As most of us have just spent last week feasting on Thanksgiving meals with family, it is a perfect time to appreciate and honor the Indigenous Americans of this land we live on.

November is Native American Heritage Month, meant to celebrate the significant contributions of Indigenous Americans to society and culture, as well as to remember the unique histories and struggles of Indigenous tribes. Native American musicians have contributed to all genres of music, from rock and roll to EDM, although they are often underrepresented in the top 40 charts. This playlist showcases songs by Indigenous artists that would make fantastic additions to any playlist, as they speak to heartbreak, love, longing, anger, traditional life and more.

“Star Nation” by NADJIWAN

This track opens with a melodic guitar rhythm that turns into a full-bodied, strong indie-rock tune. With meaningful lyrics evoking feelings of questioning and searching for guidance, as well as rich vocals, the song is a cathartic expression of the emotions that many have felt amplified by the difficult past years. The incorporation of chanting and the theme of star searching add unique elements to the song, helping provide a moving beat that makes the song unlike any other.

NADJIWAN is the musical project of Marc Meriläinen, a Toronto-based musician of Ojibway and Finnish descent. He blends elements of traditional Indigenous music with modern rock features, creating a refreshing, authentic sound. NADJIWAN has been nominated for numerous awards such as the Best Rock Album at the 2018 and 2019 Indigenous Music Awards.

“Little Bit Crazy” by Brooke Simpson

This dance hit fits squarely into the R&B and pop genres. With a repetitive, catchy chorus, this tune is a perfect earworm for anyone going through a breakup. Simpson shows off her impressive vocal range with towering high notes and runs that are reminiscent of Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande. The track features minor backing music of drums and well-produced electronic beats to allow Simpson’s smooth, powerful voice to shine.

Simpson is a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe of North Carolina. In 2017 she placed third on the popular singing competition “The Voice,” and in 2021 she placed fourth on “America’s Got Talent.”

“Never Say Never” by Romeo Void

Featuring the sharp, poetic vocals of Debora Iyall, saxophone choruses and strong drums, this song is a strong contribution to the history of punk and punk rock. With lyrics describing frustration and angst from a distinctly female point of view, the song is a cacophony of instruments and sounds that seem like they shouldn’t work well together, although they prove that assumption to be completely false. Iyall’s voice, going back and forth between talking and singing, has a biting tone to it that made “Never Say Never” one of Romeo Void’s most popular songs in 1982.

Romeo Void was an active post-punk, new wave band in the ‘80s, releasing three albums and one EP, along with one compilation album in 1992. Lead singer Debora Iyall is of Cowlitz heritage and won the Lifetime Achievement Honoree award at the 19th Annual Native American Music Awards.

“A Million Miles Away” by Jim Boyd

Boyd opens this track with a bluesy guitar riff, turning it into a slow-burning blues-rock hit. His rich, warm-toned voice goes well with lyrics singing of heartbreak, longing and wanting to escape one’s life. He switches masterfully from quieter, sultry verses into the strong and forceful chorus, conveying the intense feelings that inspired the song. Boyd’s lyrical and instrumental talents make this song blend perfectly into the discography of ’80s and ’90s crooners, with their songs of love and loss.

Boyd was a prolific musician throughout his life, winning several awards over the years and receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Native American Music Awards in 2014. His work is characterized by elements of blues, folk and rock, with songs that directly discuss Native American life in addition to many that don’t. Outside of music, Boyd served as tribal chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation from 2014 until his death in 2016.

“Home of the Brave” by Jessa Calderon

Calderon shows off her poetic, rhyming talent with this rap song from 2016. The track features the catchy and moving chorus hook, “I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me / Can’t call my folks illegal if yours came across the sea.” The song addresses urgent social and political issues that Native Americans across the country face, such as environmental destruction, discrimination and violence. The song has a catchy, hip-hop backing beat to accentuate her powerful words and feels like an expression of frustration that Calderon wants the world to hear and acknowledge.

Calderon describes herself as a rapper, singer and songwriter, as well as a poet and author. From Southern California, she is of Chumash and Tongva heritage. She released one album, “Vision of Loveliness,” in 2017, in addition to numerous singles before and afterward.

Give these songs and more a listen here.