Contemporary folk/acoustic rock duo the Indigo Girls famously said years
ago that they are activists first and musicians second. Their words have
trailed them since that declaration, and Emily Saliers and Amy Ray have
lived that attitude.
On May 21 in Shiprock, N.M., the Indigo Girls will be throwing their
activist support behind the proposed Desert Rock Energy Facility, a
coal-fired power plant slated to be built on the Navajo Nation 25 miles
southwest of Farmington. Ray and Saliers will perform a benefit concert
called Honor the Earth. The intent is to lend support to grass-roots
American Indian groups working to prevent the building of Desert Rock.
Honor the Earth is a national environmental-awareness group that takes on a
range of causes for the country’s American Indian population.
two-time Green Party vice-presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, the group,
which formed in 1993, has become involved in the Desert Rock issue as a way
to support the segment of the Navajo Nation that opposes the plant and also
to continue its promotion of safe, renewable energy alternatives.
The Indigo Girls have been working with Honor the Earth and performing
benefit concerts for its various causes for about 15 years. During the
years, the Indigo Girls have taken on the fight for issues that the Honor
the Earth board of directors deems worthy.
The Indigo Girls spend much time getting educated about
the issues they help promote.
In this case, the Indigo Girls aim to support
the groups opposing the coal-fired plant.
“We believe (Honor the Earth’s) work to bring awareness is some of the best
work on energy policy to be done,” said Ray in a telephone interview from
“Honor the Earth got involved with Desert Rock cautiously. We do our own
research to get our own perspectives about the issue and learn both sides
of it. In this case, the details are pretty nuanced.”
If built by Houston-based Sithe Global Power, in partnership with the
Navajo tribe’s Din`E9 Power Authority, the power plant reportedly would
generate 1,500 megawatts of electricity once operational. It also may
generate more than $50 million each year for the Navajo Nation and create
400 permanent jobs.
Those projections aren’t worthy enough for many people’s support, including
the Indigo Girls, because of the already elevated ozone levels and mercury
contamination in the area.
“(The Navajos) are suffering under the burden of bad energy practices,” Ray
said. “We are hoping to bring light to change the energy paradigms.”
Ray said that the current energy paradigm in the U.S. is not sustainable.
She and Saliers strongly believe that communities have to recognize the
connection between poor energy policy and ultimate injustice and violence.
“The problem is that companies, like Sithe Global, are getting tax breaks
for these kinds of projects. They are getting all the benefits and the
people in the community aren’t getting in on that. Our message is to tell
companies who want to make money off the natives’ backs to stop it.”
In Shiprock, LaDuke will speak briefly before the Indigo Girls perform a
Part of the show will certainly include music from the
duo’s latest release, “Despite Our Differences,” said Ray.
The Despite Our Differences CD was an Amazon Best Music of 2006 selection. At the link above, you can watch a video clip of the Indigo Girls performing songs from that recording.
This latest recording was done on Hollywood Records, a new record label for
Ray and Saliers. The result is both predictable and fresh. True to their
roots, the singers’ lyrics are provocative and introspective (and decidedly
less dogmatic than past songs); the music is emotional and angelic.
Ray said of the album that it is one of the “tightest” releases the Indigo
Girls has made. “It’s more spontaneous, energetic and in your face; it is
also more musically economical.”
Music aside, Ray puts her emphasis on the genesis of the group’s booking in
Shiprock, a small native town that is musically underserved.
“The Southwest is like a whole other planet,” she said. “It’s a very