Individuality is a prerequisite for an artist! Johnny Cash is singular in his individuality. There is no artist on the American scene quite like this ex-farm boy from Arkansas.
One of the most striking things about Johnny’s writings and performance is his perceptiveness. His insight into the deep feelings of his fellows is startling. His few years rule out his having "lived" all he sings of and writes about so well. One must conclude that Johnny is gifted with a perception that allows him to express, so that others can understand, that which we did not see before. His quite unorthodox broach to the literature of song has brought home, with great impact, many things we have not taken the time to consider. This album contains an abundance of such literature.
We, as Americans, have many things of which we can be proud. But we, alas, have some things in our history that we must wear as millstones of shame. One of the least discussed is the manner in which we have treated the Indians. These people, of many languages and cultures, preceded us on this continent by more than ten thousand years. At some distant date they followed mammoths and giant prehistoric game over a now vanished land bridge between Siberia and Alaska and tracked them all over the Western Hemisphere, moving in wave after wave, spreading and changing.
The Indians of the Great Plains continued to be nomadic hunters. Others settled in the Southwest to plant crops and build great cliff dwellings and adobe pueblos. The Indians built their richest and most complex cultures in the Midwest and East and South. Some Indians built large fortified towns with temples and streets and pyramid-like buildings that, only recently, have been unearthed.
Our white ancestors looked upon the Indian as a lesser being. Language barriers hid the culture of the race and the dignity of the individual. The white man’s greed for land and fur and gold blinded him to the indignities he was forcing on another of the human kind. The knowledge and energy that our forefathers brought from Europe propelled the white man with a force and speed that put fear in the heart and mind of the leisurely-paced Indian. And with fear comes misunderstanding. We have spent three hundred years "misunderstanding" the Indian. He has spent three hundred years with fewer lands, less game, broken promises and more broken promises....All of the aforementioned mean death...for the Indian.
First, families died. Then tribes — and now we are faced with whole cultures dying away. We have made promises, only to break them. We have signed treaties, only to have them become "white leaves that blow away in the wind."
True, the Indian fought and killed white men, bit we fail to remember that we, the white men, were the invaders. The Indian was defending that which had been his for thousands of years. We are still displacing the American Indian. This year hundreds of families are being moved from a New York State reservation granted them in a treaty signed by George Washington, to make way for a dam. We are still the invader.
The contents of this album is the Indian’s side of the story. The songs, written by Peter LaFarge and Johnny Cash, view some of the problems cited here from the Indian’s viewpoint. Listen well to these words. They are the thoughts and feelings of a people who deem Custer’s Last Stand not a massacre but an Indian victory over a foe who had broken a promise. Hear the words well and you will discern that simply because we are white, that does not make us pure.
Johnny Cash sings well these tales of the Indian’s woe. His facility for perception and insight lends validity to these tales of anguish. Johnny is justified in the stand he takes. Johnny Cash is proud of his Cherokee blood.