Sioux Songs Of War And Love

Canyon Records
Sung by William Horncloud and a special honor song by Chief Charles Red Cloud

I first met Bill Horncloud 25 years ago. It was a log cabin on the north end of Pine Ridge Village. There were other singers there, all men bearing names which leaped out of the Sioux history books: Frank Afraid of Horses, Edgar Red Cloud, Francis Janis. Bill himself, was a namesake of his grandfather who had been killed at the Wounded Knee massacre.

Wherever these men gathered there was certain to be a drum nearby. Bill's love of singing had started when he was a boy. Born in 1905 at Potato Creek in the Medicine Root District a few miles northeast of Kyle, Bill learned to sing from the old timers. On that memorable night the drum throbbed and I heard his voice for the first time.

It was the clear, sharp falsetto and what the Sioux call akis'as'a "yelps" that attracted me to his singing. His voice was strong, the words were clear. The night was spent listening to new songs and old songs. The songs made us laugh; some made us ponder about the days gone by. Old Frank interrupted the songs to pray. He took out an old pipe and tears streamed from his eyes as he offered it up. The mood of the evening changed to one of respect; the strength of the Sioux could be felt in the solemn beats of the drum.

That was my introduction to the songs of Bill Horncloud. Twenty-five years have passed, but the clarity and sharpness of Horncloud's singing has not diminished. He is, as the Sioux say, Ikce wicasa, and old timer, and his music reflects the values of another generation which again are being sought by younger Indian people.

It is appropriate that Canyon has offered us another album of Horncloud's songs, this time, Songs of War and Love. The songs express a wide range of Lakota values: the honor of a chief, the boastfulness of a warrior, and the emotions of young people in love. But these songs should not be regarded only as expressions of nostalgia. It is these excursions into the Lakota past, that gives meaning and substance to the Lakota present.

The first eight songs featured on this record are old songs – songs of war journeys against the Crow and Pawnee, as well as against the Germans in World Wars I and II. The recent wars have given new meaning to the old songs, and because of this, the old songs survive as do old Lakota values.

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Performed by


Native Words



Honoring Song Chief Charles Red Cloud Charles Red Cloud is the grandson of the famous Oglala chief, Red Cloud and is William Horncloud's father-in-law. This song honors Red Cloud and the words tell of the difficulty of being Indian in a white man's world.

When the Honoring Song is sung, people stand and step in time to the slow rhythm of the drum. When Red Cloud's name is mentioned, the female relative utter the staccato cry of respect.
Red Cloud, you told me to be Indian.
That's why people are gossiping about me.
That's what the people are saying.
Omaha Dance Song 1 William Horncloud This is an old song composed by John Spotted Horse, one of the great singers of the reservation who greatly influenced Bill Horncloud. Spotted Horse composed the song when was in jail. After his death the song was sung by his brother Robert. The words reflect the hardships of reservation life.

This song accompanies an Omaha dance.
I am the one people used to look at.
I am the one who made people happy.
But now I'm having a hard time.
War Song 1 William Horncloud This song reminisces about a warrior who went to fight against the Crow Indians.

The Omaha, or so-called "War" dance, is performed to this song.
Friend, you went away.
And the enemies were crying.
There was fighting in the north.
So, friend, you went away.
War Song 2 William Horncloud This song has been called Drum Dance by some Sioux singers. The song tells about the fight with the Pawnee.

This song song is divided into two parts, the first characterized by a drum tremolo, the second by a steady marching beat. During the first part, the dancers mill about the dance floor as if they were looking for enemies. In the second part, they step lively in time with the drum.
The enemy shot well at me as he retreated.
Two Pawnees shot at me.
They shot well at me as they retreated.
Omaha Dance Song 2 William Horncloud This is an old song for an Omaha dance. It is sung with no words, only meaningless vocables. Sioux
War Song 3 William Horncloud This song was composed to celebrate a victory over the Pawnee. I came to shoot Pawnees.
And now they are crying.
Marching Song William Horncloud This is an old song of a warrior society which boasts of the superiority of the Sioux fighter.

The accompanying rhythm is unique among Sioux songs, and has been sung while Sioux dancers march in parades at celebrations in Gallup and Sheridan.
The enemy is afraid of anything that walks on the earth.
He throws his spear at me.
Too high!
War Song 3 William Horncloud This song celebrates the victory of the United States over the Germans in World Wars I and II.

This is sung for an Omaha or Victory dance.
The enemy is crying.
The Germans wanted a fight.
And now they are crying.
Love Song 1 William Horncloud The next four songs deal with love and courtship. The first three are called Love Songs (Wioste olawan) and the fourth is a Round dance (Naslohan Wacipi) danced by men and women. Love is a favorite theme of songs composed after the turn of the century. Love songs are characterized by a woman bemoaning her sadness over an unsuccessful love affair. Although men always sing love songs, they sing the words of women. Love songs are sometimes humorous, but most often they reflect the sadness of unrequited love. I acted badly toward you.
And I was so sad.

I acted badly toward you.
And I was so sad.

I acted badly toward you.
And I was so sad.

You were far away, and you suffered so.
But now that you've left her,
we'll be together again.
Love Song 2 William Horncloud Why did you say those things?
And I suffered so.
I suffered so.
Why did you say those things?
And I suffered so.
If I can't have you on earth,
I'll have you above.
Pity me.
And don't make me suffer anymore.
Love Song 3 William Horncloud I remembered your words.
I remembered your words.
I remembered your words.
And they make me cry.
How often I think:
How much time has passed without him.
I remembered your words.
And they make me cry.
Round Dance Song William Horncloud This is an old song, sung without words, In the Round dance, people form a circle and dance clockwise, stepping to the left, and dragging their right foot into place. Hence the name Naslohan wacipi "dragging fee dance." Sioux