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On “American Idol” last month, 15-year-old Triston Harper from Macintosh, Ala., showcased his immense musical talent and highlighted his Indigenous heritage as a proud member of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. 

Harper said in an interview on the show that he faced tough times from a young age. When he was 12, his mother left an abusive relationship, leaving them homeless. But even through these hard times, he found comfort and courage in music. It became his guiding light, helping him navigate life’s challenges. 

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His love for music started at the age of 10, sparked by the discovery of his grandfather’s Johnny Cash records, laying the foundation for his musical journey, according to his audition. Along with his grandmother’s love for Elvis Presley, he found inspiration in the stage presence of these musical icons.

Despite his youth, Harper’s talent shined through during his audition. His soulful rendition of “Cover Me Up” by Jason Isbell captivated both judges and audiences, earning him praise and admiration from the judges’ panel. 

Pop singer Katy Perry was deeply moved by Harper’s performance. She expressed,“You were so authentic, so connected to yourself, singing from your soul. It wasn’t perfect, but it resonated with me. It was really good.”

Country music superstar Luke Bryan acknowledged some technical issues in Harper’s performance but couldn’t overlook his potential. He remarked, “Anything that you’re doing technically-wise is because you’re fifteen. I could have an afternoon with you and say ‘Don’t do that anymore!’ Just like ‘Don’t do those two things,’ and man.”

And Lionel Richie, an icon in the music industry renowned for his ability to recognize genuine talent, was quick to commend Harper’s emotional delivery, stating, “I’m impressed.”

With all the judges giving their approval, Harper received a definite “Yes,” securing his spot with a golden ticket to Hollywood. His outstanding performance not only pushed him ahead in the competition but also brought attention to the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians, who are advocating for federal recognition in Alabama.

Now, as Harper embarks on the next phase of his journey, he’s a figure Indian Country will be watching closely in the weeks to come, representing resilience, talent, and the power of music to unite and inspire.

Here’s what Indian Country is saying on social media about the talented young musician: 

Robert Weaver: This young talented MOWA CHOCTAW, Triston Harper, has people that are so very proud of him on his shoulders. So let's rally behind this young man and support him by spreading his face and name throughout Indian country and to every tribe and get to the phones and vote.

Drew Partain: So proud of you my brother. Stay focused and keep doing your thing; we are proud of you to get the tribe federally recognized for everyone.

AlexWells10: Seeing a Native American make it to Hollywood on American Idol is cool! Triston Harper representing the Choctaw Tribe out of Alabama! LFG!!

Marli Miller: Sing as if you're talking to the great spirit Tris. It's a conversation just between you and him. Ok.

Camille King: Great job nephew! Your internet Aunty is super proud of you. You have my vote all the way.

Mel Benally: I guarantee that this young Indigenous man will win American Idol.

Alvin Weaver: Pulling hard from you! Proud Mowa & McIntosh man and having this opportunity right in front of you is AMAZING! GOD is good!

Marli Miller: Boozhoo Triston way up from Ojibway Country!!!! E'ya!!

Darlene Connell: Good Luck Kiddo. Choctaw Proud. 

Theresa V Franks: Those Choctaw roots run deep.. We are rooting for you!! MOWA Choctaw proud.

Mohmawomb Lydia: So proud of this young brother!


Alyssa Wolverton: Rootin for you cousin! Chikashsha poya!chahta poya!

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.