By Tom Lanham
What’s happening with your tribe these days? Our reservation is up in Hopland, so I spend a lot of time up there. Right now, our tribe has come a long way. In the past, we didn’t have much money for schools, transportation or even keeping up the land. But, 10 years ago, they built a casino there and started generating revenue for themselves, then started improving the schools, roads, everything. And now, here comes the government with its hand out, suddenly wanting a piece of it, which upsets me a bit.
How have your Pomo beliefs informed your music with Testament? Back in 2001, I had cancer. And, I was born and raised a Catholic, went to church and the whole bit, so it wasn’t like I was really turned on to my Native American side at all. But, it got to where I really turned to my Native American spirituality and went through the process of healing ceremonies, sweat lodges and just—just believing. Being focused on the power of the Earth, as well as the power of the mind. And, here I am. Back on tour, doing what I love.
Below: "Big honor: Testament frontman Chuck Billy, center, a member of the Pomo tribe, is represented in an exhibit at the Smithsonian." (Courtesy photo)