Natives on The Voice!


By Michael Kickingbear                                                                                                                                   Season 11  of NBC Television's "The Voice" features two artists from Indian Country. I regularly continuously ask myself "Why not us?".  I follow music and talent reality TV shows for two very specific reasons. 1.)  I like them.  2.) I look specifically for Native American talent to appear on these programs.  Over the past 13 years, I have ben honored to broadcast the Native American Music Awards (Thank You, Ellen Bello and Donald Kelly)

Other shows that I follow such as "America's Got Talent, I particularly often wonder why we haven't seen more talent coming our of Indian country? I continuously ask myself "Why not us?".   It certainly isn't from a LACK of talent! Is it due to resources? Travel can certainly be expensive.  Could it be some form of racism on the part of show producers? Not likely, but who really knows?

The last artists that I remember being on a mainstream talent show was probably LIL MIKE & FUNNYBONE (aka MikeBone) out of Oklahoma City. The little person brother rap duo just killed their opening audition on the stage really helping to bring Native American talent forward to mainstream audiences. in case you didn't catch it, check this out:

This season, on NBC Network’s “The Voice," in what I believe to be a first, there are TWO singers featured who are native. I thought we would introduce them to you in this article. On our radio show and podcast, Native Opinion, we will continue to follow and report on their progress throughout the competition. 

As a young man, I was always taught that "Ladies go first" and so, in the respect, she deserves, I would like to Introduce to you Khaliya Kimberlie. She is Mescalaro Apache through her mother and is 16 years old. During her intro video, Khaliya mentioned that at 15 years old, she came out to her parents that she is gay. She mentioned how very supportive her parents and family have been since doing so. In a world where it seems like everyone is judgemental, and particularly the social pressures of high school, the courage for her to simply say hey, I'm gay, just goes towards how decisive she is at such a young age.   Khaliya performs at local venues and fairs. She stated that she is very much into country music, but also gravitates to the genre of Indie/alternative. despite her young age, she exudes a confidence that is bold and front and center. 

Next is Josh Halverson.  His mom is a Sioux, He learned to play piano and guitar when he was Just 5, and he says that he wrote his first song when he was 21. Josh works Cattle on his dad’s ranch and has been doing so since he was 12. Josh is also a father himself, and named his own son “Thunderbird” which in his intro video on the Voice he stated it is “a powerful symbol in the native American culture”.  He travels all around Texas performing gigs where he can and is a singer-songwriter. However, he admits that gigs are hard to find that pay enough to support his family. Josh says “The Voice would give me the opportunity to do what I’m supposed to do and play music,”.

We wish much success to Khaliya and Josh this season! They are examples of the wonderful talent found within Indian Country! I hope we see more native artists audition so that mainstream American audiences get to see what we have always known...that there is deep talent from native American communities that have always been right here all along!