Music fans may scoff when greener music enthusiasts credit Elvis with the birth of rock 'n' roll, as if Muddy Waters and Little Richard never existed. But if African-American influences are frequently white-washed, Native-American influences are often all but erased. Correcting this misstep is director Catherine Bainbridge's new documentary, Rumble: The Native Americans Who Rocked the World.

Rumble takes a mostly chronological approach to the major Native players in American jazz, blues, and rock, while intertwining the even lesser-known narrative of efforts by the American government to suppress Native voices. The latter is particularly interesting — from 19th-century Natives being imprisoned, or even killed, for participating in war dances, to a huge FBI file on folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie that all but muzzled the activist-singer's career for decades.

But Rumble is more than political commentary, and most of its 103 minutes are nothing short of a celebration. Alternating between little vignettes on rock legends like guitarist Link Wray (who more or less invented the power chord and who’s hit “Rumble” serves as the film's namesake), blues guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, and heavy-metal drummer Randy Castillo (of Ozzy Osbourne fame), one thread that keeps returning is the Native love for a steady stampede-like rhythm — a rhythm that's all but ubiquitous in modern rock music – and the way Native history informs some of these musicians' artistic choices is just fascinating. Early blues guitarist Charley Patton worked on a plantation, as a lot of Natives did in the mid-20th century, and since drums were banned (they supposed incited insurrection), he started playing the deep rhythms on his guitar instead.

When the film movies into the 1960s, at about the halfway mark, we start getting less of the historical context, which makes some of the later assertions flimsier. Before jumping into modern music, it might have been nice to take a more in-depth examination of the key components of Native music (all that's really mentioned is rhythm and guttural, soulful vocals). We do get some of this via the indigenous a capella group Ulali, but the second half of the film is less satisfying as it begins to feel more like “musicians that happen to be part Native,” rather than examining direct influences. Instead, the film starts threading a new thesis when taking on artists like Jimi Hendrix, who is 1/4 Cherokee: Native music is one of many influences on modern-day rock, and it's that fusion of references that makes music so great.

Even individual Native cultures range far and wide. The best scenes are when Director of Photography Alfonso Maiorana transplants us to the swamps of North Carolina and mountain reserves of New Mexico, where the organic nature of Native influences and heritage is most clearly realized.

Still, there is no doubt that rock music would be very different without Jesse Ed Davis and Randy Castillo, and it's an important work of music history, indeed American history, that these stories are told – and it's a history that continues to be relevant. The final scenes of Rumble take us to Standing Rock, where big money continues to stifle Native voices — or at least continues to try.

The beauty of Rumble comes from its biggest point: Native Americans are part of a larger American story, one of oppressed groups learning to own their voice. Then using that voice to cause a rumble.