An Indian Lament by Harvey Tordoff

Poems by:

The Premonition
My father told me of a fearful dream.  He said:
“I dreamt I saw the greatest emigration that has yet been through our country.

I looked North and South and East and West and saw nothing but dust.
And I heard a great weeping.
I saw women crying, and my men shot down by the white people.
Oh, my dear children!
You may think it is only a dream,
But I feel that it will come to pass.”

Soon there will come from the rising sun

A different kind of man,

Different from any you have yet seen.

They will bring with them a book that will teach you everything.

After that, the world will fall to pieces.


The Theft

The white men are like the locusts when they fly so thick

The whole sky is a snowstorm.

You may kill one – two – ten
And ten times ten will come to kill you.

Count your fingers all day long

And white men with guns in their hands

Will come faster than you can count.

A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers;

But when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers on its banks.

These soldiers cut down my timber and kill my buffalo;

And when I seer that, my heart feels like bursting.

Has the white man become a child that he should recklessly kill and not eat?

They have run over our country;

They have destroyed the growing wood and the green grass;

They have set fire to our land and killed my animals:

The elk, the deer, the antelope, my buffalo.

They do not kill to eat; they leave the bodies to rot where they fall.

We gave them forest-clad mountains and valleys full of game,

And in return what did they give our warriors and our women?

Rum, trinkets and a grave.

White fathers, if I went into your country to kill your animals, what would you say?

Would I not be wrong?
And would you not make war on me?

The white men have crowded the Indian back year by year

Until we are forced to live in a small country north of the Platte,
And now our last hunting ground, the home of my people,

Is to be taken from us.

Our women and children will starve, but for my part I prefer to die fighting.


The Battles

I saw a great dust rising.  It looked like a whirlwind.

Soon a Sioux horseman came rushing into camp.
He cried: “Soldiers come!”

I could see warriors flying all around me like shadows,

And the noise of all those hoofs and guns and cries was so loud

That it seemed quiet in there,

And the voices seemed to be on top of a cloud.

There were so many of us that I think we did not need guns;

Just the hoofs would have been enough.

Dead and wounded women and children and little babies

Were scattered where they had been trying to run away.

The soldiers followed as they ran along the gulch, and murdered them.

Some were in heaps because they had tried to huddle together.

I saw a little baby trying to suck its mother but she was bloody and dead.


The Memory

When I look back now from the high hill of my old age
I can still see the butchered women and children

Lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch

As plain as when I saw them with eyes still young.

And I can see something else died there in the bloodied mud

And was buried in the blizzard.
A people’s dream died there.

Words by:

Sarah Winnemucca



Little Crow

Red Cloud

Bear Tooth


Two Moon

Standing Bear

Black Elk

compiled Oct 1999 by Harvey Tordoff

– Posted on December 4,  2018.

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