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Lyr Req: We are the Indians

alanabit 27 Nov 04 - 07:54 AM
GUEST,Davebhoy 27 Nov 04 - 09:34 AM
alanabit 27 Nov 04 - 02:12 PM
Coyote Breath 28 Nov 04 - 12:11 AM
alanabit 28 Nov 04 - 07:28 AM
Azizi 28 Nov 04 - 12:55 PM
alanabit 28 Nov 04 - 04:38 PM
Coyote Breath 28 Nov 04 - 08:47 PM
mg 28 Nov 04 - 09:32 PM
alanabit 29 Nov 04 - 04:26 AM
Azizi 29 Nov 04 - 11:25 AM
alanabit 29 Nov 04 - 01:14 PM
wysiwyg 29 Nov 04 - 01:19 PM
Nigel Parsons 30 Nov 04 - 11:49 AM
GUEST 15 Apr 20 - 04:27 AM
Jim Carroll 15 Apr 20 - 06:42 AM
meself 15 Apr 20 - 01:49 PM
punkfolkrocker 16 Apr 20 - 03:05 PM
peteglasgow 16 Apr 20 - 03:13 PM
GUEST 16 Apr 20 - 03:39 PM
GUEST,Starship 16 Apr 20 - 03:41 PM
Senoufou 16 Apr 20 - 03:41 PM
meself 16 Apr 20 - 04:04 PM
John C. Bunnell 16 Apr 20 - 05:53 PM
GUEST 03 Jul 24 - 02:03 PM
robomatic 09 Jul 24 - 03:30 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: alanabit
Date: 27 Nov 04 - 07:54 AM

I always used to think this song was naff when I heard it as a kid from my Mum. However, my kids love it. The first verse goes:
    We are the Indians tall and quaint
    In our feathers and war paint
    Pow wow Pow wow
    We're the tribe of the Indian (old dun?) cow
    All of us a red men
    Feathers in our head men
    Down among the dead men
    Pow wow

    We can fight with sticks and stones
    Bows and arrows, bricks and bones
    Pow wow etc.....


    We come home from fights and wars
    Greeted by our long nosed squaws
    Pow wow etc...

Does anyone know more verses? The song always seemed to go on forever, so I am sure there are more. My Mum was born in 1931, so there may be one or two of her generation here who might know it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: GUEST,Davebhoy
Date: 27 Nov 04 - 09:34 AM

Does this help?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: alanabit
Date: 27 Nov 04 - 02:12 PM

Thanks Dave. "Tall and Quaint" is obviously related to the one I'm after. Are they all supporters' songs from an American sport? The one I'm after is for my children and those in the kindergarten, where I go every week.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 12:11 AM

what a disgusting song!

Still I guess it deserves recognition if only as a racist remnent.

It certainly is part of our historical response to Native Americans. Related to songs using bizarre "Negro" dialect, or those comic renditions supposedly from Yiddish tradition.

Please pardon me, but I just got done watching "Rabbit Proof Fence" and had been thinking of recommending it to my Lakota friend who had urged me to buy "Skins". And thinking of all the injustices we of European descent have heaped upon native peoples all over the world keeps me from responding postively to this song, no matter how innocently it may be in your experience.

CB


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: alanabit
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 07:28 AM

I found it silly, but not particularly racist, CB. It is just a child's view, probably taken from dodgy "Western" literature or early films. I don't think the stereotypes in it have any more evil an intent than the daft stereotypes we start off with about Frenchmen, Germans or even Americans.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: Azizi
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 12:55 PM

I agree with CB's assessment of this song. It's my belief that stereotypes like dynomite don't necessarily have to have evil intent to have evil{negative}results.

Since in some sense Native Americans have more right to call themselves American than other Americans, I also wonder if alanabit inadvertently left out the word "other" in his {or her}rationalizing sentence that "I don't think the stereotypes in it have any more evil an intent than the daft stereotypes we start off with about Frenchmen, Germans or even Americans."

I would agree that some folklorists need to document the historical and contemporary usages of these types of songs. However, in my opinion a more worthy goal is to lessen cultural, institutional, and personal racism.

Perhaps an indepth study of these perhaps unwittingly racist songs would be one way to increase people's awareness and understanding of the negative effects of words upon the psyche of children, youth, and adults in both majority and minority populations.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: alanabit
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 04:38 PM

I would have been quite happy to put in the word "other" Americans, although I would be happy to use whatever word your indigenous peoples prefer to call themselves. To call this children's song "racist" is coming over a bit heavy to me. In my experience, the American Indians/ Aboriginal Americans - or any other ethnic group of my aquaintance have been less concerned with political correctness of my terminology, than the fact that I try to treat all people with dignity and respect.
This is a silly song, but it is no more "racist" than a silly song about Vikings wearing horned helmets (another Hollywood fiction). When I first heard this song at the age of about nine or ten, it came over as naff, but with not the slightest intent of insulting or patronising anyone. It certainly allows more dignity to its subject than some of the nonsense I used to watch in US Cavalry films at the time. My children sing this song and admire and respect the people it (ostensibly!) represents. They get plenty of other information on the subject from the books and CDs which we provide them. When they are old enough, I hope they will sit down and watch Kevin Costner's "500" Nations" with us.
I am a little baffled that so much can be read into such a silly song. My nine year old daughter watched "The Long Walk Home" with us. She is able to tell the difference between a real person and a silly cliche. So are most children.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: Coyote Breath
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 08:47 PM

Phillip DeLoria's book "Playing Indian" discusses the various historical instances of we Europeans making assumptions about the "red man". The racism in the song is part of the idea, prominent in the Eastern part of the USA around the 1840's, that The "nobel red man" had vanished. It was a convient myth. Clubs of European-Americans mimicked what they knew of Native American culture, including the fabrication of Indian artifakes, done as close to the "real thing" as possible. They performed "rituals", they adopted Indian "names". They considered the Indian to be "Quaint", exotic, and non existant (In their experience he was). Abolishionists were notably quiet about the wrongs done to the American Indian. It was not fashionable.

The only positive thing to come from this view of the "Vanishing American" was that some of those members of the "redman" clubs were darn good at creating Artifakes to the point that some collections today have numerous items made by people as far removed from being Native American as imagineable.

Or so I've been told.

A bit of irony: Crazy Crow Trading Company, of Potsboro, Texas, the biggest supplier of materials for making Indian artifakes is owned by a family with close ties to the Comanche Nation.

CB


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: mg
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 09:32 PM

You might not see how offensive it is if it is a song that your mother taught you and you enjoyed as a child. As someone seeing it for the first time I would definitely presume it would be offensive. Long-nose squaws????? The word squaw is being replaced in place names in certain places, Oregon, because that alone is offensive to at least some Native Amerians...I think this is a song that should not be introduced to any more children, and children who have learned it should be asked not to sing it. mg


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: alanabit
Date: 29 Nov 04 - 04:26 AM

I think the root of the problem here is that we perceive racism very differently. I don't think I have read five posts on Mudcat which I would describe as being wilfully racist. We bring different criteria to this discussion and are baffled why others are not seeing the world through our eyes.
I have freely allowed that the song is a load of tosh, based on naive impressions and bad history. I am not convinced that it does any harm at all though. As I explained earlier, there is a great deal of information (at last) now emerging and made available to children about the Native American culture. Where I live, (Germany) schools and most of the media are particularly careful to give balanced infromation about any ethnic group. Nobody grows up with the misapprehension that any of this glibly rhymed nonsense represents history. It's a silly song, which children like singing and doing the actions to. They then go on to learn more.
My gut feelings about the heinous treatment - or more acurately mistreatment - of Native Americans (for want of a better phrase) are probably much closer to the way CB and Mary feel than you would suspect. However, when I meet people of any ethnic group, I try to be respectful without being patronising. I rarely find them as sensitive to terminology as many of the people outside their cultures. I know you are also seeking good manners and respect, but drawing the line in different places does not make other people racists.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: Azizi
Date: 29 Nov 04 - 11:25 AM

Alanabit, I appreciate the fact that you sincerely believe that "silly songs" can do no harm, yet as an African American I respectfully submit that they can.

You wrote "Where I live, (Germany) schools and most of the media are particularly careful to give balanced information about any ethnic group."

Media in the United States is one of the worse culprits of producing and disseminating regarding cultural lies and stereotypes. Is the media in Germany so different than the US? Who determines that the information about ethnic groups is "carefully balanced"? and what in the world does this mean?

You also wrote that "Nobody grows up with the misapprehension that any of this glibly rhymed nonsense represents history. It's a silly song, which children like singing and doing the actions to. They then go on to learn more."

I would respectfully submit that "NOBODY" is a big word. Little "silly" songs and stories and jokes and sayings and pictures leave more lasting impressions than you think.

And it is not just people of color who are negatively impacted by these types of songs. The entire world is wounded.

You wrote that "when I meet people of any ethnic group, I try to be respectful without being patronising."

In that same spirit, I am writing to you.

Peace,
Azizi


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: alanabit
Date: 29 Nov 04 - 01:14 PM

Fair enough Azizi and thank-you.
"Nobody" is indeed a big word - and it is always dangerous to use. I used it to mean,"Very few people of my acquaintance." I have been trying to think how the two "Indians" (their description, not mine) whom I have known, would have reacted to the song. I honestly do not know. What I am sure of, is that although I am well capable of making the cultural errors that anyone else can (nearly anyone else), where no offence was intended, none was taken. Of course, I haven't yet had the chance to talk about this song with them face to face. I had forgotten it for years and it only resurfaced when I was singing to young children.
The sense in which I used the phrase "carefully balanced" was meant to mean that broadcasters seem to be very much more concerned with offering real history and cultural insight nowadays than when I was growing up. The sort of casual racial slights which were acceptable then are not (for the most part) now.
I believe that the structure of the main media is different in the US to here. We have public broadcasting of a high standard, which does not exist merely to sell advertising. (Yes, we have plenty of the other rubbish too).
When I first heard the song, as a child, I thought of it as being a song in awe of a noble people. I did not like it much, but that is how I understood it. Certainly the intent - and indeed effect - were anything but racist. I think that had it been presented as an adult song, it could come over as very offensive indeed. That is part of the danger of putting it up on an adult site and out of context.
I start out from the point of view, "If other people made similar assumptions about my family and ancestors, would I be offended?" I really don't think so. I should add that I do have the experience of living in another culture in which I speak the language imperfectly.
Not everyone comes up with the same answers as I do, Azizi. I appreciate that.
I would love to meet Lloyd Halverson and Lee again and ask them how they felt about it. Of course, they would not be able to speak for all their people. My guess is they would fall about laughing at such nonsense. It's a hard one to call. No disrespect to you and thank-you for writing.
Alan.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: wysiwyg
Date: 29 Nov 04 - 01:19 PM

Two of my favorite people, working it out. My world is better today, for it!

Love to alan and Azizi,

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 30 Nov 04 - 11:49 AM

Without getting into the 'PCness' of it all, I remember this from cub camps.
Slightly different words, at least one more verse (more may come to me)

We are redmen tall and quaint
In our feathers and war paint
Pow wow Pow wow
We are the men of the old dun cow
All of us are red men
Feathers in our head men
Down among the dead men
Pow wow

We can fight with sticks and stones
Bows and arrows, bricks and bones
Pow wow etc.....

Off we go at quite a pace,
Led by our chief 'Monkey Face'

Pow wow etc.....


We come home from fighting wars
Greeted by our long nosed squaws
Pow wow etc...


Nigel


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Apr 20 - 04:27 AM

I sing

we are the indians staight and tall
this is how we make our call
Pow wow Pow wow
We the men of the olden times
all of us a red men
feather in our head men
down among the dead men
Pow Wow Pow Wow


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Apr 20 - 06:42 AM

I think this is related to 'We are the Roman Soldiers' recorded by the BBC in the 50s
Thanks to my love of John Wayne horse operas I never thought it particularly racist - I suppose they are both, really
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: meself
Date: 15 Apr 20 - 01:49 PM

It should not be sung in this day and age; it's that simple. Other than for academic purposes.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 16 Apr 20 - 03:05 PM

Jim - did you see my link yesterday in the now closed politics thread
about "Falkirk Cowboys"... ???


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: peteglasgow
Date: 16 Apr 20 - 03:13 PM

men of the 'old dun cow' the dun cow is a good old pub in durham, i've stopped off there before on the miners' gala day and other times too. i don't think i've seen many native americans. what does 'dun cow' mean in the context of that song?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: GUEST
Date: 16 Apr 20 - 03:39 PM

Some info for you here, Workingtonman. Read all of p.109.

https://books.google.ca/books?id=-6S8AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA109&lpg=PA109&dq=Old+Dun+Cow,+indians&source=bl&ots=9GslTnCno_&sig=ACfU3U3Rh5


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: GUEST,Starship
Date: 16 Apr 20 - 03:41 PM

. . . and p.110.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: Senoufou
Date: 16 Apr 20 - 03:41 PM

I agree with Nigel's version,and I sang it when in the Brownies, complete with actions. The song made us feel that the 'Red Indians' were special people, dignified and a bit daunting. (I preferred 'Land of the Silver Birch' though, the tune was haunting!)
I imagine that nowadays it's unacceptable, and one mustn't even say 'Red Indians' but Native Americans. One would hate to insult or cause offence to a proud race of people.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: meself
Date: 16 Apr 20 - 04:04 PM

It IS unacceptable. I don't know why that's so hard to accept.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: John C. Bunnell
Date: 16 Apr 20 - 05:53 PM

Context first: I'm not of Native American extraction, but my family has significant history with some of the Native cultures here in the US Pacific Northwest (one grandfather published a book of Klickitat legends gathered from primary sources, much to the approval of his contacts among the local Native peoples; the other ran a sawmill and later a mid-sized farm in NE Washington which were visited regularly by the Native locals there).

Now, first lesson: irrespective of naming conventions, almost every non-Native's first mistake is to think of Indians in the North American sense as a mono-culture. Pre-contact, you'd have been looking at thousands of distinct micro-cultures in as many as a dozen major linguistic clusters; nowadays, even with greatly diminished populations and many reservations where multiple tribes have been consolidated, the number is still at least in the high hundreds.

For labeling/conversational purposes, the best thing is to be aware of your subject's particular tribal affiliation and use that. In practice, "Indian" was acceptable in my grandparents' day; nowadays, best broad usage seems to be "Native" in the US and "First Peoples" in Canada.

As to music: I think it's a stretch, for the most part, to consider the above-quoted lyrics consciously racist, but I also agree that the current lyric isn't a camp song I'd teach or repeat today, at least not without a careful edit. (It's worth noting that at least one Oregon high school with a Native mascot has had a sufficiently good relationship with the relevant local tribe that both school and tribe resisted implementation of a state-level ban on such mascots a couple of years ago.)

And as to matters of authenticity: besides the "artifakes" CB mentions above, there's a substantial body of supposed "Indian" lore in modern circulation that actually originated from within "New Age" spiritualism in the 1960s and '70s -- and that, I'm led to believe, includes a fair bit of music that's likewise described as Native but may have originated from other sources. Further complicating this is the musical niche occupied by the "Native American flute" -- there's at least some documentation that supports instances of Native flute construction by various individual cultures, but it's not clear to me how much of the music being performed on these nowadays is genuinely informed by localized Native tradition. [One of the problems, with music as well as the myths my grandfather collected, is that there are significant gaps in the chain of transmission in many post-contact tribal populations, where a combination of disease and assimilation essentially created generational breaks where old knowledge was flat-out lost.]


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: GUEST
Date: 03 Jul 24 - 02:03 PM

I have asked many people, and none remembered this song. I heard it in Infant/junior school, and remember it as something that got us together and doing the actions as a group. At no point did I connect it with people. It was just a group song. With a adult experience and education, obviously this is of its time, and not appropriate. However, for children sitting in assembly, it certainly did not teach us bias or racism.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: We are the Indians
From: robomatic
Date: 09 Jul 24 - 03:30 PM

We are in an age where we are all wrestling with several ideas at the same time, and the ideas are looping in and out of our memories.

The song is a kids' song. If you were in the American suburbs among white kids in the 60s, it came off as harmless. But if you were aware of your indigenous history, probably not so much. When I was a kid and lived in the suburbs, my father was harmlessly describing his non-management position to a neighbor: "I'm no chief, I'm one of the Indians." The neighbor was in fact of Native American heritge and told my father so. No one took offense and my father was smart and caring enough to relay the conversation to his kids, who were friends with that guy's kids. Lesson learned: In the 60s.

As our society expands its boundries, we've seen the struggls that come forth as different ethnicities make their numbers and presence felt in our 'open' societies. At this point I'm all for awareness and less so for censoriousness.

All I really know is I'm not killing anyone today.


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