Pretendians Band in our Spotlight Interview (Rock)

Pretendians Band in our Spotlight Interview (Rock)

Welcome to Indigenous in Music with Larry K, on this show we welcome from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Pretendians Band, founding members Thomas and Christine, lead singer and drummer, will be in the house.  One of Minnesota’s finest rock bands.  They’re new album is out and it’s called “Stories From the Fire,” a nice mix of Indigenous Rock.  Enjoy music by Pretendians Band, Xit, Blue Mountain Tribe, Aysanabee, Morgan Toney, Bluedog, Johnny Ray Jones, Latin Vibe, Thunderhand Joe and the Medicine Show, Wolfsheart, Jose Feliciano, Hataalii, Graeme Jonez, Janet Panic, Soleil Launiere, Adrian Sutherland, Carsen Gray, Zoe, Yogui, Obie P, Shawnee Kish, Locos Por Juana, B-Side Players, Love to Bleed, Wayne Lavallee, Tom Bee and much much more.

Look around our site to find out all about us and our programs and visit our SAY Magazine Library with all our featured guests.





Thomas Draskovic, Čhetán Ohítika (Brave Hawk) is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota, and is Húnkpapa Lakhóta and Wahpé Khúte Dakhóta. He is the lead vocalist of the all native band Pretendians. ART IS…, is a multi-media and events series aimed at bringing visibility to emerging and established artists in Minnesota. The program showcases artists work and gives artists an opportunity to share their inspiration in their own words.


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TEXT: 612-800-1699
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Pretendians Band is a 4-piece Native American rock band that calls Northeast Minneapolis,
Minnesota home. In their own words, “Despite the name of our band, we are not pretending a
thing.” The majority of the band represent the Oceti Ŝakowiŋ (7 Council Fires) of the Dakhota/Lakhota
Nation, hailing from and enrolled with the Standing Rock, Rosebud, and Crow Creek tribes of
South Dakota.

Most of the band’s songs have a societal and political viewpoint, told from a modern
Indigenous perspective, touching on topics about racial profiling to the Native homeless crisis in
Minneapolis, songs about their Dakota ancestors, and many modern Indigenous-centric topics.
Formed in 2014, Pretendians Band draws inspiration from a wide range of rock influences
and has crafted their unique brand of rock music by joining it with indigenous-centric lyrics, told
from a modern Indigenous perspective. The group has made a name for themselves by infusing
their music with a modern indigenous perspective, crafting a dynamic and energy-fueled brand
of conscious rock music.​

At the heart of Pretendians Band’s music is a commitment to celebrating their indigeneity,
history, and most importantly sharing and telling their viewpoint on the challenges and
opportunities presented by the modern world.  

“The challenges that we face are unique to being a Native American band. It’s as if we have two
different audiences: We have our Native American/Indigenous audience that we adore, where
we play community events and Indigenous-centric shows. We want to be known to Native
audiences – Being able to bring people together using music as the medium is what we set out
to do. We adore our Native audience.“ Pretendians Band has seen rapid fan growth, especially over the past couple of years.

“The other side to that is that we also play around the Twin Cities metro area within our local
bar scene, which is mainly a Caucasian audience. Show after show and one by one we are
delivering our Native ancestry and message to as many people as we can. And they support us
and are showing up at our Native community shows. And we love it.”

What’s in a Name?
Another challenge that the band faces is the name of the band: Pretendians Band.

The word ‘pretendian’ as any Native/Indigenous person will tell you, is an offensive term.
People who are considered ‘pretendians’ are usually Caucasian folks, who appropriate and
poorly imitate Native culture by wearing headdresses, carrying tomahawks, infringing upon,
and abusing Native spiritual beliefs and falsely claiming to be of Native descent when they are
not. “As a Native American band, we speak out against the appropriation of our culture, of our
history, of our image. Our lyrics speak to that, and it becomes clear that we are against non-
genuine images of our culture.“

“The word ‘pretendian’ itself, brings up a lot of issues for Native people. It’s offensive to hear
about non-Native people trying to step into and to try to represent us when they have no
business being in that space to begin with.” So then, why did a group of actual Native American musicians name their band ‘Pretendians Band’? Initially, deciding to call the band ‘Pretendians Band’ was an inside joke and the mere thought of it was an absolutely stupidly funny idea to the members.
“Ask any band and they’ll almost always tell you that coming up with a band name is probably
one of the harder thing to do as a group.” “At first, we tossed around a bunch of different possible names.“ First, it was ‘Wagon Burners’. It was taken, so Nope. Then, it was ‘The Four Skins’. Stupid and DEFINITELY Nope! Then it was ‘The Dead Injuns’. “We were initially set on calling ourselves ‘The Dead Injuns’. But then our guitarist, Al Googled it to see if it was already in use, and yes – It was in use already by a group of “racist, southern rednecks”. So, nope!”….

“Then someone said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we called the band ‘pretendians’?” It was so
stupidly funny and inane at the time. And at that time we weren’t playing out much, so we
didn’t have any audience whatsoever, let alone an awesome Native audience that we have
now.” After many heated conversations about it amongst the members of the group, it was definitely
a conversation worth having.

“There seems to be many misunderstanding about how you express yourself as an indigenous
person. What or who is considered a ‘pretendian’? How do we judge who is or who is not a
pretendian? Do we base those judgements on our preconceived notions of white colonists? Or
of our own people?”

“Pretendians Band is here because we are not pretending anything. We are living our truth as
Indigenous people based on our life experiences and by telling our own stories, which may not
fit into the common ignorant narrative put forth by people who may not want the truth; those
same people who tried to exterminate us.”

What’s in a name? Names aren’t the end-all-be-all. At the end of the day what is important is
knowing and understanding what something is and what it represents, not what its label is.
Pretendians Band is certainly not pretending to be Indians. They are the real deal.
“After all is said and done, we have been well received within our Native community. We
absolutely adore our Native audience. We are asked to play at many Native-based shows in
Minnesota and beyond. In August of 2022 we performed at a Native American music festival
called Tribalpalooza in Yakima, Washington. Our music is played regularly on Native radio
programs locally and across the country. Our music has been nominated for the Native
American Music Awards several times. We were even featured in a local TPT television short
called ‘Art Is’.”​ Check them out and see for yourself! Pretendians Band just released their second album called ‘Stories from the Fire’. Their music can be found on all streaming platforms.

Pretendians Band is:
Thomas Draskovic – Lyricist, Singer, Rhythm Guitar
Al Grande – Lead Guitar
Jilleo Candyhands – Bass
Christine Bartyzal – Drummer