The Indian's Lament (Tommy Nemec)

See also: The Indian's Lament (Kenneth Peacock)

And also: Birch Bark Canoe (The Moonshiners)

An Indian once sat in his birch bark canoe,
He sang as he sailed o'er the water so blue;
He sang of the day when the land was his own,
Long before those pale faces amongst them were known.

Oh first when those white men they came to our land,
We treated them like brothers and gave them a hand;
We knew they were weary, in need of repose,
Never thinking those white men would soon be our foes.

Oh soon they began to impose on our rights,
Their numbers increased and they drove us in flight;
They drove us away from our own native shore,
Where the smoke of our campfire burns there no more.

They built their tall houses all over the land,
Way out on the prairie their tall houses stand;
The beaver, the otter the hunters have slain,
And they've driven the reindeer far over the plain.

Oh the graves of our forefathers where are they now?
They are rudely trodden or torn by the plough;
Our children have wandered distracted and poor,
And the graves of our forefathers will visit no more.

Now once more I will wander to that once happy place,
Our wives and our sweethearts we then shall embrace;
Till the great spirit guides us away from all pain,
To that bright happy land where we'll all meet again.

####.... Author unknown. Traditional American song ....####
This variant was recorded 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, trk#2, 2003, Backcove Music, St John's, NL, recorded at the Cape Pine Lightstation).

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

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 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, Ontario.

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

A variant was also collected in 1951 from Cyril O'Brien 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, Nova Scotia, and published as #121, An Old Indian (The Indian Song) in Songs And Ballads From Nova Scotia, pp.262-263 (Dent, 1932; Dover, 1966).

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 nineteenth-century or just about mid-century. Peacock added that the Indians described are obviously from the eastern woodlands.


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