Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)

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

In 1971 the Raiders recorded the song; singer Mark Lindsay's ancestors were of Cherokee blood.[citation needed]. This recording was released on the Columbia Records label and became #1 on the U.S. chart on July 24.[3] The RIAA gold certification followed on 30 June 1971, for selling over a million copies. Some have said that guitarist Freddy Weller sang lead on the song, but Lindsay (the Raiders' usual lead vocalist) was actually responsible for the lead vocal track as well as producing the recording, which was originally planned as a solo Mark Lindsay effort.[4]

The UK punk band, 999, released a cover version on 14 November 1981 on the Albion Ion label, and it reached #51 in the UK chart.[5] The song was later further covered by the Orlando Riva Sound.

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


Historical context

The song refers to the forcible removal and relocation of Five Civilized Tribes, including the Cherokee people, from the southeastern states of Georgia, 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, 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 following the Battle of Doaksville.[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 Georgia.

Music and lyric form

The music is in a minor key, with sustained minor chords ending each phrase in the primary melody, while the electronic organ holds the melody line 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.

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...

The lyrics vary somewhat among the recorded versions. Rainwater's version omits 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 Rainwater omits the line and ends with "beads...nowadays made in Japan." In addition, Fardon sings the line: "Mo More Tepees Anymore", not used in the Raider's version.

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 (one week)
Succeeded by
"You've Got a Friend" by James Taylor


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel, Top Pop Singles 1955-1996, Record Research Inc. 1997. ISBN 0-89820-122-5
  2. ^ "". 1971-01-30. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  3. ^ Bronson, Fred, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard Publications, Inc. 1985. ISBN 0-8230-7522-2
  4. ^ "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian) by Raiders Songfacts". 1984-04-06. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 395. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  6. ^ Connole, Joseph, 'Why they Fought: Native American Involvement in the American Civil War', Whispering Wind Magazine vol. 39 no. 6, Jan. 2011

External links