Seattle, Washington (ICC)
The Reach The Rez Tour is rolling out for a non-stop eight months, continuing its campaign across the United States beginning with the Makah Nation in Neah Bay on February 26, 2006. The tour, an unprecedented journey to over 200 Native American communities, will be complete by Mid October of this year. The tour has completed 32 of the events in its schedule and already empowered thousands of people across Indian Country through the messages given by Litefoot.
At each stop of the tour, Litefoot gives a free concert and motivational speeches as he has for a decade, but this time there will be other elements as well:
A Reach The Rez Documentary is being filmed of the tour as well as interviews with tribal leaders, elders and youth, and will be distributed to schools and other organizations in the United States and Canada upon completion.
The Reach The Rez Radio Show following the tour’s progress debuted December 23, 2005, and is currently being broadcast weekly through American Indian Radio On Satellite (AIROS) and is available to download for FREE at www.reachtherezradio.com
The Reach The Rez Magazine, distributed at event locations, contains a fourteen page educational study guide for use by teachers, parents and programs to facilitate additional learning and discussion centered around the messages delivered by Litefoot on the Reach The Rez Tour. The magazine also features motivational stories, interviews, poetry, photo-journalism and art.
The Reach The Rez organizers will launch later this year a Web site/chat room, www.globallodge.com, where Native youth can meet, learn, and give each other support. Litefoot is already plenty busy with a healthy acting career that includes appearances in The Indian In The Cupboard, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, The Song of Hiawatha and TV spots on CSI and Any Day Now.
He is currently the Native American Music Awards Artist Of The Year and has recorded 11 albums on his own label, Red Vinyl Records. He has several clothing lines including the popular Native Style™ brand and a new recording label for up and coming Native artists, Litefoot Music Group. All of which he runs with his wife of eight years, Carmen.
And with all of this on his plate, now, says the Cherokee Nation Of Oklahoma tribal member, it’s time for him to continue giving back more than ever before – to Native American youths across the country.
“We educate our children and fill their minds up with everything that we think they need to achieve in this world,” Litefoot says, “but what good is that if their spirit’s dead? You’re filling up an empty shell. It’s obviously not getting it all done.”
That’s the motivation behind the annual Reach The Rez tour, a caravan launched in the fall of 2005.
Litefoot has quietly grown a big fan base among kids on reservations, says friend and fan Derek Matthews, 54, founder of the annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in New Mexico, which also hosts the Reach the Rez fundraising concert stage at each year’s pow wow.
“He makes a point of going to as many Native locations as he can every year,” Matthews says. “The kids don’t get anybody else. The kids come out to hear him, they purchase his CDs, they wear his clothing lines. Those are good indications that they are listening.”
Others are listening too. Members of tribes impressed with Litefoot’s commitment have helped financially back the ambitious Reach The Rez Tour.
“His message is good for our youth, so I help him out on the road every chance I get,” says fan Jeremy Whipple, 23, a member of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut. “It’s keeping me out of trouble.” Whipple believed so much in Litefoot’s vision that he helped persuade the Pequot to donate $250,000 to the tour.
Marjorie Colebut-Jackson, 44, council-woman of the tribe, explains: “All of our youth look up to him. He has a unique and inspiring way of speaking to them.”
Another who was inspired is Winter Benton, 24, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. “All of my friends are either dead or in prison out there,” he says of the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in Wisconsin where he used to live. Benton first heard of Litefoot while going through rehab on a North Carolina reservation. “I had hit rock bottom in my life and was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I started listening to his music... Litefoot taught me to be positive and proud of who I am.”
Modestly, Litefoot takes no personal credit. “I try to make them understand that they do have a purpose here on this Earth and that it will be enhanced, it will be fed, it will be brought into existence every single day through their prayers,” he says. “Whatever ‘prayer’ means to them, they need to have that communication with their Creator.”
As the Reach the Rez Tour traveled throughout the United States last year, one very special stop came in November when the Reach The Rez Tour visited the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona. At San Carlos, Litefoot and all of the Reach The Rez Tour vehicles took part in the San Carlos Veterans Parade. Litefoot walked the entire parade route signing autographs, giving hugs and shaking hands.
Litefoot’s genuine care for the people was demonstrated very strongly along the parade route and the impact of his presence was apparent to all that day. When Litefoot reached the announcers stand he was asked to say a few words, which he did. The crowd responded with cheers and applause as he encouraged all “who could hear” his voice to “Pray, Pray, Pray!” The Reach the Rez Tour performed in San Carlos and again one week later at the San Carlos High School. After completing his performance at the high school, Litefoot visited the San Carlos correctional facility and spent over two hours speaking to the inmates in each of the cell blocks.
As the Reach The Rez Tour has traveled to its first 32 events, many lives have been changed and healing tears shed. Comments from the San Carlos Apache youth demonstrate the powerful impact that the Reach The Rez Tour is having.
Tish had this to say, “Like to say your show was tight. Litefoot is definitely an inspiration to all Native youngstaz out here on our rez (SAN CARLOS) Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us... you’ve changed some lives (REALLY). We’ll be praying for you and your family... continue to spread the love.”
And another youth from San Carlos by the name of Kai, said, “It was a honor to meet one of the Natives that’s doing the best to let other Natives know that it’s possible to follow your dream. I give Litefoot much respect after having a little talk with him. But what he told our hood, I’ll tell everyone else…NEVER GIVE UP!!!!”
The scope of the tour has meant more than just the right ideals. Donations and sponsorships from tribes and corporations have brought it to fruition. The most visible contributions: a $500,000 custom-built tour bus with 14-foot trailer including gas costs for five years donated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida; a truck with a 48-foot trailer that will sleep the 8 crew members, bought with a $250,000 donation from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation; a Reach The Rez documentary sponsorship of $80,000 from the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma, and a brand-new SUV, donated by DaimlerChrysler.
However, fundraising will be an ongoing effort for Litefoot and the efforts organizers. As Litefoot puts it, “The Reach The Rez Project is unprecedented and it truly is historic in scope. There has never been an outreach program of this magnitude, proactively focused towards Indian Country in the entire history of the United States of America. Therefore, the level of support needed to accomplish this for the betterment of our future generations must be unprecedented and historic as well.”
Litefoot and his supporters believe the message of support and community will last beyond the tour.
“His message is very inspirational,” says Cori Silvey, 17, head of the Suquamish Tribe’s Youth Council. “The situation here is not as bad as some reservations,” she says, “but it’s hard to get the youth to participate in activities and Youth Council because you have to be drug- and alcohol-free.”
Ernest Stevens Jr., 46, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association and member of the Reach The Rez Advisory Board who lives in Washington, D.C., agrees.
“A warrior is someone who’s a leader, who conducts himself in appropriate ways, respects his elders and the youth, and lives life to help people. Litefoot... is a modern-day warrior who’s doing what he can to change American society, to appreciate the goals our ancestors set for us, but at the same time, accepting and embracing what today’s culture brings to us. We need more Litefoots. We need more warriors.”