We visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument on our recent trip to Montana. The monument shows where Custer and his soldiers took a last stand against the Sioux and Cheyenne and were cut down to a man. I was lucky to be able to pick up a CD of round dance songs by some Canadian tribal musicians, including Northern Cree and Whitefish Jr’s. I have heard these musicians before on other albums and they always impress.
I particularly enjoy the songs where they throw in English lyrics – I don’t understand Cree or any other Native American or First Nation language – but elongate the words across the same rhythms and sounds as they use for their own language.
This disc is Slide and Sway from 2005. My favorite song is “You’re Just an Old Song” from the Northern Cree and Friends, Volume 5, Long Winter Nights. It’s by Big River Cree and I smile at the lyrics every time:
Why did you have to walk out my door?
Now you want me back again. I am sorry,
You’re just an old song
I don’t sing any more.
Northern Cree has a bunch of other albums, but I have only heard Stay Red. I don’t understand any of this music and really need to read up on the dancing – I have another disc of northern plains dance songs – to understand the differences. The whole powwow culture sounds quite interesting but I am comfortable being an outsider to that world. I enjoy the music enough without trying to pretend I understand it.
Here’s a panorama of Last Stand Hill and the Indian Memorial to the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arikara warriors.