He’s not a politician, he’s not a lobbyist and he doesn’t hold a degree in environmental sciences.

Mato Nanji is the vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and front man for the band Indigenous.

In addition to the skills that have helped to make Indigenous a force on the blues scene ever since their first album – Things We Do (Pachyderm Records) – came out in 1998, Mato (Ma-TOE) is also blessed with a boatload of good old-fashioned common sense.

“If we don’t have water, we don’t have people. We don’t have anything without water,” he recently said.

Mato’s response to the firestorm that is currently burning at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation – the sixth-largest Native American Reservation (in land area) in the United States – boils the essence of the matter right down to its very core.


The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is meant to transport oil through four states – and over 1,100 miles- from the Dakotas down into Illinois. When the DAPL was rerouted from its planned path near Bismarck (the capital city of North Dakota), to near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is when the protests began. The tribe that calls Standing Rock its home opposed the new route of the pipeline, because they felt it’s construction under Lake Oahe – along with the Missouri River – would pollute those waters and have a harmful impact on countless lives in the area. In addition to the potential for pollution, the tribe also believes the DAPL violates established treaty rights and puts sacred burial grounds in peril.

So far, those tasked with constructing the pipeline (referred to as the ‘Black Snake’ by many Native Americans in the area) have chosen to ignore many of the concerns with the project and thus, a standoff was born between the two sides.

While it’s failed to become the lead story on any of the nightly newscasts that mainstream media has to offer up, the situation at Standing Rock (which covers land in both South and North Dakota) has nevertheless become a huge presence on just about every social media site and that has helped lead to protests and demonstrations in places thousands of miles from the Dakotas. From Denver to San Francisco to Miami and even New York City, those concerned are making their feelings well known.

Mato – who was born and raised on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota – has been doing his part to bring awareness of Standing Rock to a heightened level, even helping to bring the blues crowd up to date with the struggle.

Mato has played several benefit shows for Standing Rock this past year and he says he’s been encouraged by the response to the shows.


Guitar Radio Show Podcast Episode 85
September 2, 2015
By: Mark Daven

Description: Mato Nanji from Indigenous joins us to discuss his latest release Time is Coming" and much more!!!!


Mato Nanji Interview: Indigenous Rocks On
Adam St. James

B.B. King was a big fan of Mato Nanji’s guitar playing. The late blues legend heard Nanji’s band Indigenous early on and brought the band out on tour with him. Likewise another blues legend, Buddy Guy, has often played with Indigenous. And it was at a show featuring Guy and Indigenous that John McDermott, director of the Jimi Hendrix catalog and producer of the semi-annual Experience Hendrix tours, first discovered Nanji.


Navajo Blues Trio The Plateros Forge Ahead -- as Indigenous

Two of the most recognizable names in the Native music world, Indigenous and The Plateros, are now one.  After two consecutive summers of touring together, the blues trio of cousins has become the next generation of Indigenous.  Frontman Mato Nanji, winner of the Artist of the Year at the 2014 Native American Music Awards, will still lead the band.  But Levi Platero, Bronson Begay and Douglas Platero will be his new cohorts as the band gets back to its Native roots.  ICTMN caught up with Levi Platero, after a performance at the New Mexico State Fair.  "Mato asked us if we wanted to become his band full-time," Levi recalls. "Me and the guys actually thought about it. 'Wouldn't it be cool if we were actually to become Indigenous?'  It never really occurred to us that it would really happen.  At first, we were just opening for them.  Later, we started helping with a few shows.  Now, he's picking us up to be his full-time band, which is just incredible.  And, it's awesome.  I'm really excited about it."

For the immediate future, they will not be performing as The Plateros. "It's just going to be Indigenous," Levi says. "It will always be there.  We'll be able to do side gigs.  Plateros will be the side project now -- it used to be Indigenous as the side project."  The Plateros had been in the studio, working on a new album, but they are going to suspend those efforts in favor of this newer development.  "It's been slow going.  This is kind of like a safety net.  It just kind of happened that's really going to help us out.  And maybe give us more exposure.  At the same time, maybe we can land a record deal.  And maybe we'll be able to finish the album -- there's still quite a bit to do with the album."

Mato Nanji of Indigenous Talks About Becoming A Mentor, Life on the Road, the Experience Hendrix Tour and the “New” Indigenous

I’ve known Mato Nanji since the late 1990s. Indigenous had released “Things We Do” and they were playing the Sioux Empire Fair with another young blues guitar slinger named Jonny Lang. I’ve followed Indigenous’ career ever since in part because they are South Dakota natives and part because I just love the music.

I got a chance to talk to Mato before their recent concert at the Hard Rock in Sioux City to revisit the past, talk about songwriting, future plans for recording with some of his Experience Hendrix mates and even the relaunch of Indigenous starting this November as Mato takes a fantastic New Mexico blues band that you’ve heard on the Blues Fix at 6 called the Plateros, and morphs them into the new Indigenous.

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