“Even though there are tons of native people that are underground and have perished, we still never really die because our spirits live on,” says Katherine Paul, who goes by KP. A queer indigenous indie rock artist based in Portland, Ore., her solo project, Black Belt Eagle Scout, tackles a variety of themes: queer love, grief, and the preservation of her Swinomish and Iñupiaq identity. Her unique, deeply personal perspective on life shapes her music, guiding songs from quiet meditations to driving, melodic rock. On Sept. 14, she releases her debut album, “Mother of My Children”; a nationwide tour brings her to Brighton Music Hall Wednesday.
Q. Where does the name “Black Belt Eagle Scout” come from?
A. My friend came up with my band name. We were playing in a band together and Black Belt Eagle Scout was one of the names we didn’t choose for our band. I asked if I could use it for my solo project. I’ve come to find meaning from it in a creative way. To be a black belt and an Eagle Scout is to be the highest ranking and to me, bbes means to be the best you can be in your creative self.
Q. Making music has always been part of your culture. Do you remember the moment you decided to transition from something you’ve always done into something you wanted to do professionally?
A. I always thought, “I’m always going to do this, I’m going to be this grandma playing guitar.” But I didn’t really think I would want to go on tour and want to have the world see my music, until Saddle Creek signed me. I thought “This is an incredible opportunity, I should just, you know, see what happens if I start touring and I focus on it more seriously.” I also feel like this album made me feel like I wanted to focus on it seriously because I’m really proud of it. It’s this piece of work that I put a lot of time and energy into, so I’m happy that it’s having its tour around the US and around the world eventually.
Q. With it being a recent transition into doing music professionally, how has the inevitable transition into putting your emotions on display been? Have you always felt comfortable doing that?
A. I used to be really shy, to the point that just being around people was a lot for me. That changed in my life, in my personal life, and I feel like because of that change, I’ve been able to feel more comfortable with it in my performance life and my music life. I also really want to be able to get my message across to people, because I am an indigenous woman and I think it’s important for indigenous people to be seen and to be heard in this country. That also plays into me wanting to be more open about who I am so that younger native people can see a role model.
Q. Do you have any particular songs from your new album that stand out to you?
A. My single, called “Indians Never Die.” The recording process went really smoothly, all of the percussion and everything that went into the song just felt like it fit in place. That song is really special to me because of that, and also because it’s a song about creating awareness for people to know what their surroundings are, know what environment they’re living in, know that if we keep treating the earth poorly, it’s not going to be around forever. When I say “Indians Never Die,” I say it because even though people have killed us, destroyed our homes, destroyed our land, we are still going to continue to fight for this beautiful Earth and for our culture and the things that make us happy in our lives.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges that indigenous people are facing today?
A. I feel like a lot of the ways in which native people don’t accept queer people and queer indigenous people in their lives has to do with colonization. When Europeans came to the United States to steal the land that’s here and kill everybody that’s an indigenous person, and then to force everyone to be in boarding schools and to forget their language and to learn English — that’s when all of that happened of “I have to be like a white person, I have to live in this white world. If I don’t, then I’ll die.” And I think that it takes a lot of healing, it’s going to take a while. It takes people like us to keep spreading that word so that more people understand that this happened.
Q. Do you feel it’s difficult to preserve your culture in Portland, or do you do traditions and customs that keep it alive for you? Do you have any advice for people who are looking for cultural communities?
A. I grew up on an Indian reservation, but I’ve been living in a city for the past 10 years, and when I lived on the Indian reservation, it was really easy to have my culture around me, because that’s where I lived, in this community of native people where there was always some sort of cultural event happening. It was harder to find that in Portland, but I eventually found it because of meeting some people who are native. It is hard because if you move to a place by yourself, you don’t have any connections. It’s hard to find that in a city. One thing that I found that has really helped me are universities — they’ll sometimes have a native center. There could be a tribe or reservation close to your city; cultural centers are a good place to start to find people.
Black Belt Eagle Scout
With Saintseneca. At Brighton Music Hall, Sept. 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets $14, 617-562-8801, www.musichallbrighton.com