"There can be a lot of negativity, especially for young women. We need to help each other and encourage each other to grow and pursue our interests in our own way."


 Juliana Clifford Brown Eyes graduated from Red Cloud Indian School in 2009 as valedictorian of her class, a Gates Millennium Scholar, and the only student in South Dakota to be awarded the prestigious national Horatio Alger Scholarship that year. After a year on the Dean’s list at Creighton University studying medicine, Juliana realized that her passions lay not in prescriptions and surgery, but in lyrics and notes. We caught up with the busy entrepreneur-rock star-artist to hear her story of self-reflection and artistic integrity. 


Q&A with Juliana Clifford Brown Eyes

What an exciting path you’ve walked! Was there a moment that sparked your imagination and led you to your career in the arts?

My senior year at Red Cloud I walked by a classroom where Fr. Paddy Gilger, SJ was giving a student a guitar lesson. He offered to give me a lesson too, but I was originally too shy. Later on he really helped expose me to music and helped me in my journey!

But after graduating from Red Cloud, you began to study medicine. How did you transition to this exciting career in music?

One day I woke up and wanted to draw and take pictures and play music! But really, I came to realize that medicine was just something I didn’t want to do. I recently looked back at my science and math notebooks from high school and saw I had left detailed drawings in the margins and on the sides. It really showed me that even early on, when I didn’t realize I wanted to be an artist, I was still being artistic.

It was a bit of an epiphany, but an especially difficult one—I wasn’t sure exactly how to fulfill my dreams of become a working artist. During my freshman year at Creighton, I met Scotti Clifford, a Pine Ridge musician who was really supportive of my artistic ideas. We started our band, Scatter Their Own, and I play bass. It’s been amazing so far! We released an EP and toured the country this past year, from New Mexico to Hawaii. And, with the release of a music video for our song Taste the Time and more new recordings on the way, we hope to reach out and expand our audience to not only our own people but others around the world that share our same Lakota values. And even better, Scotti and I just got married in June!

How did you come up with the name Scatter Their Own?

“Scatter Their Own” is the English translation of ‘Oglala’ and our music really speaks to our shared Oglala Lakota values.

Valuing our connections to Mother Earth and acknowledging we are all caretakers is particularly important to us. All Scatter Their Own songs are about our Lakota ceremonies. While we don't come out and directly say that in our songs, we write the songs with a concept or feelings we have during ceremonies like the sweat lodge, sun dance, or hanbleceya (vision quest). In this way we pay tribute to our elders. And when we are able to perform around the world, we feel like we are sharing our culture and teachings with others.

So what else is on your plate?

I found a great program at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, which is one of the few accredited art schools in the United States that offers online courses. I’m currently a junior and have been splitting my time between working toward my degree in photography and playing music with the band. And just recently, I opened my own business called Jonan Photography Studios.

A photography studio seems like is a great next step. What are you hoping to accomplish?

I want to provide an affordable, high-quality studio on the reservation that is accessible to the population here. I was driven by the memory of not being able to afford senior pictures when I was in school—my family just didn’t have enough money. I am still learning about my camera, but I always knew I was capable of becoming a professional and owning and operating my own business. I secured a loan from the Lakota Funds, bought the equipment I needed to get started and began spreading the word. So far, it’s going really well. This spring I was hired to do senior pictures for 10 graduates. I was also able to offer a senior picture ‘scholarship’ to young woman who, like me, couldn’t afford them. Helping her very gratifying.

You’ve certainly come full circle. What challenges did you face in your journey?

As valedictorian of my class, a lot of people thought I would go to school, become a doctor and leave the reservation. I found it challenging to show my family and my community that I could make a living doing what I love: art. I feel a spiritual connection to this place. If I’m going to make a life for myself and for my family, I wanted it to include my people. I really want to show everyone that being an artist is a sustainable way of life, and that I can live on the reservation and be successful.

What advice do you want to share with current Red Cloud students?

Sit down and ask yourself what you want. Try not to focus on the expectations of others, but instead focus on making your dreams a reality. There can be a lot of negativity, especially for young women. We need to help each other and encourage each other to grow and pursue our interests in our own way.


More on Juliana, on the Web and in the News:

Scatter Their Own, Her Band's Website
Jonan Photography Studios, Juliana's Business's Website
Scatter Their Own: Bringing Thier Art Home, Huffinton Post
Scatter Their Own to Perform at 29th Annual Gathering of Nations PowwowLakota Country Times

last updated: August 7, 2013