Formed in 1990 by musician and Native American activist Robbie Romero as a vehicle by which to promote a dignified image of Native Americans to the world at large, Red Thunder incorporate both Native American elements and elements drawn from rock, folk, reggae, blues and other genres of contemporary music. This approach has led to the release of Makoce Wakan, which combines many elements yet manages to retain a Native American identity.
Romero left his New Mexico home in his teens, moving to Los Angeles to live and work with actor Dennis Hopper. His subsequent involvement in the music business saw him associating with Rick Danko and Bob Dylan, amongst others, though none of the connections or work meant enough, in the finish, to stop him from moving back to the reservation in the 1980s. He worked for several years with Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement, developing his own approach to performance and looking for a way to put across his message.
He found that way in 1990, when Red Thunder came together for a Washington, D.C. performance on Earth Day. This was followed by the international broadcast of a video for their song "Is It Too Late," co-directed by Julien Temple, and a number of key MTV and VH1 appearances that helped to keep the band in the public eye (Romero also appeared on a segment of PBS' The Puzzle Place). Romero turned down an offer to provide music for Ted Turner's Geronimo because he considered the production demeaning of a spiritual leader.
The band's first release was an EP, Red Thunder, in 1994. The five tracks from the EP were included in the full-length Makoce Wakan a year later. Both were released on the band's own label, Eagle Thunder Records, with Red Thunder selling more than fifty thousand copies in Indian country alone.