The Mother's Heartbeat

In the words of Sebi Medina-Tayac, Editorial Director of Eaton Workshop:

Way before he got famous on the internet, Nathan Phillips was dear to the indigenous movement as an O.G. environmental justice activist. He met my family when he came to our Sundance in Maryland back in the early 90’s to sing on the ceremonial drum. My aunt’s corded landline rang in the kitchen; it was Nate—he needed a ride to the farm from the Greyhound station in Waldorf. He had just gotten back from the Rainbow Gathering. Later that summer, he met his wife Shoshanna, dancing barefoot in a dewy field. They lived in the area for 20 years.

They protested uranium mining in Navajo Nation, advocated for native prisoners and vets and founded the Native Youth Alliance. When he lost Shoshanna to bone marrow cancer in 2017, Nate went with his daughter Alethea to the front lines of the resistance at Standing Rock, where he and other water protectors fought the Dakota Access pipeline to the bitter end. Well, it wasn’t really the end for Nate, because he kept fighting and praying and marching throughout the country in solidarity actions and divestment efforts. What landed him back in D.C. that fateful day was the Indigenous Peoples March, after which he was accosted by a bunch of racist kids and the world was gaslit into believing they were the victims.

While we worked with Nate on this Eaton Media film and helped him manage the press and attention, he leased the basement apartment in my house and we spent many nights talking about life, love, and God over black coffee and homegrown cannabis. There’s a lot written about Nate, he even stars in a music video with Damien Marley and Skrillex, but nothing really captures his essence.

The week following the incident, he made numerous appearances as a talking head on mainstream media channels. With no media training, running on little sleep and thin emotional reserves, he was positioned against a baby-faced white kid with a multimillion-dollar PR firm that represented a powerful bloc of the American right wing, and wealthy, aggressively litigious parents. The truth was obscured by partisan politics and propaganda thriving in a Trumpian America.

The Mother’s Heartbeat is the distillation of the first in-depth interview he gave after the incident: a long, emotional conversation on a rainy night at Eaton Radio in DC. It’s neither a caricature nor a polemic. It’s just Nate, in his words.

Published:

05 Dec 2020

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Published:

05 Dec 2020

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