Sunday, March 19, 2023

Cherokee Fiddle, cause Good Whiskey Never Let Him Lose His Place

 Urban Cowboy is a 1980 movie with a soundtrack steeped in western songs that had great Redneck lines like, "single bars and good time lovers were never true, telling those sweet lies and losing again." The song that really got my attention and one that I liked but over time have become conflicted about, is called Cherokee Fiddle song by Johnny Lee. Johnny Lee if that's not a good old Redneck sodbuster name, just call me Billy Bob Thornton. 

You see, I am a fan of most things Indian. I go to purple in the mood ring colours when I see an Indian hockey player in the National Hockey League, a MMA fighter in the UFC, a football player in the NFL (I spelled out the NHL, because most people don't know hockey), an Indian actor and songs naming Indians. So when I hear songs like Seminole Wind, Come and Get your Love, it's exciting for me. So to hear Cherokee fiddle it made me happy, and not only that, the song is really catchy. The Rosemary Butler back up just complimenting Johnny Lee's lines, "when you smell smoke and the cinder, just slick back your hair," takes the song to a higher plane. Remember I was in just 20 years old when the song came out, I had been to my first Sweat Lodge Ceremony at that age. My Indian-ness was never in question but I didn't have a deep philosophical view of things, I just knew and everyone around me was Indian. Those who were not Indian were not family or worthy of exploration. I know that was arrogant, stupid and limited my knowledge. I didn't ponder too deeply the story and lines in the Cherokee Fiddle song. Well later on, the song did kind of bother me, same thing with the song by Tom T. Hall, Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine. Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon has such a nice melody and you naturally dream of good times but with a little melancholy. 

I wondered if Tom T. Hall was being racist, even though there are no racist lines but the old trope of the Black gentlemen associated with watermelon, does make you cringe somewhat. The line "Women think about they-selves, when menfolk ain't around" is a bit of old style attitudes. So you kind of don't feel all that good about the song after a few years. Well that's what I thought about Cherokee Fiddle and the images portrayed in the song. Michael Martin Murphey wrote the song and he says it was about "an Old Man he saw playing fiddler at a train station one time." Wikipedia has the story of the fiddler player who is actually a Choctaw Indian, named Dean Kirk.  When diving into the lyrics of the song, it doesn't paint a very good picture about the Cherokee fiddler player and his fate. 

The story about the fiddle player is that he "put on a good show,"  "played for the whiskey," and was "not seen again," and "no one missed him." It paints a story deeper than an Indian drinking whiskey but of a people gone forever and no one ever to miss them. "With Indians dressing up as cowboys, cowboys putting on feathers and turquoise on, the fools playing fiddle have gone, folks never going to miss them and the Cherokee fiddle (people) gone forever." The song, the tune is very catchy and it will have you drawn in, but at the end of it, it is a very sad story, even an ugly one. So true of many stories when it comes to the Indian when the narrative is from the point of view by white folk. 

End of the Trail: James Fraser Artist
Some songs to me, are like the sculpture, End of the Trail by James Earle Fraser, they just don't feel right. The End of the Trail is a great work of art but the depiction is just ugly. When I see this Indian, he is at the end of his rope, a beaten man, a person giving up, finished. This is not who Indians are in any way imaginable. This is a distorted picture. And just like the song Cherokee fiddle, says of an entity gone forever where no one missed them at all, it is just distorted images of Indians wanting to be Cowboys and White folks playing Indians, it is wrong. 

Well nope, no way, the Indigenous folk are not dying, not giving up, and not going anywhere. 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

First Nations, the Roma of Canada

 Indigenous Women and Indigenous men, are not well respected or even liked in Canada. Same could be said for Indigenous people in the United States, and Australia. The dislike is driven by the Settlers, the decedents of colonial nations, who now benefit from the country they invaded. It is easy to understand the dislike and in many cases the settlers have towards the Indigenous people; Indigenous people are physical reminders of how Settlers failed in killing them off, and how they stole their land. No one can look at the harm they have done and feel good about it. The result, the Settlers turn their feelings into hatred towards the Indigenous people. I get that and can understand, even if I don't like it. The Settler can see the power held by Indigenous peoples. The thing that does bother me quite a bit, is the same attitudes towards Indigenous shown by the Settler population is now driven by the recent immigrant population. I mean what the heck? New comers into Canada have picked up the Settler's hatred of Indigenous people, the Canadian Indian. The Settlers have systemic structures in place which aids them in perpetuating their white supremacist attitudes and beliefs, so why do new comers adopt the same type of attitudes? 

I know the attitude towards Indigenous people, by new arrivals.  I have heard it directly from the mouths of new comers to Canada. In each instance of speaking with the new comers, they were told not to associate with Indians. This warning came from people in their own community circles; new comers to Canada. You think it would be some conspiracy for people not to engage or develop relationships with Indians of Canada. What benefit comes from not getting to know the Indigenous people? 

I was driving in my 2015 Civic with my IPOD plugged in to the stereo and the Gypsy Kings' song, Bem Bem Maria played. A good song, not one of their best but good still. This took my thoughts to my friend Sorin. I used to tease him about being a Gypsy because he is from Romania and Gypsy's are Roma, so they must be Romanian. He would tell me, "no they are Indians," Indians from India. You see, the Gypsy's have a certain reputation in Europe and they are not well received. My friend was saying that the Europeans (eastern) laugh at Canada and the United States for their recent encounters with Gypsy's, "They don't know the Gypsy's." There are stories of some EU countries, mostly the Western European countries flying planes full of Roma back to Eastern European countries, despite the EU travel agreement. The overall feelings towards Gypsy's, the Roma as they call themselves, are not positive. They have a reputation of being not-trust worthy and a drain on the local economy, you should stay away from them.  Where have I heard this before? 

The Roma, have been disliked for a very long time: "...a key factor shaping the attitudes of Europeans was the itinerant lifestyle so many Romani families practiced during those times. They moved from locale to locale, which engendered an aura of mystery and suspicion about them. Ugly stereotypes formed already in the late medieval/early modern period. "Gypsies" were considered dirty, deceitful, too lazy to work, and prone to steal." This overall sentiment on the Roma is what the Indians in Canada deal with as well. People just have a skewed view of the Indian. The view is amplified by media, the history, the system and by word of mouth. 

Can you imagine coming from a different country, community, a world you all you know is that "those people are no good." What a restriction to place on yourself. I can see it though. I mean look at how the world views the men of India. The men of India place no value on the Women of their country. Women are gang raped, (One Woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in India in 2018, according to government...underlining its dismal reputation as one of the worst places in the world to be female.)   women are beaten by the brothers/fathers. Women are outcasts when the husband divorces them. Women have acid thrown in their face if they say reject men. So how do we expect them to treat the Indigenous Women in Canada, when they have no value to their own women, and our Women, our People are considered no good? It is a common notion among Indigenous communities that the Women are being attacked by the new comers. The new comers who have made a big impact in the transport industry; taxis and big trucks/semi-trailers. People believe there is a correlation between the lack of respect of Women in general and the access to women via transport industry. This of course is just a point of view by a community which is under attack. So forgive them if the view may distorted. The point here is the message out there does impact how we see a community, a people. 

So how do we change the view, by word of mouth, or through the media? No one really trusts the media, an industry owned by the rich and only interested in numbers, which means cash. Word of mouth with a group of Settlers who want the Indian to disappear, it's not going to happen. Word of mouth with new comers, who are sold the message not to talk to those people who are not good? Like the Roma, there is a set view of them and of us, and it is not going to change. 

German Photograph of Family of Roma, Marseilles, France, November 1942. Gift of Mrs. Patty Millett, from the Collection of The National WWII Museum, 2011.403.132.

Treaty 9 Indigenous men at Fort Hope in Ontario, 1905. (Dept. of Indian and Northern Affairs / Library and Archives Canada)

Cherokee Fiddle, cause Good Whiskey Never Let Him Lose His Place

 Urban Cowboy is a 1980 movie with a soundtrack steeped in western songs that had great Redneck lines like, "single bars and good time ...