By Staff, May 2018 Web Exclusive.
Meet Gabriel Scabby, one on the many voices included in the new documentary You Racist, Sexist Bigot. For Echo's complete coverage of the film, visit "All We Want is Justice, All We Need is Love."
Echo caught up with Scabby to find out more about him and his experience working with filmmakers Matty Steincamp and Pita Juarez, and here’s what he had to say.
Echo: First, Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Scabby: I come from the “Oy EE Veh Eh Man Nah Heh No” which translates Scabby Band of Cheyenne’s. MahKo Nahko is my Cheyenne name which interpreted means “Big Bear.” Currently, I'm a Frontline Special Operations FireFighter and EMT (medic). I graduated from the Mesa Fire Academy in 2001. I'm a self-described red-blooded heterosexual male, married to my wife, Claudean “Buzzy” Scabby of Tuba City/Navajo Reservation in Northern, Ariz., for 19 years.
Echo: How long have you lived in Phoenix and, if you are a transplant, where are you originally from?
Scabby: I was raised in Arizona on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Which is centralized in the heart of metropolitan Phoenix.
Echo: Was there a distinct moment when you realized this is your community?
Scabby: Many families will say they are forth or fifth generation Phoenicians, but it is safe to say that my generation's past spans hundreds – if not thousands of years – before the first settlers arrived in the Valley of the Sun. So yes, I feel deeply rooted in the community of The River Peoples.
Echo: At this point in your journey, do you consider yourself an activist? Why/why not?
Scabby: Most affirmatively, when Standing Rock called for their allies to come and stand in solidarity with them it was our alliances that brought us back together after centuries of colonialism. Many Americans never read in history books about the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, (Sioux) alliances. I came to stand with my Hunkpapa Lakota “Sitting Bulls’s” people in prayer and resistance to corporate America’s Oil Pipeline. Remember the treaties!
Echo: How did you first meet Matty and Pita? What was it like working with them?
Scabby: Through a friend of a friend, actually. I'm thankful that he thought of me at that moment, especially when I thought that the cause/message needed to be spread throughout the world because the world needed to know what was happening at Standing Rock. It may be soon happening to them. And is.
Echo: How did they describe this project to you and what specifically made you want to become involved?
Scabby: It was told to us, around the sacred fire of the Oceti Sakowin camp, that there will be many who will want to hear our words and it was going to be up to us, the seventh generation, who needed to stand up for the people and fulfill the vision that says to the world the message of Standing Rock.
Echo: How did you determine they way in which you told your story? And was there any points of your story you wish to elaborate on here?
Scabby: Centuries of destruction of our way of life here on Turtle Island was how I structured my story. My family's story. Fighting against the the U.S. Calvary and fighting for our right to live and protect our lands/Mother Earth.
Echo: Was there any specific topic/angles you set our to shed light on and was that a part of your casting conversation?
Scabby: The message of Standing Rock was at the forefront, to stand in solidarity for their right as a sovereign nation to exist and their right to govern themselves and to keep the sacred waters pure. For “WATER IS LIFE!” Mni Wiconi! We all need water to live, the animals need water to live, we all are down river no matter how deep your pockets are. We must exist in harmony with one another.
Echo: This has already been a poignant year in Hollywood and a historic year at the Oscars, why is the timing of this film important?
Scabby: I truly believe our Creator allows us to have our voices heard through amazing peoples, such as yourselves, to stand as one in fighting against racism, sexism and bigotry. Indigenous nations and their allies stand even today against corrupt billion dollar oil corporations and its mercenaries who seek to rape our Mother Earth in 2018. Not only pipelines, but fracking and the literal polluting of our sacred water we need to live – such as the case in Flint, Mich.
Echo: In your own words, how would you summarize the film?
Scabby: All we need is love, in the end. “Love makes the wildest spirit tame, and the tamest spirit wild!” We must learn to love one another, to stand with our brothers and our sisters united in Love. When they look upon you, may they know that you stand for love, is my hope.
Echo: What kind of reactions to the film have you observed so far?
Scabby: Wow. Self-inflection. Do I care to know which human being I live among? Do I know what their generational traumas/scars are? How can one right the wrongs for future generations.
Echo: What was filming like? How long did it last and how long ago did it take place?
Scabby: Filming was very organic, very raw in nature, actually. Filming on location of our traditional hunting and fishing grounds made the experience surreal. The river of life-giving water flowing in its paths, unadulterated by mans pollutants, echoed the message that “Water is Life!” Mni Wiconi! Mni Wakan! in Lakota language. Shooting took most the afternoon mostly due to wardrobe changes. Fireman bunker jacket and suspenders, to full on Southern fancy war dance regalia and dancing. Vibing to the river made dancing and filming seem to come alive. Water protectors, Mother Earth’s protectors/warriors have the right to celebrate her life when her children sing and dance for her. A song collaboration was also made shortly after filming was complete. There would be some native style vocals I felt I could contribute along with the soundtrack. All in all the right amount of time was taken to complete what was necessary for full production I felt.
Echo: This film has already generated a lot of support locally (through fundraisers, Phoenix Film Festival, etc.); what were these events like? How did it feel seeing this project in its early/growing stages?
Scabby: It felt like what you would describe as being a warrior for the first time, or being a firefighter on your first firefight. You feel fear at first, but then you turn that fear into something brave by believing in yourself and all that you were taught by those that love and care for you. That’s what those events in the early stages felt like. Pita and Matty really care about all of our stories and all it takes is someone to listen and believe in you.
Echo: In what ways has this film changes your life and in what was have you observed it changing the lives/thought processes of those around you?
Scabby: YRSB has helped to fulfill my promise to those elders whose vision was taught to us that we the seventh generation must carry a strong message to the world that love, prayer and healing must take place now more than ever. Wherever this film is viewed, may they know we stood with Mother Earth and to defend the sacred! Mni Wiconi!
Echo: In terms of getting the anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-bigotry messages across, did this experience spark any other efforts or open any other doors for you?
Scabby: YRSB has helped many open the door for conversation in nation to nation communications.
Echo: What are your hopes for the film from here on out?
Scabby: There are many deep in the honey hole, worker bees. But not everyone is busy working in the beehive of Capitalism. Which I feel is the stronghold of YRSB. Our indigenous nations natural resources are not to be unnaturally used (i.e Uranium for nuclear weapons). Clean energy is the future for us: Solar power, wind and water (hydro) as renewable energy for the future generations. Respect the rights of First Nations people of this land we call Turtle Island. We are still here, the original caretakers of this land. Finally, respect our sovereignty.
Echo: Is there anything you'd like to add about the film or your story?
Scabby: I’d like to thank my relatives that went on before me who taught me these things in a good way. I hope you feel good medicine from what I shared. My great, great, grandpa Whiteshield who spoke pure Cheyenne, to me; my Grandpa who spoke pure Navajo to me and made me laugh; and to my Grandma’s I say Nee Me Hoates!
Meet The Cast
For Echo's interview with Miguel Arriaga, click here.
For Echo's interview with Karyan R. Jaramillo, click here.
For Echo's interview with Juli Myers, click here.
For Echo's review of You Racist, Sexist Bigot., click here.