Frank Waln (Sicangu Lakota) is an Indigenous American rapper, songwriter and activist from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. He travels the world telling his story through performance and workshops focusing on self-empowerment and expression of truth.
Growing up “in one of the poorest counties of the nation, statistics told me I was more likely to drop out of high school and die by the age 50 than I was to succeed doing what I love.” Rap, an art form driven by communal narrative and civic engagement, resonated powerfully with Waln, echoing the storytelling traditions of his indigenous community. By the age of 16, the young poet, performer and musician had saved up enough money to purchase a home studio, and produced, wrote, and recorded his first song.
Today, Waln is an award-winning musician and a passionate advocate for Indigenous resilience, decolonization, and youth empowerment. As he told NPR Radio in this 2017 interview, “I think it’s really important that young Native youth see positive Native role models doing what they love and succeeding, and getting our stories out there to the world.”
Waln’s awards include three Native American Music Awards, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development 2014 Native American 40 Under 40, the 2014 Chicago Mayor’s Award for Civic Engagement, and the 2015 3Arts Grant for Chicago Artists.
In my art, I share personal stories of what it means to be a young Indigenous person reconnecting to my culture and unmasking a painful history. My work is layered with stories of history, struggle and hope presented in a format that translates to a wide audience of Native and non-Native people.
Frank Waln – “Good Way” featuring Gunner Jules & Rollie Raps | Directed by Tomas Karmelo Amaya. Courtesy of the artist.