Indigenous People Blues

In all my years of recording I can only recall a couple of times I yielded to friends and production help folk re. changing a lyric… and to this day regret doing so. One was a song that became Rez Band’s “Someone Sleeps Tonight”. It was I think, a great re-write in terms of the wars in El Salvador, etc., at the time, a choice to be a bit more artistic, rightly vague as to create a more “everyman” sense of what happens in political/military power grabs, but still… I cringe because:

My personal detesting of all forms of racism comes from personal friendships, experiences with poverty, injustice and a great deal of study of history, newspapers (back in the day when I carried and read them regularly) and a lifetime of studying human conflict in general, wars in particular.

Many people groups have been exploited in the name of king, country, even God (makes me puke to know this but it’s true) and in the end the old power-money-guns thing continues right through human (shall I say, inhuman) history.

Hence, I wrote and recorded a number of lyrics related to control and subjugation via race fuelled by economics and white cultural preference. African-American descendants of slaves are in my nation clearly the key group, but others do not fall out of the equation.

I am fully restraining myself in this post or you’d have a small book-sized rant with historic art, written accounts from all sides and etc., but you can certainly find A LOT of this via the Web if you care enough to study the issue.

Here is the original lyric I wrote:

 glenn kaiser
 Ghosts of a thousand nations
 Crying in the wind
 And the faces
 Are getting paler
 As -our- tribal truth sinks in
 We tore the threads of humankind
 Brought the faith
 So dipped in blood
 Some places urban ghetto streets
 Are lined
 With true Americans
 First the balm
 Then the bullet
 And the lie
 That killed them dead
 First the balm
 Then the bullet
 I see red
 We used the land of the Spirit
 We claimed it to possess
 They gave thanks for the sustenance
 We squeezed it ’til it bled
 Concentration-Reservation camps
 Smallpox blankets
 For their beds
 We left them hungry
 In their bellies
 By the war we fueled and fed
 First the balm
 Then the bullet
 Then the lie
 Up in our heads
 First the balm
 Then the bullet
 And I see red
 The sickness
 Of our race
 To conquer
 Even exterminate
 Too many histories
 Tell the tale
 Of the women, children that we killed
 The power
 Of the white man
 And the slaughter of the brave
 They were civilized with injustice
 In marked and unmarked graves
 Sometimes at night
 I hear the wind
 Of a past I cannot change
 Faces flash before me
 Entire nations burn in flames
 The dignity of mankind’s dreams
 Has the scent of mockery here
 There were savages on both sides
 Misery and tears
 And the balm
 And the bullet
 Far too many
 To count the dead
 When the balm
 Then the bullet
 Bled them dead
 I see
 I see
 I see red
 I see red

What white people of European descent did (along with, prior to them, Spanish conquistadors and others) with Native Americans (in Canada, English, sometimes French re. First Nations people) is one of the most reprehensible pieces of conveniently neglected, ignored, glossed-over or outright lied-about matters in U.S. history. I’m convinced average white and at times, black folk are just not informed nor concerned about the current state of affairs for this “other” group of conquered individuals. Unless perhaps one visits a reservation-held casino. Which, by the way, I refer to as Native-American Revenge.

A number of years ago I became aware of Native American blues bands. In a flash it made perfect sense to me minor chord/scales music would be assimilated by my red brothers and sisters.

Our forefathers wiped out entire nations in the name of progress, even in the name of Christ.

To their credit, many missionaries did not consciously realize how complicit they were with white power, white control, domination of people for whom Jesus shed an equal amount of His blood to redeem. I cannot plead such ignorance.

We stole their land, their children, their language, even their ability to survive re. hunting, etc., to the extent of wiping out entire tribes/nations. Many will say “Not ME, not US, our forefathers. White guilt Glenn. Leftist nonsense! The blood of Jesus forgives, why do you carry this un-thinking sense of shame, that’s NOT of God?”

Because I walk around daily with a skin pigmentation that automatically puts me in the driver’s seat in almost any place I walk in this land. Because I am learning to love my neighbor ESPECIALLY IF THEY’RE UNLIKE ME because Jesus commands it. A massive part of love is “walking a mile in another man’s moccasins”. Plenty of us fight (literally even) against the compassion and understanding that comes from such a simple yet profound place… which means our empathy goes out the window and our excuses for not loving or caring continue. There is rampant pushback from whites who have long been the dominant FORCE in our society. It’s long past time we repent.

“What, repent for being WHITE which GOD MADE US?” Yes, because the color doesn’t make you God. It takes far more guts to hand others the keys to power when you’ve (consciously or unconsciously) held them just by being born white.

Unconscious people need to wake up. The “ugly American” is formerly a white immigrant and in fact lives in and as a white American. Of course the real and true and first Americans were red.


For now, I will simply ask my readers to consider, pray and begin to ask whether “revisionist history” isn’t something the majority of people in power haven’t been practicing all along?

I ask that we consider a different way of thinking, that of the love of God truly extended to ALL in our land, of INclusion rather than a regular default to EXclusion. Might we rightly celebrate unique qualities of people who don’t look like you or me, whose culture -sometimes in some areas- may link closer to the Gospel of Jesus than our own?

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

8 thoughts on “Indigenous People Blues

  1. So sad but very true. If white “Christian” people would really think about it Jesus was most likely a much darker skin then most Americans. We need to show His love instead of our hate or disdain for others that look or act a little different. Thanks for sharing.

  2. “I See Red” remains a high light for me from the handful of times it was performed on tour.
    It is sad that it never made it onto an official release. The words are still powerful and poignant today as when you wrote them 30 years ago; perhaps even more so.

    1. Agreed. “Black Like Me” was one of the more startling moments of my youth -and I was very aware by the time I read it what had been going on for a couple centuries. Another, many years later was “Ishi Last of His Tribe”. Wake-up calls are good though sad and causing at least mental/emotional pain. -Glenn

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