Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)

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"Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)"
Indian Reservation - Don Fardon.jpg
Single by Don Fardon
B-side "Dreamin' Room"
Released August 1968
Format 7-inch single
Length 3:23
Songwriter(s) John D. Loudermilk
Producer(s) Miki Dallon
"Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)"
Indian Reservation - Raiders.jpg
Single by Raiders
from the album Indian Reservation
B-side "Terry's Tune"
Released February 1971
Format Vinyl record
Genre Rock
Length 2:55
Label Columbia
Songwriter(s) John D. Loudermilk[1]
Producer(s) Mark Lindsay
Raiders singles chronology
"Gone Movin' On"
"Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)"
"Birds of a Feather"
"Gone Movin' On"
"Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)"
"Birds of a Feather"

"Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)" is a song written by John D. Loudermilk.[1] The song was first recorded by Marvin Rainwater in 1959 and released on MGM as "The Pale Faced Indian", but that release stayed unnoticed. The first hit version was a 1968 cover by Don Fardon—a former member of The Sorrows—that reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100[2] and number 3 on the UK Singles Chart.[3]

In 1971, Paul Revere & the Raiders recorded the song on the Columbia Records label, and it topped the Hot 100 on July 24.[4] Raiders lead singer Mark Lindsay is part Cherokee. On 30 June 1971 the RIAA gold certified the record for selling over a million copies.[5] The record was later certified platinum for selling an additional million copies.[5] The song was the group's only Hot 100 number 1 hit and their final Hot 100 top twenty song.

Historical context[edit]

The song refers to the forcible removal and relocation of the Five Civilized Tribes, including the Cherokee people, from the southeastern states of Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama to the southern Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. The removal of these tribes throughout the 1830s is often referred to as the "Trail of Tears". The removal of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole came on the heels of President Andrew Jackson's key legislation, the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The Cherokee were the last of the Five Civilized Tribes to be removed after signing the Treaty of New Echota. The removal caused great turmoil within the tribe as members of the Treaty Party were marked for death by Principal Chief John Ross. During the American Civil War the Cherokee were divided between the Ross Faction and the Ridge Faction. The Ross Faction, who had not supported removal and was made up mostly of full blood members of the tribe, remained loyal to the Union. The Ridge Faction, led by Stand Watie, was made up mostly of half blood members of the tribe and due to their southern ways (including owning slaves) sided with the Confederacy. Stand Watie became the last Confederate General to surrender.[6] Following the Civil War, the United States Indian Policy turned to war and forced reservation life for the nations of the Great Plains. The Dawes Act of 1887 was adopted to allow the President to survey Indian lands and divide it up into individual allotments. Under the Dawes Act many Natives were "registered" with the Federal government. However, the law did not apply to the Five Civilized Tribes; instead the Dawes Commission was established in 1893 to convince members of the Five Civilized Tribes to adopt the individual allotments under the Dawes Act. Many Cherokee refused to be registered and as a result another split in the Cherokee Nation occurred. Today the Cherokee maintain their Federal reservation in Oklahoma with pockets living in their ancestral lands of North Carolina and Georgia.

Lyric origin[edit]

When he was asked by the Viva! NashVegas radio show about the origins of the Raider's hit song "Indian Reservation", Loudermilk told that he wrote the song after his car was snowed in by a blizzard and being taken in by Cherokee Indians. He claimed that the chief "Bloody Bear Tooth" asked him to make a song about his people's plight and the Trail of Tears. Loudermilk, after being awarded the first medal of the Cherokee nation for this, was asked to read an old ledger book kept during The Trail of Tears. As he read through the names, he discovered his great grandparents, at the age of 91, were marched 1,600 miles (2,600 km) during the plight.[7]

Music and lyric form[edit]

The music is in a minor key, with sustained minor chords ending each phrase in the primary melody, while the melody line goes through a slow musical turn (turning of related notes) which ends each phrase, and emphasizes the ominous minor chords. Underneath the slow, paced melody, is a rhythmic, low "drum beat" in double-time, constantly, relentlessly pushing to follow along, but the melody continues its slow, deliberate pace above the drum beat.

The instrumentation varies among versions. Rainwater's recording is acoustic with strings and backing vocals supporting the melody. Fardon's version adds a brass section and percussion, while reducing the background singing. The Raiders used similar instruments to Fardon, and includes an electronic organ that holds the melody line.

Below are partial lyrics from the Raiders' version:

They took the whole Indian nation,
Locked us on this reservation
    . . .
Took away our native tongue,
And taught their English to our young
    . . .
Cherokee people! Cherokee tribe!   - [sung as shouting]
So proud to live, so proud to die
    . . .
Though I wear a shirt and tie,
I'm still part redman deep inside...[8]

The lyrics vary somewhat among the recorded versions. Rainwater's version lacks the "Cherokee people!" chorus, but includes instead a series of "Hiya hiya ho!" chants. Fardon's version is similar to the Raiders' through the first verse and chorus, but differs in the second verse, which includes the lines "Altho' they changed our ways of old/They'll never change our heart and soul", also found in Rainwater's version. Rainwater includes some of the elements found in the other versions in a different order, and his first verse has words not found in the others, such as "They put our papoose in a crib/and took the buck skin from our rib".

At the end, where the Raiders sing "...Cherokee nation will return", Fardon says "Cherokee Indian...", while the line is absent in Rainwater's version, which ends with "beads...nowadays made in Japan." In addition, Fardon sings the line: "Brick built houses by the score/ No more tepees anymore", not used in the Raiders' version.


Billboard Hot 100[5] (22 weeks, entered April 10): Reached number 1 on July 24 (1 week)[4]

Other versions[edit]

The UK punk band, 999, released a cover version on 14 November 1981 on the Albion Ion label, and it reached number 51 in the UK chart.[18] The song was also covered by the Orlando Riva Sound in 1979.

Billy Thunderkloud & the Chieftones covered the song in 1976 for Polydor Records, taking their version to number 74 on Hot Country Songs.[19]

The song is also covered as "National Reservation" by the Slovenian martial industrial group Laibach on their 1994 album NATO, replacing "Cherokee" in several places with "Eastern", in the context of the end of the Cold War and influx of capitalism in eastern Europe (and thus changing the context of "we're still a redman deep inside" to that of communism).

A 1994 country song by Tim McGraw, "Indian Outlaw", ends with part of the main "Cherokee people" chorus from "Indian Reservation".[20] The live version also uses the full chorus near the end of the song.

The Lewis and Clarke Expedition (featuring Michael Martin Murphey & Owen Castleman) released it in 1967 on the album "Earth, Air, Fire & Water". To note, they are one of the only rock bands other than the Monkees on the Colgems Records label (COS-105). This version is a sub-track on the album (listed as track 12.4).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jancik, Wayne The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders 1998. ISBN 0-8230-7622-9 page 247
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel, Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 Record Research Inc. 1997 pages 238, 589 ISBN 0-89820-155-1
  3. ^ "". 1971-01-30. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  4. ^ a b Bronson, Fred, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Publications, Inc. 1985. ISBN 0-8230-7522-2
  5. ^ a b c d e Whitburn, Joel (1997). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1996. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc. p. 509. ISBN 0-89820-122-5. 
  6. ^ Connole, Joseph, 'Why they Fought: Native American Involvement in the American Civil War', Whispering Wind Magazine vol. 39 no. 6, Jan. 2011
  7. ^ "The Story Behind 'Indian Reservation'" on Viva! NashVegas on YouTube
  8. ^ "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian) – Paul Revere & The Raiders – Google Play Music". Retrieved October 10, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Canada, Library and Archives (17 July 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". 
  10. ^ "flavour of new zealand – search listener". 
  11. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 7/24/71". 
  12. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (17 July 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". 
  13. ^ "DON FARDON full Official Chart History Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 10 October 2015. 
  14. ^ "999 full Official Chart History Official Charts Company". Official Chart. Retrieved 10 October 2015. 
  15. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". 
  16. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". 
  17. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles – 1971". 
  18. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 395. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  19. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 420. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  20. ^ "Indian Outlaw – Tim McGraw – Google Play Music". Retrieved October 11, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"It's Too Late" / "I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King
Billboard Hot 100 number one single (The Raiders version)
July 24, 1971 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor