Scatter Their Own: Oglala Band Brings It Home

by Katie Brandt
When Scotti Clifford wrote the song “Earth and Sky,” he had the band’s bass player, Juliana, on his mind. He was also thinking of sun dance, the traditional Indian ceremony that lasts for days and involves specific dances and songs passed down through generations.

“It’s about how if the sky could sing a song to the earth, what would it sound like? What would he tell her?”

At least, that’s the way Scotti’s wife, the bass player, tells it. I didn’t get the chance to speak with Scotti because he was participating in a sun dance, but Juliana Clifford took a few minutes away from the ceremony to talk. “All of our songs, the lyrical content, is about our culture,” she said.

The duo married this past June, but has been playing together for nearly three years. Their influences include the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Jimi Hendrix. Juliana said she loves making music with her husband. “It’s really soothing. As a couple, it’s healthy, and we’re really happy doing it.”

Their band, Scatter Their Own, is the English translation of their tribe’s name, “Oglala.” The Oglala Lakota live on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, surrounded by the Badlands and the Black Hills.

“People from our tribe really embrace [the band’s name] and are proud of us. We’re taking the people — our name — around the country, and when we go to different tribes in different places, people know what we’re talking about,” Juliana said.

The band performs primarily for Native American youth. When they travel, their car becomes their home, supplemented by people’s kindness on the road. “The people take good care of us. We really appreciate those relationships,” Juliana said.Scatter Their Own also has taken to the Internet. You can find them on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, and most recently the fundraising site Indiegogo. They are hoping to raise $15,000 to produce a music video for the song “Taste the Time.” Juliana’s brother Willi White plans to rent video equipment to shoot and direct the video.

Pulling from alternative, blues, and rock influences, the song focuses on water pollution. The issue plays a major role on Pine Ridge, where cancer rates have skyrocketed due in large part to chemicals leaking into the water from uranium mining for nuclear power.

Juliana and Scotti wrote the song together. “We sat and thought about if people could really drink from the river. They can’t because you might get sick, but our people used to go to the rivers around here,” Juliana said.

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