I am very excited to announce that the ScottClark4tet record, “Bury My Heart”, has been released on Clean Feed Records. As some of you may know, I have been working on this suite of music for quite some time and I am really looking forward to sharing this work with everyone. The music is inspired by my research into my own ancestry as well as certain events from Native American history.
ScottClark4tet: “Bury My Heart”
The title of this recording isn’t a mere literary reference (to “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, by Dee Brown). Just like the novel, the music inside is a tragic and soulful portrait of one of the darkest pages of human history and particularly the United States past (with effects continuing to present day): the Native-American genocide. Created by jazz drummer and composer Scott Clark, himself of Native-American descent, it has the form of a suite but none of its formal, classical, aspects. The approach is irreverent, visceral, raw and urgent, further developing the unique style of this incredible musician coming from the vibrant scene of Richmond, Virginia. This is downbeat music, very much connecting to the inner feeling of that musical language called jazz, and we do feel the pain, but there’s no negativity on it. As Brian Edward Jones writes in the liner notes, remembering Albert Ayler, «music is the healing force of the universe». And what heals us is the freshness, the novelty and the creativity of this magnificent opus. Here is a masterpiece, not just another jazz album.
–Clean Feed Records
Some information on the songs and what inspired them.
It is estimated that there have been over 500 treaties entered into with Native Americans by the United States. It is also estimated that of those 500 treaties, nearly all of them were broken at some point in their history. Many times, the violation of these treaties led to most of the hostilities that erupted between Native Americans and the white settlers that the treaties were with.
On December 29, the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under Big Foot, a Lakota Sioux chief, near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons. As that was happening, a fight broke out between an Indian and a U.S. soldier and a shot was fired, although it’s unclear from which side. A brutal massacre followed, in which it’s estimated 150 Indians were killed (some historians put this number at twice as high), nearly half of them women and children. The cavalry lost 25 men.
The conflict at Wounded Knee was originally referred to as a battle, but in reality it was a tragic and avoidable massacre. Surrounded by heavily armed troops, it’s unlikely that Big Foot’s band would have intentionally started a fight. Some historians speculate that the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians.
(*history.com staff http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/wounded-knee)
Little Crow’s War
Throughout the late 1850s, treaty violations by the United States and late or unfair annuity payments by Indian agents caused increasing hunger and hardship among the Dakota. Traders with the Dakota previously had demanded that the government give the annuity payments directly to them (introducing the possibility of unfair dealing between the agents and the traders to the exclusion of the Dakota). In mid-1862, the Dakota (led by Little Crow, Thaóyate Dúta) demanded the annuities directly from their agent, Thomas J. Galbraith. The traders refused to provide any more supplies on credit under those conditions, and negotiations reached an impasse.
On August 17, 1862, one young Dakota with a hunting party of three others killed five settlers while on a hunting expedition. That night a council of Dakota decided to attack settlements throughout the Minnesota River valley to try to drive whites out of the area. There has never been an official report on the number of settlers killed, although in Abraham Lincoln’s second annual address, he noted that not less than 800 men, women, and children had died.Over the next several months, continued battles pitting the Dakota against settlers and later, the United States Army, ended with the surrender of most of the Dakota bands. By late December 1862, soldiers had taken captive more than a thousand Dakota, who were interned in jails in Minnesota. After trials and sentencing, 38 Dakota were hanged on December 26, 1862, in the largest one-day execution in American history. In April 1863, the rest of the Dakota were expelled from Minnesota to Nebraska and South Dakota. The United States Congress abolished their reservations.
(*Wikipedia contributors. “Dakota War of 1862.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)
At mid-day on June 25, Custer’s 600 men entered the Little Bighorn Valley. Among the Native Americans, word quickly spread of the impending attack. The older Sitting Bull rallied the warriors and saw to the safety of the women and children, while Crazy Horse set off with a large force to meet the attackers head on. Despite Custer’s desperate attempts to regroup his men, they were quickly overwhelmed. Custer and some 200 men in his battalion were attacked by as many as 3,000 Native Americans; within an hour, Custer and all of his soldiers were dead.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also called Custer’s Last Stand, marked the most decisive Native American victory and the worst U.S. Army defeat in the long Plains Indian War. The demise of Custer and his men outraged many white Americans and confirmed their image of the Indians as wild and bloodthirsty. Meanwhile, the U.S. government increased its efforts to subdue the tribes. Within five years, almost all of the Sioux and Cheyenne would be confined to reservations.
(*history.com staff http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/battle-of-the-little-bighorn)
At dawn on November 29, 1864, approximately 675 U.S. volunteer soldiers commanded by Colonel John M. Chivington attacked a village of about 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians along Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. Using small arms and howitzer fire, the troops drove the people out of their camp. While many managed to escape the initial onslaught, others, particularly non-combatant women, children, and the elderly fled into and up the bottom of the dry stream bed. The soldiers followed, shooting at them as they struggled through the sandy earth. At a point several hundred yards above the village, the women and children frantically excavated pits and trenches along either side of the streambed to protect themselves. Some adult men attempted to hold back the Army with whatever weapons they had managed to retrieve from the camp, and at several places along Sand Creek the soldiers shot the people from opposite banks and brought forward the howitzers to blast them from their improvised defenses. Over the course of eight hours the troops killed around 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho people composed mostly of women, children, and the elderly. During the afternoon and following day, the soldiers wandered over the field committing atrocities on the dead before departing the scene on December 1 to resume campaigning.
(National Park Service http://www.nps.gov/sand/historyculture/index.htm)
Much of what we consider the “history” of Native Americans is still being felt to this day. There are still fights over land rights at Wounded Knee, there are still people fighting to have the United States honor treaties that were entered into many years ago, there are still conflicts about how the upcoming Sand Creek Massacre anniversary is being portrayed and there still remains fallout over the Dakota Wars and their aftermath. There are still many conflicts and issues that exist on reservations today including extreme poverty, illness, little or no access to health care etc. However, despite what would at first appear to be all negative stories, there are many hopeful ones as well. Native culture remains vibrant and efforts to bring back native languages are spreading throughout the country. There are many tribes that are continuing efforts to reclaim land that was lost and more awareness is being spread to the modern day reality of many Native Americans. It’s important to remember the past and see how it informs our present. It’s also important to see the beauty that exists in Native American culture and to help focus on the positives that do exist today.