The Indian's Lament (Kenneth Peacock)

See also: The Indian's Lament (Tommy Nemec)

And also: Birch Bark Canoe (The Moonshiners)

An Indian he sat in his birch-bark canoe,
And paddled away o'er the water so blue;
He sang of the days when the land was their own,
And before the palefaces among them were known.

The time when the red-men were lords of the soil,
We lived at our ease free from sorrow and toil;
We hunted the beaver, the otter, and deer,
And roamed through the wild-wood with nothing to fear.

When the white-men first came to our own native land,
We used them like brothers, we gave them our land;
We knew they were weary, we gave them repose,
Not dreaming those white-men would e'er be our foes.

For a while we lived happy with our white friends around,
We gave them the best of our own hunting ground;
They paid us with trinkets which pleased for a while,
And caused us like children upon them to smile.

But soon they began to encroach on our rights,
Their numbers increased and they put us to flight;
They drove us away from our own native shore,
And the smoke of our campfire shall rise there no more.

They builded great cities all over our land,
And on our rich meadows their farmhouses stand;
They cleared all the country from Texas to Maine,
And the Indian may seek for his wigwam in vain.

The graves of our forefathers where are they at now?
They are rudely gone over and torn by the plow;
They have ruined our country and tore up our home,
And the Indian and buffalo will never more roam.

We'll go to the westward and find there a home,
Where hunting is good and white-men are unknown;
And when the Great Spirit calls us from the plain,
In our own spirit-world we will all meet again.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional American song ....####

This variant was collected in 1958 by Kenneth Peacock from Mrs Thomas (Annie) Walters [1896-1986] of Rocky Harbour, NL, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 1, pp.157-158, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that this is an American song probably written by a New Englander sensitive to the plight of the Indian. The last verse suggests that the west was not yet opened up, so the song might date from the first half of the 19th century or just about mid-century. Peacock added that the Indians described are obviously from the eastern woodlands.

A variant was recorded as The Indian's Lament by Tommy Nemec singing acapella the songs he heard sung by his grandfather, John P Myrick [1900-1984] with Thomas (Tom) Finlay [1885-?] at house parties in St Shotts and on Cape Pine, NL (Songs From The Cape, 2003, trk#2, Backcove Music, St John's, NL, recorded at the Cape Pine Lightstation).

A variant was also recorded as Birch Bark Canoe by The Moonshiners (Our Newfoundland Breed, 1989 cassette, trk#10, Independent, Goose Cove, St Anthony, NL, and recorded at Sim Savory's Studio in Belleorem, NL).

A similar variant of this song also appears in a copy of a 21-page handwritten monograph, The Boy From Kilkeel, Ireland, written by John Doran [1873-1926] and archived in the Newfoundland stacks of The National Library of Canada, AMICUS No. 12933482, and copyrighted in 1992 by the author's grandson, John Doran of Barrie, ON.

A variant was also collected in 1951 from Cyril O'Brien [ca.1902-?] of Trepassey, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada, ©2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

Another variant was collected in 1929 by Helen Creighton [1899-1989] from Benjamin H Henneberry [1863-1951] of Devil's Island, NS, and published as #121, An Old Indian (The Indian Song), in Songs And Ballads From Nova Scotia, pp.262-263 (Dent, 1932; Dover, 1966).


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