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katlaughing Lyr Add: Why White Men Can't See/Cherokee Queen (3) Why White Men Can't See/Cherokee Queen 30 May 00


Why Whitemen Cannot See Clearly - as told by Art Thieme

(Spoken, with guitar strums) The Cheyenne have a story that when the strangers came to the country, there was a man there, a Cheyenne man who had the power to send his eyes out of his head into the topmost branches of the tallest trees. And, from there he could look around the country and find the buffalo that they needed so badly for survival. Strangers came to the country and tried to get the man to teach them how to do this. He wouldn't. They pestered him and begged him for so many months that finally, just to get them off his back, he said, "I'll teach you to do this thing, but you must not do it more than three times in one day. If you do something terrible will happen."

And, so he taught the strangers how to send their eyes out of their heads into the topmost branches of the tallest trees. And, they were so elated by their success, so stupefied by how it felt to be able to look out over the whole countryside, that, that day they sent their eyes out of their heads and recalled them three times and then they tried it a fourth time that day. The fourth time they sent their eyes out of their heads and when they tried to recall their eyes, their eyes wouldn't return. They sat in the topmost branches of the trees and they would not come back.

And, that night the man went to bed under a tree, blind, and the rats came up on his chest and he convinced Rat to give him one of his eyes. But the eye was way too small, it sat far back in the socket and with it he could practically see nothing. But, it allowed him to get around the next day enough that he met with Buffalo and he convinced Buffalo to give him one of his eyes. But, that eye was way too large and stuck up out of the other socket hideously. And, from that time on white men have not been able to see things clearly as they really are.

The Cherokee Queen

Said the Cherokee Queen, "Are you going my way?
Is that a road map I see clenched in your trembling hand?
A warrior brave laid his ambush
At a place where the moon made him blind
We couldn't get word down the river in time
All we could hear in the night was the sound of him dying.

Oh my tall bronze man with stars in his eyes
There was a ruby in the forehead of my love
The circle of our silence was broken
No one could remember the plan
Wise men cringed in the temples all night
Waiting for word of the newcomer's final demand.

Oh the ceiling fan turns slowly in the night
A winner deals us another pack of lies
Gambling again with the Master
I'm drawn to the same pair of freaks
Gambling again with disaster
And bleeding with whiskey, she dreams of her old Cherokee.

Said the Cherokee Queen, "Are you going my way?
Is that a road map I see clenched in your trembling hand?
A warrior brave laid his ambush
At a place where the moon made him blind
We couldn't get word down the river in time.
All we could hear in the night was the sound of him dying.
And bleeding with whiskey she dreams of her old Cherokee.

From Art Thieme's CD The Older I Get, The Better I Was. The above story is told with a few guitar strums to accent certain phrases, then followed by The Cherokee Queen.

From Art's liner notes: "I heard this Cheyenne tale told in a workshop at Ida Noyes Hall during one of the early University of Chicago Folk Festivals -- around 1965. This exceptionally traditional festival happens every February and it is always a wonder -- a way to travel to enhilirating folkloristic pockets of the world in the middle of terrible Chicago winters -- and all without leaving the city. The fest started in 1961 and is still going strong. Long may they wave!

"The Cherokee Queen was written by Carl Oglesby. I learned it from the singing of Bruce U. Utah Phiilips one very late night in the early 1970 at Earl Pionke's Chicago folk club, The Earl of Old Town. Carl Oglesby was president of Students for a Democratic Society 1965-66, is a playwright with three professionally produced plays, taught radical politics at MIT, was a leader of the anti-war movement during the Viet Nam War, and, in more recent days, is a John F. Kennedy scholar and assassination theorist who continues to bring facts long hidden to light via the Freedom of Information Act.

"Recently he told me that his family on his father's side was from Cowpens, which is just down the road from Cherokee, South Carolina. Dwelling on the plight of Native American people and how they have been systematically excluded from participating in so very many aspects of American life, Mr. Oglesby, within this song, sought to put himself into the shoes of a modern Cherokee -- dealing with the present while remembering all the great days of the tribe's past.

"6-string Martin D-76 guitar - recorded by Dusty Thompto for Wisconsin Public Radio, in concert at Alverno College in Mlwaukee, Wisconsin -- February 1, 1986."

transcribed May 2000 by katlaughing


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