As a full-time artist and musician, 40-something single mother of two Gretchen Seichrist knows something about struggle and community. Which is partially why the creative force behind Patches and Gretchen (and maker of one of this year’s most lyrical and vibrant rock CDs, “Sugar Head Pie,”) finds herself at the center of “Bringing It All Really Back Home,” a benefit for the White Plume family of Pine Ridge, N.D.’s Horse Spirit Society at the Bedlam Theater tonight. MinnPost caught up with Seichrist as she prepared to open her tiny South Minneapolis apartment to the visiting Plumes.
MinnPost: Tell me about the benefit. What got you involved, and why did you and Cyn Collins want to organize it?
Gretchen Seichrist: There’s all sorts of aspects to it, but the idea is that there’s this family, this extended family. Alex White Plume raised this entire family of people who were orphaned. Even with all the utter poverty there, they happened to hang on to some land, and there’s been [controversy] about his hemp crop, but the whole family are sort of activists, and they’re trying to make their own way.
So the whole idea of the family was, “We’re going to do something for ourselves to not live in this poverty.” The entire family works on nonprofit things together, and they do this Lakota horse camp for traumatized kids that emphasizes the Lakota values of healing. They do it with this big family and horses in the traditional way that was taken from them.
That’s what the benefit is for, but it’s a bigger thing about supporting this family, and the bigger idea of what they’re trying to do.
MP: How did you come to know and be interested in the Plumes, specifically?
GS: I read a story on Alex, and I just thought, “Wow. Thank you for being you.” I think I probably read it in Red Lake News or Indian Country, because I’m always reading papers like that. I was just inspired by this family who wanted to live the way they wanted to live — not in that `I wanna do what I wanna do’ way — but they wanted to do it for a community.
The whole family has a plan. They’re very gutsy, and it’s really fascinating. They talk about, `Who are we? What are we doing? What do we stand for?’ It was a really purposeful thing in every decision they made, and that was inspiring. And you want to thank somebody for that, because anytime somebody’s courageous and has integrity, it makes you feel like you can do anything.
MP: Your empathy for Native Americans is all over “Everything’s Indian” from the new record. Talk about that.
GS: When I was eight years old I was always watching things on AIM (the American Indian Movement). I was always thinking about things like that. How did these things come to be? Is the simplistic answer you hear about everything really the way it is, or is there a deeper story there? And then I become fascinated with what the story is. So “Everything Is Indian” is about once you actually know beyond the simplistic thing that everybody lives by and you reach the deeper story, you can’t go back.