By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer (Choctaw Nation)
Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
Gunner Jules (Sicangu Lakota) is an Alternative R&B recording and performing artist. He grew up with his family on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. He currently works in the Sicangu MVP program as a mentor to young males recovering from violence and other trauma.
Gunner is releasing a new song in January 2019 called “Energies,” making it available on all streaming platforms. He is expecting to release his first album this spring.
He is a 2017 First Peoples Fund Artist in Business Leadership fellow and 2019 Cultural Capital fellow.
Music has been Gunner’s medicine since high school when a suicide epidemic raged on their reservation. It took his best friend, and prompted Gunner to write a song called “Lonely Nights & Days.” The song spread through the internet and radio play. There was a story there that resonated with others.
Drawing from life experiences, Gunner tells stories of people within his community through recording and performing original music. For his open mic performance at the 2018 National Performance Network (NPN) annual conference, Gunner chose to do a song he hadn’t released publicly yet titled, “Come Along.” The song sheds light on issues his people face on the reservation.
“As a music artist and producer, I always look to create a sound that is unique to my artistry and to the place that I grew up,” he says. “I understand my responsibility as a leader and role model.”
With little infrastructure and collaborative space for music on the Rosebud Reservation, Gunner is reaching out to other Native artists who have resources to create. He brings everything he can back his community.
Though Gunner is a full-time father and works a full-time job with the Sicangu MVP Program, he always makes time for music. He is using his Cultural Capital fellowship for travel outside the reservation to make connections. At the same time, he is working on a preservation project of bringing elders and drum groups to his studio to record traditional songs.
Gunner’s fellowship also allows him to mentor young males in his community. One of them, who aspires to be a rapper, has already been in Gunner’s studio for his first recording session.
“Whether I’m trying to entertain or maybe teach a lesson through my songs, you get a piece of me and my home and my people,” Gunner says. “I love my home and feel that I need to do the best I can to bring hope and prove that it’s possible to be successful on the reservation.”
Find him on Instagram @Gunnerjules to follow his music.