When I was little, I knew of two songs that had the word “Bury” in their titles. The first was a well known cowboy song entitled “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie.” It’s also known as “The Cowboy’s Lament” and was originally a sea shanty that was written in the early 1800s by those who came to America to populate its shores.
I first heard the song watching shoot ’em up cowboy programs on Saturday mornings when Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sauntered into my family’s TV room along with old ornery Gabby Hayes and sometimes, if we were lucky, the Sons of the Pioneers as well!
The arms on either end of the sofa in the television room were instantly transformed into horses and even though we were four kids at home, it seemed I was the only one who ever got up the idea to saddle up the sofa and ride along.
During those years, I also knew of another song with that word, “Bury” and this song, too, was a lament. It was “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” by Buffy Sainte Marie. Although I knew the words to the song by heart, I hadn’t made the connection between what the song was about and what Roy Rogers and the gang were up to every Saturday morning.
A few years later, American author Dee Brown wrote a book by that same name. The book made good use of strong documentation from original sources such as council records and firsthand descriptions, and Time Magazine agreed. But there were some who were displeased to see how the history of the cowboy years was portrayed, howling that the book did not portray the government of the day in a good light.
The author’s intention in writing this book, however, was to open people’s eyes to the facts as they pertained to the history of the settlement of the west. Facts from the point of view of the North American Indian. He said that Americans had always looked westward when reading about this period in American history; it was about time Americans faced eastward when learning about what happened during that era.
I was given a copy of the movie, “Bury Me Not At Wounded Knee” a few months ago. Even though the movie is based on the last two chapters of Brown’s book, it was incredibly moving and heartwrenching to watch.
History is sometimes rewritten to make it more palatable to the generations that follow. And sometimes, in spite of the rewriting, the facts find a way of making themselves known.
None of us were at Wounded Knee but all of us have been touched in one way or another by what is happening today between governments and Aboriginal people. The broken promises and treaties, the provocations and discriminatory policies … they happened in the past and they continue to happen in the present.
Sometimes facing eastward opens one’s heart to things never seen or heard or felt before. Sometimes change is a good thing.