensure our artists are taken care of and treated well.

More Photos from the For the PEople Festival

Tonia Jo Hall performs her Auntie Beatrice skit at the FTP Festival. Photo By Aria Stafford for Rapid Skillz

Brandy Calabaza
by   Brandy Calabaza

Brandy Calabaza (She/Her), Communications Associate, is Jicarilla Apache and Kewa Pueblo from Northern New Mexico. Brandy supports the Communications and Narrative Team with all aspects of content creation, targeted outreach, copywriting, and overall management of internal communications systems. Throughout and following college, she continued to build on her professional development holding various positions in her Tribal community, including working with the Nations courts in the prosecutorial setting, teaching language classes to children, and working with and empowering Native Youth. Brandy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Native American and Indigenous Studies from Fort Lewis College and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma. 


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