Great Plains Stories

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Track 1 Sitting Bull Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

The memory of Hunkpapa Lakota Chief Sitting Bull, the man, his life and vision always provides a source of inspiration and a sense of determination that accompanies me during my journeys throughout the plains. In the summer of 1995 I attended a pipe ceremony held in his honour at Bear Butte in South Dakota. It was the nineteenth year that a group of his descendants and their friends had gathered to honour him. My lingering memories of the ceremony are of the vast number of dragonflies that flew among the participants and the eagle that circled overhead. It was indeed an experience. A visit to Sitting Bull’s grave which lies on the banks of the Missouri River, near Mobridge, South Dakota always offers me the chance to pay my respects to this truly remarkable freedom fighter of the Lakota people.  Andrew Hogarth.

Medicine Water's Gravesite, Clinton, Oklahoma, 2002.

Track 2 Medicine Water Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

Medicine Water was born in 1835 in Yellowstone Country. As a chief of the Bowstring Warrior Society he sought to preserve the traditions and lifestyle of the Cheyenne. Medicine Water recognised the unjust acts the United States government inflicted upon all Indian people. The taking of land, the depletion of hunting resources and the establishment of artificial boundaries. He knew that for the Cheyenne that this was done without their consent or in consultation. Throughout his life Medicine Water demanded respect as Chief of the Bowstring Warrior Society. He rode his mount refusing to acknowledge fences, markers or other confinements. He would travel the middle of the road, refusing to yield to oncoming travellers making others move to the wayside for him to pass by. Medicine Water died in 1926 aged ninety – one. John Sipes Jr. Northern Cheyenne Chief & Tribal Historian. Great great grandson of Medicine Water.

(Image Courtesy Chief John Sipes Private Collection).

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Track 3 In Dreams Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

One of the last songs written for the album, In Dreams is a commentary on the process of creating Great Plains. It is purposely metaphorical and multi-levelled. It represents my journey through the creative process, in meeting the many challenges along the way and the broadening of my own world view through researching Native American history and culture. At first, Great Plains may appear to be simply a tribute album to the American West and in particular Native America but the stories and their many nuances are universal. The issues cross boundaries of time and culture. Ultimately however you choose to interpret In Dreams, the essence remains – in finding, nurturing and celebrating the kingdom within each of us. Chris Fisher.

Lightning Creek Indians, 1903.

Track 4 Lightning Creek Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

In 1895 the Wyoming State Legislature enacted game laws which outlawed the hunting of deer and antelope. Despite the enforcement of this law Indians continued to hunt wild game. In October 1903, a party of Sioux travelling for the purposes of gathering medicinal plants were, despite their permits, tragically mistaken for a hunting party. A local posse confronted the Sioux on Lightning Creek. The battle was short but heavy casualties resulted on both sides. Over thirty years later the Sioux returned to claim their dead. The following is an extract from a 1996 letter by Dave Thompson recounting the scene witnessed by his father, Rod Thompson. “In 1936 two old Hoppies-Jitneys (old cars) full of Lakota Indians stopped at our ranch house and asked permission to go down to Lightning Creek and dig up the remains of their relatives and comrades that had been buried after the battle in 1903. There were two elder Indian survivors from the battle, they did all the work at the burial site. One would find a tree or where a tree had been, then step to another tree, if the steps didn’t come out right he would try another route. After a try or two and the right space between trees was found, the second Indian paced off some steps, would dig and locate bones. Three to four bodies were located in the near darkness of the evening light, thirty-three years after the battle, with only steps and memory. This never ceased to amaze me in later years, it was truly a remarkable.” Dave Thomson, Lightning Creek Rancher.

Bear Butte Mountain, South Dakota, USA, 2011.

Track 5 Sweet Medicine Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

The Cheyenne have a long, rich and complex history. Sweet Medicine is a prominent figure in their mythology and culture. Some mystery still surrounds the story of Sweet Medicine but he is attributed with showing the Cheyenne a harmonious and respectful way in which to live. Cheyenne history is also punctuated by loss and tragedy. The massacre at Sappa Creek is but one incident in the grievous conflict caused by westward expansion of the American population and the near genocide that resulted. Significantly women and children were often the victims of assaults against the Cheyenne. Rather than prolongate the mourning Sweet Medicine is a celebration of the continuation of their society – an expression of power and pride. Chris Fisher.

161C. Cheyenne Outbreak Marker, Fort Robinson, Nebraska, 2006. Neg Deleted.

Track 6 Crazy Horse Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

Crazy Horse, the Oglala Lakota mystic first came to prominence during the 1860’s war between the Lakota Nation and the United States government. Thought to be a modest and somewhat reclusive man, he was however a staunch defender of his people and their way of life. Refusing to accept the confines of a reservation, Crazy Horse and his band preferred to hunt and roam the Tongue and Powder River region of south eastern Montana. After their dramatic loss at the Little Bighorn in 1876 the United States army intensified their presence on the Plains. Freedom for Crazy Horse and his band became elusive. Unable to feed his people Crazy Horse was forced to surrender in May, 1877. He was killed a short time later. His last words are said to have been “A good day to fight, a good day to die! Brave hearts…” Chris Fisher.

161C. Cheyenne Outbreak Marker, Fort Robinson, Nebraska, 2006. Neg Deleted.

Track 7 Hands of Time Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

What is often forgotten is that the history of the American West is so very recent. There is a tendency to relegate people and their stories to the confines of a static past but history really becomes more interesting when the distinctions between the oral tradition and the written word are blurred. One of the greatest pleasures in travelling the Great Plains is to visit with people who continue to link the past with the present. It makes history real. In 1930 Nebraska author and rancher, Caroline Sandoz Pifer travelled with her sister Mari Sandoz, also an author, to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to talk with Lakota Chief He Dog. He Dog was a close friend of Crazy Horse. He was ninety years of age while Caroline was just sixteen. During a trip to the Dakota Badlands with his parents Charles and Leota Cochran in 1947, historian and trader Chuck Cochran met and was photographed with Dewey Beard, a survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee Massacre. This is one of his many stories. Apprentice photographer Bill Groethe photographed the last nine survivors of the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn in the Black Hills, South Dakota in 1948. Black Elk, John Sitting Bull and Dewey Beard are among the survivors. Today Bill Groethe continues to photograph the uniqueness of the Great Plains. In 1989 I had the opportunity to hear Lakota Ceremonial Chief Frank Fools Crow address a small audience at Cedar Lodge, South Dakota. Fools Crow, a tireless advocate for his peoples rights, was born around the time of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. It was an honour to be able to shake his hand. Andrew Hogarth.

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Track 8 Reach Up Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

The history of Native America since the arrival of Columbus is characterised by hardship and struggle. A time of disruption to the land and the rhythm of nature, stress on nation, alliances and kinship and the pressure to relinquish a way of life. However, Native America did not give up, even to the point of Holocaust they did not back down. There is a lesson in their story for us all. The inspiration for Reach Up is drawn from that history. The issues of hardship, struggle, stress and pressure are timeless and universal. The ability to negotiate a way through the drudgery, mindlessness and superficiality of much of our world is paramount to realising your freedom. Passion and vision are the keys to your control. Chris Fisher.

161C. Cheyenne Outbreak Marker, Fort Robinson, Nebraska, 2006. Neg Deleted.

Track 9 Great Plains Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

My initial visit to the American West in 1981 was an attempt to see and feel the land that was an integral part of the nomadic horse cultures of the Great Plains. A land and culture that was defended so unconditionally by Native American leaders such as Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Dull Knife, and Little Wolf. It has taken 150,000 miles travelled over two decades to begin to understand the Plains. It is a special place, a place that defies simple definition. The land does not exist in isolation but is part of a unique relationship between indigenous Americans, other people of the land and all aspects of nature that are synonymous with the North American continent. It is a place where the distinctions between past, present and the future are subtly blurred. Andrew Hogarth.

161C. Cheyenne Outbreak Marker, Fort Robinson, Nebraska, 2006. Neg Deleted.

Track 10 Angel’s Play Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

The concept of love has a multiplicity of meanings and endless shades of interpretation. The love between two people can be a powerful and motivating force. It can be consensual or dependent. Love can be possessive or give freedom. It can stand alone or extend to encompass family. It is a respect for the concept of love that has sustained a culture. It is the celebration of an individual or the joy of the tribe. Love is the bond that is sustaining through the dark times as well as the bountiful. It is love that gives one a sense of immortality. Angels’ Play is my celebration of one of the many faces of love. Chris Fisher.

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Track 11 Lakota Spirit Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

For more than three decades from one of the earliest incidents in 1854, through to their victory at the Little Bighorn in 1876 and finally their defeat at Wounded Knee in 1890, the Lakota of the Great Plains resisted the intrusion of the white man into their lands and way of life. The twentieth century witnessed their desperate struggle to maintain their identity within a foreign culture. The healing of the wounds of their ancestors continues to be a long and painful journey but the Lakota have emerged victorious. There is hope for the future. Lakota Spirit is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Lakota Nation and to the memory of Oglala-Brule-Lakota Jack Little (1920 -1985), a straight talking man whose own story chronicles much of the turbulent history of the Lakota. Andrew Hogarth.

161C. Cheyenne Outbreak Marker, Fort Robinson, Nebraska, 2006. Neg Deleted.

Track 12 Coyote Man Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

This is my tribute to the man who confirmed the existence of and helped me understand those shadows in my romantic childhood dreams. Raised on a steady diet of movies and television series about the wild west I wondered why the Indians were always cast as the bad guys, generally relegated to a treacherous mob and where did they go after their daring and deadly deeds? As a child and a Scot living under British rule I intrinsically understood that we were breaking their spirit, stealing their land and destroying their culture. It had happened to our people too. Fast forward twenty years and finding myself a casualty of Thatcher’s Britain I ventured onto the Great Plains with no particular purpose other than to have a look around. No not a potential redemption story but idle time put to good use with the expectation of nothing in return. Early in my journey I met Jack Little a full blood Oglala-Brulé-Lakota from the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota.

Born in 1920 in an eighteen pole framed tepee, named in the traditional way by a Lakota holy man and descended from survivors of the infamous 1890 Wounded Knee massacre Jack’s life like so many of his contemporaries would follow a previously unchartered path. A traditional man in an untraditional world. Our friendship engaged me with a reality much greater than the cowboys and Indians of my childhood in fact an epic story of conquerers versus the conquered, rich versus poor, the powerful versus powerless experienced by and witnessed through one man’s life. It showed me that if you believe in the Great Spirit or a God if you prefer that term then the measure of  a man’s life is more likely to be judged in the here and now, in the small kindnesses, how you conduct yourself in everyday transactions during both the good times and the bad. One of the great challenges in life is to make the complex easy to understand. In Jack Little’s story is a man’s life played out against the background of unprecedented change, unimaginable loss and institutionalised disadvantage approached with honesty, dignity and integrity. A staunch advocate with a generous heart for his people, culture and the land not afraid to speak out against the greed, paucity of spirit and often destructive nature of our society. In such a changing world Jack Little did not have the honour of earning his warrior’s name but like the coyote a master of adaptation his spirit lives on in his people the Lakota.  A hard life no doubt but a life well lived.  Andrew Hogarth.

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Track 13 Buffalo Medicine Horns Music and Lyrics by Andrew Hogarth and Chris Fisher

These lyrics are quite dark and urgent and can be interpreted on more than one level. In a literal sense the verses describe the breakdown of a relationship leaving the enigma of the chorus but as a whole the song describes more of a metaphysical experience, the existence of good and bad spirit medicine. The Great Plains are full of stories if you stop long enough to make acquaintance of the people and allow the stories to be revealed. A story told to me by a well respected trader in the late 1990’s has long remained in my consciousness. It is the story of a pair of buffalo medicine horns that were traded around the American West for many years. Ill fortune from significant loss of property through fire, exploding cars and woes of a more personal nature variously plagued each of the owners of these horns. After five years and driving through a heavy rain storm hoping to change his fortune the most recent owner of the horns presented them for sale. Assessing the extraordinarily stressed man and his offering the above mentioned trader left his counter and shortly returned with a shovel advising him “Do yourself a favour and dig a deep hole in a field and bury the horns forever. Forget about making money on a sale it’s not worth it.” Of unknown origin the buffalo medicine horns had never been deconsecrated and held bad spirit medicine. The man followed this advice and his good fortune slowly returned. This is a true story and an allegorical introduction to the issues of acquisition, custodianship and repatriation of sacred and cultural objects. On a lighter note buffalo do not shed their horns so exit that relationship with grace and dignity while there is still a semblance of life. Andrew Hogarth.

Pictured in the Great Plains Musical Album Gallery are the images that were published with the sixteen page colour booklet. Also included in the gallery are a series of images that were not published but are a part of the important documentation regarding the stories that were woven into the fabric of the lyrics. A special thanks to Putt Thompson, Bill Groethe, Chief John L. Sipes Jr, Arlene Eckart and Chuck Cochran for allowing these images on the music section of this website.

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