In a broadcast exclusive, world-renowned singer-songwriter Fiona Apple joins Democracy Now! for the hour to discuss her critically acclaimed new album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” which was released early amid the pandemic. “I’ve heard that it’s actually making people feel free and happy,” Apple says, “and it might be helping people feel alive or feel their anger or feel creative. And that’s the best thing that I could hope for.” Her record includes an acknowledgment that the album was “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.” We also speak with Native American activist Eryn Wise, an organizer with Seeding Sovereignty, an Indigenous-led collective that launched a rapid response initiative to help Indigenous communities affected by the outbreak.
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
FIONA APPLE: [singing] Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters
AMY GOODMAN: Fetch the Bolt Cutters. That’s the name of the new critically acclaimed album, just released, by singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, into a world under lockdown. Fiona Apple’s fifth album was released months early due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic. The remarkable album has become somewhat of a soundtrack of our time, with emotionally wrought songs including “Ladies,” “Relay” and, of course, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.” Music website Pitchfork gave the album a 10-out-of-10 score, its first perfect rating in nearly a decade. The record also includes a land acknowledgment. The bottom of the tracklist on the back of Fiona Apple’s album cover reads, quote, “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.”
Well, Fiona Apple joined us on Friday from her home in Los Angeles along with Native American activist Eryn Wise. Eryn is a Native American organizer with Seeding Sovereignty, an Indigenous-led collective Fiona Apple supports. Seeding Sovereignty has launched a rapid response initiative to help Indigenous communities affected by the outbreak. In New Mexico, Navajo Nation is the epicenter of the outbreak throughout Native America and has the third-highest infection rate in the country, following only New York and New Jersey. I began our conversation with Fiona asking her about her new album.
AMY GOODMAN: Congratulations on this album. Did you expect anything like the global acclaim that you are getting right now upon this release?
FIONA APPLE: No, I did not. It’s a little bit uncomfortable, to be honest. But I just wanted to release a record in a time when I thought it would have a chance to be listened to. And I’m just so, so happy that it turned out to — it seems like it’s actually doing the thing that any artist would want their art to do, which is to help people feel free, especially when they’re not feeling free.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, what could be a better name and title for your album and song than Fetch the Bolt Cutters for our time? Talk about how you came up with that?
FIONA APPLE: Well, I was at home, as I usually am, and my housemate Zelda and I were watching the show The Fall, starring Gillian Anderson, and were just eating dinner, watching a television show. And there’s a scene where she was to rescue a young girl from where she thought was locked behind this door, and they were supposed to wait for backup. And she just sort of throws away this line, and she says, “Fetch the bolt cutters.” And I just shot up from the couch, because I was like, “This sounds — this is exactly what my — this is what my record is going to be called.” And I wrote it on the chalkboard. I got a tattoo. So, that’s what the title is about.
AMY GOODMAN: So you came up with the title before you came up with the song.
FIONA APPLE: Oh, yes. The song “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” was actually the second-to-last song that I wrote for the record. And it was just — it was sort of the last thing that I had on my mind after the culmination of everything that had been going on in my life, that I finally was just like, “Let me face this all and just see it all, so that I can finally get out of here.” And then, of course, as soon as I saw — as soon as I fetched the bolt cutters and was like, “I’m going to get out of here,” then we got on lockdown. So…
AMY GOODMAN: So, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, the album, includes a land acknowledgment. You’ve described it as sort of a last song of the album. Talk about what this land acknowledgment means to you.
FIONA APPLE: Well, Eryn and I had been talking about doing land acknowledgments. She wanted to start this project, which I think is amazingly smart and would be so nutritious for Americans, is that when artists go on tour, that they acknowledge the lands, the unceded lands, that they’re performing on, and perhaps educate people — and Eryn will correct me on any of this if I’m wrong, but educate people about the tribes that lived on those territories, so that we can keep aware of where we are and what the story is.
Now, the fact that we can’t tour now until probably 2022 maybe or late 2021 means that I can’t do that on the road, so Eryn brought this up to me when the album was finished. She said, “I wonder if you would consider doing this on the album.” And I just thought, “Absolutely, of course. That makes total sense. And yes, I would love to do that.”
And I do think that putting that on my album, as opposed to just like saying something like “I support this cause,” and the act of giving songs, giving sync requests, keeps them close to me and my life, so that it’s not just like a one-time thing that I’m just saying, “Oh, I’m into this cause right now because it’s kind of interesting,” but I’m just going to flit off over there after it’s over and just be done with it. This way, I’m tied into it with something that I made, now has more meaning because it’s attached to them. So, it’s a way for me to also make a life commitment to be listening and to be able to be a friend in whatever best way I can.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you say, “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.” Where are you?
FIONA APPLE: Well, I’m in Los Angeles, so that would be Tongva. And then we did go to Texas for a little bit. It wasn’t entirely made in this house. We had gone and done a session on a pecan ranch in Texas. And I gave Eryn the addresses of any place that anything was done — the mixing studio, my house and the sonic ranch in Texas. And she took those addresses and told me what the real addresses of those places are, which is these territories. And it’s just very important to keep on saying it, because it’s not in everybody’s day-to-day life. People aren’t thinking about this every day, and they really should be, that we are not living on land that was ceded to us.
And not only that, but — I mean, I’m sorry if I’m getting ahead of myself here, but I was reading — you know, once I was done with this album, I’m not interested in myself so much anymore, you know? So I’m starting to read the news a lot more. And I’m ashamed of how uneducated I am, but I don’t want to let that shame keep me from being in conversations and keep me from asking questions and keep me from being able to be useful to people, because it’s that shame or that guilt about that, that sometimes keeps people from wanting to enter a conversation. And I just think that this is always relevant, and it always will be, and it needs to be constantly. Constantly, you need to be reminded of it.
AMY GOODMAN: Singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. She just released her latest album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. We’ll be back with Fiona and Native American activist Eryn Wise in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: “Relay” by Fiona Apple, off her new critically acclaimed album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. The album includes a land acknowledgment: “Made on unceded Tongva, Mescalero Apache, and Suma territories.”
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our interview with Fiona Apple, who joined us for the interview along with Eryn Wise, a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and Laguna Pueblo people. She joined us from Phoenix, Arizona. Eryn is an organizer with Seeding Sovereignty, an Indigenous-led collective that Fiona Apple supports. Seeding Sovereignty has launched a rapid response initiative to help Indigenous communities affected by the spread of COVID-19 in New Mexico.
The Navajo Nation has the third-highest coronavirus infection rate in the United States, following only New York and New Jersey. At least 59 people have died from the virus. In New Mexico, Native Americans make up more than one-third of the state’s coronavirus cases but only 10% of the population. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez had to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 earlier this month. He said of the unfolding catastrophe, quote, “We are United States citizens, but we’re not treated like that. We once again have been forgotten by our own government,” he said.
I spoke with Eryn Wise about the spread of COVID-19 in Navajo Nation. And I also talked, continued with Fiona Apple. But I began by asking Eryn to tell us about the land she was joining us from.
ERYN WISE: Right now — hi — I’m on unceded Akimel O’odham territory, so in Phoenix, Arizona, right now.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re really writing a manual on land acknowledgments. For people who are hearing this for the first time — I mean, Fiona Apple does a land acknowledgment on her album — they may not really even know what that is, or when people stand up when they’re giving a talk, making that kind of land acknowledgment first. Explain what this is all about. And explain your own heritage, Eryn.
ERYN WISE: Sure, sure. I’m Jicarilla Apache and Laguna Pueblo, so I was raised in so-called New Mexico, at the base of the Colorado Rockies, around a bunch of grandparents and a ton of elders, which is why the work that Seeding Sovereignty is doing right now is so important.
In terms of land and water acknowledgments, they’re formal recognitions of any and all original peoples and defenders and protectors of territories that have been unceded by Indigenous peoples. So, basically, what we’re asking is for folks to do the first step — it’s really a first in a series of many steps — towards reclaiming land, reclaiming culture, and also returning land eventually, but having folks be aware of the territories that they’re on, learn the histories of the original peoples and also learn the names of these lifeways, you know, like the rivers and also our different creeks and our oceans, and realizing that there are people that recognize all of these lands and waters, these more-than-human kin, by original place names, by original names given to them by the creator. And, you know, encouraging folks to do those land acknowledgments in public settings and those water acknowledgments really calls the spirits of those beings into life.
AMY GOODMAN: And if you can talk about how you see land acknowledgments as just one step?
ERYN WISE: Yeah, sure. So, land acknowledgment, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done beyond it, right? A lot of folks in Indigenous communities are experiencing huge inequities. And so, going to a place and saying, “This is unceded Tongva territory,” is one thing, but, like Fiona said, this is an ongoing effort. You can do the first step. You can educate yourself. But there’s also work that needs to be done in how can you help the people whose territory you benefit from. If you are a business operator, what are you doing in your business to ensure reciprocity with the communities that you are benefiting from, from their erasure, from the genocide that happened on their land? What is it that you’re doing in your own personal life to ensure that folks are able to reclaim their existence and also to eventually see our territories returned to us? I think that’s the ultimate goal with land acknowledgments, is land back.
AMY GOODMAN: And if you can talk about how the coronavirus pandemic now is infecting and affecting Indigenous communities? You right now are in Phoenix, Arizona. How it’s affecting people in Arizona, particularly the Navajo, people in New Mexico, which is really called the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Indigenous territory?
ERYN WISE: It is, yeah. And right now I do just want to honor that there have been 49 deaths on the Navajo Nation, so I want to lift my hands to the folks who are navigating burials and things that they need to do without their ceremonies and access to protocol.
I do want to just also bring to light that there are over 1,200 cases on the Navajo Nation. Folks aren’t also looking at the fact that the surrounding pueblos that are nearby the Navajo Nation, in New Mexico specifically, are also being heavily impacted. And we’re seeing upwards of 50 cases on some pueblos and limited, limited access. What’s happening right now is, what I feel, a continuation of genocide that’s existed against Indigenous peoples in this country since its inception.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain where the Navajo Nation spans.
ERYN WISE: Yeah, sure. The Navajo Nation expands across the Four Corners, so it exists a bit in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you were saying about the outbreak there and how it’s being dealt with?
ERYN WISE: Yeah. So, the outbreak in Navajo Nation is similar — and not just in Navajo Nation, but in New Mexico, in general — is similar to the ways that the government has responded to a lot of things in Indigenous communities. You know, folks are showing up with supplies that aren’t adequate for the needs of the communities, if supplies are showing up at all. There aren’t any doctors that are being afforded to the areas greater than some community members that have gotten together and decided that they’re going to go to the Navajo Nation to support. There are some federal mobile testing squads that have shown up. But in general, we are seeing a huge disparity between the support that’s being offered to non-people of the global majority in the United States, so to say non-people of color, and realizing that it’s not just Indigenous communities that are being impacted, but all folks of color across the United States.
What you’re seeing across Navajo Nation, in the pueblos in New Mexico, that there are folks basically being treated as if they are just kind of the fodder for this government’s response to the coronavirus. They are being sacrificed and often predeceased by the headlines that are being circulated in news outlets. You know, I keep seeing headlines that say this coronavirus could wipe out entire tribes, entire Indigenous nations. And I don’t think folks really realize that there are over 570 federally recognized reservations and nations, and also all these unrecognized nations that exist. So, it’s not like anybody is going to wipe us out in one fell swoop. They already tried that, and it didn’t work.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what Seeding Sovereignty is, and what it is you’re trying to do?
ERYN WISE: Sure. Seeding Sovereignty is an organization that is Indigenous- and women-led. We are all queer-identifying in some way. And the work that we’re doing right now to address COVID is a three-faceted rapid response program.
So, basically, we have a mask drive, where we have actually raised money to purchase KN95-grade masks. We purchased 10,000 of those. We are also purchasing another additional 12,000 masks that are high-grade material, that can last for up to six years if taken care of properly, that we are going to be providing to the Navajo Nation and Indigenous communities in New Mexico.
Additionally, we have a petition asking folks to put pressure on the government to demand that they provide expeditious support to Indigenous communities, not just in New Mexico, but across Turtle Island, folks that are being overlooked and treated as sacrifice zones for this pandemic.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve talked about the theme of genocide, and I wanted to ask you to address the way the legacies of colonization, colonialism, erasure have set the stage, as you’ve described it, for the response to what’s happening in Indian Country right now.
ERYN WISE: Yeah. So, we signed treaties over 150 years ago, many of the tribes that are currently being impacted, ensuring that we would have access to life, our cultures and our general health. And I think that folks don’t realize that this pandemic and the fact that there is so little access and so little support being provided to Indigenous communities, Black communities — I really do feel like it is a continuation of the colonial project to “kill the Indian and save the man.”
I think that folks are really looking at people of the global majority, folks of color, in this country, that are being hit by coronavirus, and they’re really seeing the health inequities and the education inequity and the lack of access, and they’re saying, “Well, that’s kind of too much for us to take on. Like, we don’t want to have to look at another broken thing that we have to fix, even if we broke it.” That really breaks my heart.
I think that they don’t realize that — you know, this mutual aid that we’re engaging in, I don’t think that they understand that it is an Indigenous practice, that it’s a practice of the people of the global majority, to offer community support without demand for reciprocity. I think also folks don’t realize that mutual aid existing in a time of colonialism and continued genocide really looks like Brown and Black folks coming together and saying, “Hey, we still don’t want to die. We haven’t wanted to for the last 500 years. And how can I support you in your community? And how, later on, may you support ours, so that we show each other that we have this continued legacy of support, that we are building bridges between our communities, no matter how much they try to silo us?” And a lot of us are rejecting the notion that we are people worth killing and that we are people not worth listening to or that our lives do not matter as those of the 1% in this community or the folks with access.
I think one of the biggest things with the work that Fiona has done in support of Seeding Sovereignty is to show folks that you can have a limited platform, you can have a huge platform, but, regardless, you can take the time to support people in need, just because you want to, and because you realize that there’s a lack of access and you have that point that can be the connection.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I wanted to go back to Fiona Apple, to this whole theme of acknowledgment. And can you expand on it to talk about how themes of acknowledgment are expressed throughout your new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters?
FIONA APPLE: Well, it’s just — it’s a completely different subject, because it’s just, you know, one woman’s life. But it’s the same thing as with anything that it’s — acknowledgment is the first step in a series of a lot of steps towards healing anything, any — personal or global. You have to acknowledge it. They always say, the first step is admitting that you’ve got a problem. And for me, yes, that is just the first step, and it’s so easy to do. It’s so easy to acknowledge it, to acknowledge these things. But we forget, or it’s an afterthought, or we have guilt or shame so we just don’t want to think about it or talk about it.
Or, in my case, we feel stupid, we feel uneducated, we feel ignorant. And so, that’s something else, that that’s the first thing that I need to acknowledge, before I can actually be any kind of friend or, you know, to help in any kind of way, to make a connection. Before I can do that, I have to admit that I am ignorant. I’m an ignorant white person, and I have lived a whole life of privilege. And I have no idea what it’s like to not be me. And so, all I can really — the best thing I can do right now is to say, “I’ve got time, and I’ve got space, and I’ve got money. And please, just talk to me. Let me know. Like, just fill my head. I’m a blank space, you know? Teach me.”
AMY GOODMAN: But you also make so clear, in all of your art and your music, your experiences and what you’ve learned from them. If you could talk about your song “Relay,” which begins with the line “Evil is a relay sport, when the one you burn turns to pass the torch.” You wrote that years ago, didn’t you?
FIONA APPLE: Yeah, I wrote it when I was about 15, actually.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what it meant to you then.
FIONA APPLE: Well, I had been assaulted when I was about 12 or 13. And immediately, questions of guilt and innocence and retaliation and acceptance and peace and war, all of these things just came — it was all living within me all of a sudden, because I had this — I didn’t know how to wrap my head around somebody wanting to hurt me or anybody like that. I didn’t know — I don’t understand it.
So, the first thing I was thinking was, “Well, something must have been done to him.” And so, that was just my thought about him, that somebody had burned him, and he saw somebody — me — who looked vulnerable enough to burn, and maybe he thought that would take the burn off of him. But it doesn’t. It just passes it on. And he keeps it, and I got it, too. So, that was my thought then, and that was a big subject.
And then, you know, I spent a couple of years aware of internet culture, and my whole thoughts about that thing became very small and very personal and very kind of petty. But it’s all kind of the same thing. It’s just people feeling bad about something, or feeling embarrassed or feeling weak, and just trying to take that out on someone else, feeling like somebody else made you feel weak or somebody else did something to you, so you’re just going to take it out on someone else. And it happens all the time, and it doesn’t help anybody.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Fiona Apple’s “For Her.”
FIONA APPLE: [singing] You arrive and drive by, like a sauced-up bat
Like you know you should know, but you don’t know where it’s at
You arrive and drive by, like a sauced-up bat
Like you know you should know, but you don’t know where it’s at
Like you know you should know, but you don’t know what you did.
AMY GOODMAN: Fiona Apple’s “For Her,” from her latest album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. You told Vulture you wrote it, in part, about the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings?
FIONA APPLE: After watching those hearings, all of the things that women and people — victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse will all understand this. And there are some men out there that are just never going to understand this. But, you know, Trump — Trump, Kavanaugh, all these guys, they bring up — they bring it all back. And so, sitting there and watching that man and knowing that he was going to be on the Supreme Court is just — it just hurts me down to the marrow.
And, you know, on that subject, it makes me feel like — you know, seeing that guy’s anger and his entitlement to make decisions on behalf of Americans, basically, knowing that he had violated somebody, or believing that he had violated somebody, does make me think about the other issue that we’re talking about here today: people who are in power who are basically descendants of the people who assaulted and killed your own families. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be an Indigenous person right now and to watch everybody else living and going about everything and talking about all problems going on, and just ignoring you, just not even looking at you.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re writing this now in the midst of the #MeToo movement. Are you hoping that this will make women feel more powerful in responding and in joining together with other women, which is really a theme in a lot of your songs right now, for example, “Ladies,” the power of your relationship with women, Fiona?
FIONA APPLE: Yes, I am hoping that that song in particular will help, if not power, then just stepping away from weakness and stepping away — especially, it’s a song that hopefully will give catharsis and will give expression to people who may not be able to actually voice what’s happened to them. And that does happen a lot, and especially when people are not even sure if what’s happened to them is rape, but they feel like it is, but they feel like they can’t say it out loud. I feel like maybe this song, they can sing along with that one line and feel it and believe it and know their truth, no matter what anybody else says.
And I liked — I had done so many versions of that song just singing by myself, and literally just shaking, going to press record. I had done so many versions singing by myself. And then, one day, I sang that line, and it sank into me. And I finally felt the anger that I had never felt for the man who assaulted me when I was a child. I sang that line over and over again until I really felt it. And when I felt it, I finally felt anger, and it was an amazing thing. And I hope that — and you need to feel your anger in order to get past it.
And I’m hoping that that will do the same for other women. I also felt like I needed other voices with me. I felt like I was by myself. So, I just decided, “Well, I’m the only one here, so I’ll just create a whole village of friends, of women, to support me, to sing along with me.” And so that’s what I did, and it worked.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Fiona Apple. Her critically acclaimed new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. When we come back, in this broadcast exclusive, Fiona talks about the power of music, and Eryn Wise talks about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Ladies” by Fiona Apple. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our discussion with singer-songwriter Fiona Apple and Eryn Wise of the Indigenous group Seeding Sovereignty. They joined us just after the release of Fiona Apple’s new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about “Cosmonauts.” I mean, this is a song that seems to have anticipated, to say the least, the current moment, about two people who are going to live together forever. You said you imagined them in a tiny vessel in space. Talk about the writing of “Cosmonauts.”
FIONA APPLE: Yes. Well, Judd Apatow had asked me to do a song for the movie This Is 40, and he wanted it to be a song about realizing that you love this person and you want to be with them together forever. And I just could not relate to that feeling. I’ve been in love, and I’ve wanted to have people in my life forever, but I’ve never wanted to like be in a marriage with somebody forever. And so, I just couldn’t really wrap my head around it.
But I tried. And so, I just thought of it as though, you know, well, if we’re stuck together — it’s like being stuck together. You know, being together, staying together with someone forever is just a matter of never leaving, whether for right or wrong. So, if you’re just stuck with somebody, imagine how — I just couldn’t imagine how that would be with me, because the first line says it all for me in a relationship. At certain points, you know, you just look at somebody, and you’re just like, “I’m done. I’m angry now. I just looked at your face, and I’m just done.” So, how could you possibly spend a whole lifetime with somebody? So, that was my thought then. And so that’s why I wrote that song like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Your first line, “Your face ignites a fuse to my patience.”
FIONA APPLE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s play a little of “Cosmonauts.”
FIONA APPLE: [singing] Now let me see, it’s you and me, forgive a good God
How do you suppose that we’ve survived?
Come on, that’s right, left, right
Make light of all the heavier
’Cause you and I will be like a couple of cosmonauts
Except with way more gravity than when we started off.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s “Cosmonauts,” and that’s from Fiona Apple’s phenomenal new album, just out after many years, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. And as we begin to wrap up, Fiona, I wanted to ask you about the power of music in society, especially today. You’re known for writing so ingeniously, creatively about love and loss. To say the least, in this time of the pandemic, people are dealing with enormous loss. What was it like to be writing your music now? And also, why you pushed for it to be released now, as millions of people are being told to shelter at home, if they’re lucky enough to have homes? There’s a lot in there, but if you could just talk about it all?
FIONA APPLE: Yes. Well, my friend Mikaela, aka King Princess, she’s a musician. She wrote to me. She texted me one day a few weeks ago saying, “Fi, you’ve got to release your record. I know your record’s done. You’ve got to release it. You’ve got to release it. People really need music now.” And she’s way more in touch with what’s going on than I am. And I was like, “Yeah, you know, that does make sense.” But I thought, “It’s OK. I mean, stuff will come out soon anyway.” I just wasn’t really thinking about it that much.
And then I got a rollout schedule proposing all the different things that would go on from now until the release of the record, which would end up being in October. And it had like my first song coming out in June, at like the end of June. And that just set me off on a two-day text tirade making my case for putting out the album now, which is basically — you know, I know it takes a lot more than just pushing a button, but push a button. The album’s done. It can go out digitally, and people can enjoy it. And if we wait — this was just all a big matter of logic, because if we waited, I would have been lost in the mix. I wanted to be able to be heard. I don’t really like to open my mouth in a room and speak unless I feel like people are going to listen. If I don’t think you’re going to listen, then I’m just going to walk away. So, I wanted to put it out when I thought that it would have the best chance, because I put a lot of work into it.
And I hoped that it might be — I knew that it would help people who were fans of mine, because they’re just waiting around for so many years, and so it’s like, “Oh, yeah, OK, the new record is here. Good. That’s something for me to do for a couple of days.” You know, but I have heard that it’s actually making people feel free and happy, and it might be helping people feel alive or feel their anger or feel creative. And that’s the best thing that I could hope for, that and also trying to tie my songs in with things that I believe in.
And, you know, I just wanted to say something off of the topic of my record, just because I know that this — I did some — I’m so uneducated, and I did some studying, and I just have to say that I just wish that there are Indigenous folks teaching in schools, teaching American history, because I did not realize, I was never taught, that, for instance, Thomas Jefferson said that — Thomas Jefferson said, “To promote this disposition to exchange lands, which they have to spare and we want, … we shall push our trading uses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt, … we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop them off by a cession of lands.” It’s so boldly evil. It’s so — “we [would] … be glad to see the good … individuals [of] them [fall into] debt.” It was planned, that it was — it’s like the Trail of Tears was a hundred years in the making. He wrote about removing all Indigenous folks 15 years before he became president.
I don’t know anything about American history. I didn’t pay attention in class. And now I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because I don’t think we’re being taught everything. We think of this guy as he’s the architect of so many of the ways that we think in America, and yet that’s what he was thinking. That’s that guy. That’s who that guy was.
And, you know, so many of our American heroes are actually like that. L. Frank Baum, I mean, I didn’t know that he was all for — basically, for genocide. He basically promoted genocide in his paper. I always thought he was like for women’s suffrage, he was a good guy. But no. So, it’s hard to look at how we put these men in positions of power and how they’ve shaped our whole American history, and not be aware, until I’m 42, that they were for genocide, for Christ’s sake. I mean.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s give the last word to Eryn Wise. As Fiona talks about the information she didn’t learn going to school, what it means to reframe American history from a Native perspective?
ERYN WISE: Gosh, that’s a big question, and I don’t think that I could do it any justice as a single person, and I don’t speak on behalf of my tribe or anybody but myself. But I would say that, you know, the moment that we’re in right now is a time of learning. I think a lot of folks are feeling like they have to be producing, they have to be creating. And Fiona has done that beautifully. But for folks that are at home, you can be doing the same thing that Fi is. You can be teaching yourself online. You can be reading. You can be reaching out to Indigenous educators. You can be creating systems in which you plan to go back into school as teachers and teach folks about Indigenous histories. You can also make plans to vet for Indigenous educators in your community to be teaching in your schools. I think that’s entirely important.
And I think that one of the things I wanted to bring attention to is that Fiona unwittingly touches so many different subjects that are impacting Indigenous communities today in her album. When she addresses rape and she addresses sexual assault, she is also addressing violence against Indigenous women, the murdered, missing Indigenous women here who are overlooked. We are also looking at the violence against women and girls in general, you know, not just Indigenous communities, but the fact that there are one in three women will be raped in our lifetime here in the so-called United States. I think that that is a legacy that needs to be looked at.
I also think the fact that Fiona — you know, in “Heavy Balloon,” she touches on all of these plants growing and, you know, her spirit coming back to herself. And I told her that when she was talking, that it reminded me of the three sisters planting, and how we need to be in kinship, we need to be in sisterhood with one another, to continue to build the communities that we want to see.
I also think that, you know, “Ladies,” to me, when I was listening to it, I was listening to it with a bunch of queer gay men on the phone, and all of them felt like that song was for them, too. So I also want to honor the indigenous LGBTQIA+ two-spirit folks, the trans folks, that exist in our communities, and everybody that Fiona is calling into being with this album and also with her work. I think it’s incredibly imperative to harness and access that dignified rage, to hold it in your hand and be able to acknowledge, you know, these are all the things that hurt me, but I’m going to put them down, and I’m going to figure out how to transform that pain into something that can heal people that have been hurt. And I really do feel like in this moment, Indigenous communities have been looking for that healing.
And to even have somebody with a platform like Fiona be able to say, “I’m sorry. I never knew until now,” that is a healing for me, because I’ve been listening to Fiona for 20 years. I never thought that we would be friends. I never thought that she would be invested in the work. And yet here she is, using her power, using her medicine, to transform and set a precedent for an entire generation of people. I think that that’s powerful.
And I also think that the work that Seeding Sovereignty is doing is also setting a precedent and encouraging folks to be more engaged with the climate justice movement, to be more engaged with violence against women, because that begets violence against the land, and to also look at Indigenous histories in the so-called United States and realize that almost everybody that people see as heroes were actually genocidal maniacs that wanted to ensure that this country was rid of any Indians or any people of color that weren’t in service to them.
AMY GOODMAN: Indigenous activist Eryn Wise with Seeding Sovereignty and singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. They joined us just after the release of Fiona’s new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. We end today’s show where we began it, with the title track.
FIONA APPLE: [singing] I’ve been thinking about when
I was trying to be your friend
I thought it was then
But it wasn’t
It wasn’t genuine
I was just so furious
But I couldn’t show you
'Cause I know you
And I know what you can do
And I don't wanna war with you
I won’t afford it
You get sore even when you win
And you maim when you’re on offense
But you kill when you’re on defense
And you’ve got them all convinced
That you’re the means and the end
All the VIPs and PYTs and wannabes
Afraid of not being your friend
And I’ve always been too smart for that
But you know what?
My heart was not
I took it like a kid, you see
The cool kids voted to get rid of me
I’m ashamed of what it did to me
What I let get done
They stole my fun
They stole my fun
Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long
Fetch the bolt cutters
I’ve been in here too long.
AMY GOODMAN: “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” by Fiona Apple.
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Democracy Now! is working with as few people on site as possible. The majority of our amazing team is working from home. Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Libby Rainey, Nermeen Shaikh, Carla Wills, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Adriano Contreras, María Taracena. Special thanks to Julie Crosby and Denis Moynihan. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.