words and music by Len Wallace , copyright (June 20, 2012)
Len singing "Tecumseh" on YouTube
A comet traces 'cross the night Hey, hey hey, hey
The warrior's vision burning bright - Hey, hey, hey, hey
Tecumseh speeds across the land
To every nation, every clan,
The time has come to make a stand, Hey, hey, hey, hey . . .
Armies march across the border Hey, hey, hey, hey
Bringing death, the white man's order Hey, hey, hey, hey
Leaving home for evermore
In endless battle, endless war.
How many dies, how many more Hey, hey, hey, hey . . .
Tecusmeh speaks to every nation Hey, hey, hey, hey
To form the great confederation Hey, hey, hey, hey
Do not serve the rich man's cries
His grasping heart and tainted lies.
Every nation must arise Hey, hey, hey, hey. . .
No man can sell the mother earth Hey, hey, hey, hey
The land is shared that gives us birth Hey, hey, hey, hey
Pale hearts come with gun in hand
To bind our souls and steal the land.
Greed is all they understand Hey, hey, hey, hey . . .
The wampum heart held in his hand Hey, hey, hey, hey
That friend and ally understand Hey, hey, hey, hey
Divided hearts cannot prevail
Unguided on a broken trail.
Divided hearts will surely fail Hey, hey, hey, hey . . .
Before the battle could be won Hey, hey, hey, hey
Colonel Proctor cut and run Hey, hey, hey, hey
The Empire's soldier swears and cries
That he will fight, but turns and flies
And leaves behind a trail of lies Hey, hey, hey, hey . . .
In the flame of shot and shell Hey, hey, hey, hey
Across the Thames Tecumseh fell Hey, hey, hey, hey
The Shawnee warrior hold the ground
The blue coat soldiers hunt him down,
But his body never found Hey, hey, hey, hey . . .
Two hundred years have passed and gone Hey, hey, hey, hey
The warrior's wisdom still lives on Hey, hey, hey, hey
Against the powered wealthy prides
The rich man's grasp that still divides
The people will again arise Hey, hey, hey, hey . . .
On June 12, James Laxer visited the town of Tecumseh, Ontario to speak about his most recent book, Tecumseh & Brock, The War of 1812 (House of Anansi Press, Inc,, Toronto, 2012). I was asked to perform a song concerning the war before James spoke.
Two years ago my spouse Victoria Cross and I visited the memorial to the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh near the Thames River, on the site of the battlefield where he fell. From that time on I felt that a song should be written about him.br>
Through the recent series of events in Canada concerning the bicentennial of the war here in Canada, I thought this was indeed the time to write a song, but not one that celebrates the war in an uncritical jingoistic/nationalistic conservative fashion. The War of 1812 was a war of U.S. Expansionism and England's empire. Yes, there were principles of citizenship, law, notions of liberty that were proclaimed. There were also very real material interests. The losers were the First Nation's people who were forced into an endless war, against the genocide of their people both physical and cultural, relegation to the margins.
Jame's Laxer's book begins with a quotation from Tecumseh:
No tribe has the right to sell the land, even to each other, much less to strangers . . . Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Didn't the Great Spiirit make them all for the use of his children? . . . The only way to stop this evil is for the red man to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was first, and should be now, for it was never divided.
This is a vision that resonates even today as many around the world question the foundations of so-called society. To this day people are being driven off the land for corporate profit. People and their cultures are being destroyed.
In this song I try to make several points. The indigenous and First Nation's peoples of what was to be called "North America" were indeed brutally forced off their land. Their conception of property and ownership were not those of expansionist Europeans, wealthy landowners. Later, industrial capitalism wreaked its havoc. The fact was that capitalism historically arose forcibly clearing people off their lands to create the modern working class. Lands were enclosed for the benefit of the wealthy. At the same time millions of people from the continent of Africa were stolen, enslaved as part of the process. That is our history.
In the face of a global crisis we must once again question who is in power, what they do, and how to go about changing the situation. That is why Tecusmeh's words are so relevant to all of us. In the face of an uncritical celebration of the war of 1812 as if it was a war that established the true north strong and free, I thought it was time to present an alternative view.
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