A long and winding road brings musician, filmmaker, music producer, speaker and activist Robby Romero (Apache/Tewa) back to the forefront of public attention. Founder (in 1989) and leader of the Native rock band Red Thunder, Romero rose to great prominence with his designation as a United Nations Ambassador of Youth for the Environment in 1990, the heavy rotation of his singles on VH1 and MTV in the 1990s, and the worldwide airing of his social- and environmental-themed films (including America’s Last Frontier, Hidden Medicine and Makoce Wakan), He also cultivated professional and personal associations with people ranging from actor Dennis Hopper and musicians Rick Danko (of The Band) and Carlos Santana to Iroquois activist Oren Lyon, U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Lakota musician and actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
Romero and his equally impressive wife, Stacey Thunder (Ojibwe), who is legal counselor to the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe and host of the weekly PBS program Native Report, are now at the helm of Eagle Thunder Entertainment. Working out of Taos, New Mexico and Minnesota, the duo are busy producing albums, both for Romero and for other artists. In late 2007, they released the self-titled CD of the powwow-style, Red Lake–based P Town Boys, and a CD featuring the elder male group The Red Lake Singers is expected in December. “Red Lake Band Chairman Floyd Jourdain asked us to produce these CDs, to preserve the old songs and to stimulate the next generation,” says Romero. “A track on the P Town CD features both groups singing together, which I’m particularly proud of.”
His own new CD, Painting the World, was recently released, and the pair is now producing two videos to accompany specific tracks. The EP features Indigenous artists from around the world to mark the adoption of the United Nation’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to raise awareness about global climate change. They are also working on re-editing and expanding their film Native Children Survival: If Not Now, When? If Not You, Who? The title aptly summarizes several of Romero’s core activities: working on behalf of Indigenous youth worldwide through his Native Children’s Survival foundation and prodding his audience to get personally involved in bringing positive change to the world.
“An important missing aspect from the environmental movement is the Indigenous community,” notes Romero. “They aren’t in the forefront, nor is their wisdom being applied. That’s something I hope to help change.”
Most recently, Romero was honored at the dedication of a building at the Sacred Hoop School in Oglala, South Dakota. He contributed a track (his former hit “Heartbeat”), performed on two others and helped produce a CD overseen by German rock star Peter Maffay that featured an international body of musicians. The CD, Encounters: An Alliance for Children, and subsequent live shows, raised millions of dollars in sales; $200,000 was gifted to the school, which focuses on Lakota language preservation.
In addition to their insane schedule, Romero and Thunder are also raising five kids, ranging from a college senior, Dakota, to a two-year-old daughter, Cheyenne. “We’re busy with our family, and loving it,” said the devoted dad in a recent interview at a Santa Fe Starbucks with three kids in tow. “They are precious to us, and we involve them in almost all aspects of our lives.” Details: eaglethunder.com