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Page #6 Of 6

Bitter Tears

He had served throughout the South Pacific, fighting at Vella Lavella and Bougainville before coming up to Iwo Jima, where he served for thirty-six days and came out unwounded. After the flag-raising incident he and two of his buddies were brought back to the United States to travel extensively in support of the seventh war loan. One of these buddies reported that Hayes refused to be leader of a platoon because, as he explained, "I'd have to tell other men to go and get killed, and I'd rather do it myself." He was reluctant to return home, but he was given no choice. That started a round of speaking engagements, parades, ticker tape -- and people offering hospitality. The hospitality, unfortunately, invariably included free liquor, and Ira drank greedily. It was the quickest way to blur the painful, heedless publicity to which he was subjected. 

The famous second raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, Feb 23, 1945
Joe Rosenthal

After his discharge he went home to Arizona, in the district called Bapchule. After the excitement of war and the hectic round of living which he had just experienced, Hayes' Indian home was not a place in which he could settle down at once. His was no longer a self-sufficient family, such as Hayes might have known in his own childhood, which certainly his ancestors had known before him. Without adequate water to grow crops, with landholdings reduced beyond any hope of economic livelihood even if there had been water, it was not a place for a returning warrior to rest and mend. Too many other mouths depended on the food he would eat. 

With the help of the relocation program of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he went to Chicago and found employment with the International Harvester Company. For a while things went well with him, then he began drinking again. He was picked up on Skid Row in Chicago, dirty and shoeless, and sent to jail. The Chicago Sun-Times discovered who he was, got him out of jail, and raised a fund for his rehabilitation. A job was secured for him in Los Angeles, where it was hoped that he might make a fresh start. Many organizations, including church groups, helped out. 

Hayes thanked everybody gratefully, and said, "I know I'm cured of drinking now." But in less than a week he was arrested by Los Angeles police on the old charge. When he returned to Phoenix he received no hero's welcome. He told the reporter who met him: "I guess I'm just no good. I've had a lot of chances, but just when things started looking good I get that craving for whisky and foul up. I'm going back home for a while. Maybe after I'm around my family I'll be able to figure things out."

But the family home still did not have the answer. Across the road and across the fence which marks the Pima reservation, water runs in irrigation ditches. The desert is green with cotton, barley, wheat, alfalfa, and citrus fruits, pasturage for sheep and cattle. But the water and the green fields are on the white man's side of the reservation fence. 

He tried once, in 1950, to plead the case of his people before government officials in Washington. He asked "for freedom for the Pima Indians. They want to manage their own affairs, and cease being wards of federal government." 

But what he was asking had become infinitely complicated. It involved acts of Congress, court decrees, a landowners' agreement, operation and maintenance requirements. So complicated had it become that the lawyers and the engineers and the administrators hired by the government had succeeded only in reducing by half the acreage which the Pima Indians, in their simple way, had cultivated, on which they had grown surpluses of grain to sell to hungry white men.

Ira Hayes, coming back home, looked at the mud-and-wattle house, the ramada standing to one side, a few poor outbuildings, and knew that he would not find the answer there. He found it on the cold ground in a cotton field.

The original raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi, Feb 23, 1945 (Louis Lowery
Many Americans will have heard of Ira Hayes, the Pima Indian who with his five mates in the Marine Corps raised the United States flag on Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. He was in the photograph, now world-famous, taken by Joe Rosenthal. But Ira Hayes died of acute alcoholism in a cotton field on the Pima reservation on a night in January 1955. He lay all night on the cold ground and death was attributed to "exposure." What had happened in the ten years intervening since the dramatic moment on Mount Suribachi?

Ballads Of The American Indian

Jc wounded knee web1.jpg (6339 bytes)

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 for 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 the 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, also, 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 hunter. 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 pyramids-like buildings that only recently have been unearthed.

Our white ancestors looked upon the Indians as a lesser being. Language barriers hid the culture of 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 force and speed that put fear in the heart and mind of the leisurely-paced Indian. And fear comes misunderstanding. We have spent three hundred years with fewer lands, less game, 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 Indians fought and killed white men, but we fail to remember that we, the white men, were invaders. The Indians was defending that which had been his for thousand of years. We are still displacing the American Indian. This year hundreds of families are being moved from a New York State revelation granted them in a treaty signed by George Washington, to make way for a dam. We are still the invader.

The content of the 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

Words To The Ballad Of Ira Hayes

Gather round me, people, there's a story I would tell,
About a brave young Indian you should remember well;
From the land of the Pima Indians, a proud and noble band,
Who farmed the Phoenix Valley in Arizona land.
Down their ditches for a thousand years the waters grew Ira's people's crops,
Till the white man stole their water rights and their sparklin' water stopped.
Now Ira's folks grew hungry, and their farms grew crops of weeds.
When war came, Ira volunteered and forgot the white man's greed. 

CHORUS: Call him drunken Ira Hayes --
He won't answer anymore,
Not the whiskey-drinkin' Indian,
Not the Marine who went to war. 

Well, they battled up Iwo Jima hill -- two hundred and fifty men,
But only twenty-seven lived -- to walk back down again;
When the fight was over -- and Old Glory raised
Among the men who held it high was the Indian -- Ira Hayes. 

Ira Hayes returned a hero -- celebrated through the land,
He was wined and speeched and honored -- everybody shook his hand;
But he was just a Pima Indian -- no water, no home, no chance;
At home nobody cared what Ira done -- and when do the Indians dance? 

Then Ira started drinkin' hard -- jail was often his home;
They let him raise the flag and lower it -- as you would throw a dog a bone;
He died drunk early one morning -- alone in the land he'd fought to save;
Two inches of water in a lonely ditch -- was the grave for Ira Hayes. 

CODA: Yea, call him drunken Ira Hayes,
But his land is just as dry,
And the ghost is lying thirsty
In the ditch where Ira died.

As Long As The Grass Shall Grow 

As long as the moon shall rise
As long as the rivers flow
As long as the sun will shine
As long as the grass shall grow

My heart was calling for you when one night you came along
We danced around each other but then we sang our song
Our harmony was shaky, and the pitch not very true
But then you gave in to me and I gave in to you
We had to fight the world and we fought with all we had
We bowed to be together through the sweet times and the bad

As long as the moon shall rise
As long as the rivers flow
As long as the sun will shine
As long as the grass shall grow

I hear you whisper every night “May I have this dance”
And though I’m not light on my feet I always took the chance
We’ve gone through many storms and often walked through fire
But always our loving faith took us higher and higher

We know the mystery of life, its love, hard and loss
(June) I love you, (Johnny) I love you
And I always will as long

As long as the moon shall rise
As long as the rivers flow
As long as the sun will shine
As long as the grass shall grow


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Revised: September 03, 2007


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