Native band “Brulé” performs in celebration of new American Indian Student Center


Photo from Brulé Records

Lauren Verlinde, Reporter

The South Dakota-based and family-oriented band, Brulé, will perform their contemporary, Native American-style music at the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center this Friday. This event, which starts at 7:30 p.m., is in dedication and celebration of South Dakota State University’s new American Indian Student Center.

Paul LaRoche is the leader of the band, which includes a keyboardist/synthesizer, a guitarist, a rock drummer and a flute. The drums Brulé uses are traditional Native American drums made from hollowed-out cottonwood tree trunks and buffalo hide.

“Our performances are a combo of entertainment, education and culture,” LaRoche said. “It is based on a story line.”

LaRoche was reunited with his biological family in 1993. He and his family are from the lower bands of the Sioux. He was part of the tribe Brulé, and this is where the band’s name comes from; Brulé means burnt in the indigenous language. This name was inspired from the many prairie fires the tribe endured.

 “I experimented with Brulé when it was starting up,” LaRoche said, and the band has now been playing for 25 years. He says the songs are a byproduct of the new culture and new world that came his way in 1993.

 LaRoche is joined by his son and daughter as well as another relative, and only one of the band members is not related to him.

The performance will also include a dance troop, and some of the dancers are LaRoche’s granddaughters. The band has had many combinations of dancers throughout the years, made up of dancers from over 550 tribes across the United States.

 “Even though the dancers may change from event to event, the choreography always stays the same,” LaRoche said.

 The Native American communities started the “Nammys,” a Grammys-type award ceremony which was formed to recognize native bands for their exceptional achievements in music. Brulé has won 10 awards at the “Nammys” throughout its time as a band.  

Micheala Willis, Vice President for Student Affairs, said concert proceeds will  be to support the Wolkini Initiative and AlSC programming.

“We anticipate a nice crowd for this performance, and the holiday weekend may attract more individuals visiting Brooking this weekend as well,” Willis said.

 The Brulé concert will be a ticketed event and is open to the public with prices ranging from $8 to $48. The ribbon cutting ceremony and public tours for the American Indian Student Center that were also scheduled for Friday have been postponed.