Big Sky Roundup

Billings Symphony presents ‘Welcome to Indian Country’ to kick off season

By: - August 3, 2022 9:10 am

Welcome to Indian Country performers Nikosee Fields plays bass while guitarist and vocalist Mali Obomswain sings (Photo by Ryan Hunt, used with permission).

Spend an evening in celebration of Native culture through contemporary music and storytelling during Welcome to Indian Country on Saturday, Aug. 13, presented by the Billings Symphony. This event kicks off the symphony’s 2022-2023 season, featuring 30 events at 13 venues throughout Billings.

Welcome to Indian Country is a five-piece Indigenous music ensemble joined by Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest, storyteller and member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. Together they share original compositions, poetry, and songs paired with wit, satire, and wisdom to honor Native elders and ancestors.

“We all need a good celebration, and music is the language of the soul,” said Andre Bouchard, the show’s producer and director. The outdoor event will open gates at 4 p.m., at 406 Events Lawn at Red Oxx in east Billings.

The Billings Symphony has also partnered with the Pretty Shield Foundation, which will erect teepees in the traditional Apsáalooke (Crow) style starting at 5 p.m., with a cultural presentation on the teepee by William Snell, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council and president of the Pretty Shield Foundation.

Welcome to Indian Country begins at 7 p.m., and includes an array of compositions by Native American artists with material written by Priest specifically for the performance and based on interviews with performers. The ensemble includes musical director and trumpet player Delbert Anderson (Dineì); fiddle player and guitarist Nokosee Fields (Osage); vocalist, pianist, and guitarist Lyz Jaakola (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior); drummer and percussionist Nicholas Lucero (of Peruvian and Spanish descent); and bassist, singer, composer and songwriter Mali Obomsawin (Odanak First Nation, Canada).

“There’s so much richness and love that we can share,” said Bouchard, who was born on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana and is of Kootenai/Ojibwe/Pend d’Oreille/Salish descent. “Music is the medium. Storytelling is the medium.”

Bouchard is the founder of the nonprofit Indigenous Performance Productions, based in Olympia, Wash. The organization aims to spread the word about the prominent roles Native artists play in the development of American music and performing arts.

“We’re excited to be in Montana,” said Bouchard. “I have a place in my heart that will always be in Montana.”

Tickets, priced at $40 for adults and $20 for students, or subscription packages are available at or by calling (406) 252-3610. Wood-fired pizza by Mike Cotta and full bar will be available at the event.

This project is funded in part by the Montana Arts Council, an agency of the State Government, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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