The Misguided Attacks on ‘This Land Is Your Land’

Woody Guthrie might not have been perfect, but we don’t need to “cancel” him, writes Will Kaufman.

Woody Guthrie. (Al Aumuller/Library of Congress)

By Will Kaufman
The Conversation 

In recent years, Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land has become a rallying cry for immigrants. And in July, after President Donald Trump tweeted that four Democratic congresswomen of color needed to “go back where they came from,” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the four targeted, responded with a tweet quoting Guthrie’s lyrics.

But not everyone sees the song as an anthem for inclusion.

In June, the Smithsonian’s online magazine, Folklife, published a piece that lambasted the song for its omissions.

The article, titled This Land Is Whose Land?,” was written by folk musician Mali Obomsawin, a member of the Native American Abenaki tribe. She wrote of being shaken up “like a soda can” every time she heard the song’s lyrics:

“In the context of America, a nation-state built by settler colonialism, Woody Guthrie’s protest anthem exemplifies the particular blind spot that Americans have in regard to Natives: American patriotism erases us, even if it comes in the form of a leftist protest song. Why? Because this land ‘was’ our land. Through genocide, broken treaties and a legal system created by and for the colonial interest, this land ‘became’ American land.”

Obomsawin’s article immediately generated a flurry of responses from conservative media outlets.

Commie Folksinger Woody Guthrie Not Woke Enough for Mob,” jeered Breitbart’s John Nolte, delighted with this evidence of internecine strife among what he dubbed the “fascist woketards” of the American left. The Daily Wire’s Emily Zanotti soon joined the fray, penning a piece under the headline This Land Is NOT Your Land: Woke Culture Now Demanding Woody Guthrie Be Canceled Over Folk Music Faux Pas.”

But Obomsawin and her conservative critics might be surprised to learn that some of Guthrie’s greatest champions have also had difficulties with the song.

As the author of three books on Guthrie, I sometimes wonder how the folksinger would respond to the criticism of “This Land Is Your Land” for its omissions.

While we can’t know for sure, a glance at some of his unpublished writings and recently discovered recordings can offer some clues.

Seeger Sings a Different Tune

Pete Seeger, Woody’s colleague and protégé, was perhaps the most responsible for lodging “This Land Is Your Land” in the public consciousness. After Guthrie died in 1967, Seeger continued to perform the song all around the world.

At the same time, Seeger made it clear that he was sensitive to the theft of Native American lands.

In his memoir, Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” Seeger recalled an incident during a 1968 performance:

“Jimmy Collier, a great young black singer from the Midwest, was asked to lead [‘This Land Is Your Land.’] Henry Crowdog [sic] of the Sioux Indian delegation came up and punched his finger in Jimmy’s chest. ‘Hey, you’re both wrong. It belongs to me.’ Jimmy stopped and added seriously, ‘Should we not sing this song?’ Then a big grin came over Henry Crowdog’s face. ‘No, it’s okay. Go ahead and sing it. As long as we are all down here together to get something done.’”

When performing, Pete Seeger occasionally tweaked the lyrics to ‘This Land Is Your Land.’
(Josef SCHWARZ/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)

Sometimes, in an attempt to ease his conscience when performing “This Land,” Seeger would add a verse penned by the singer and activist Carolyn “Cappy” Israel to acknowledge the theft of Native land:

    This land is your land, but it once was my land
    Before we sold you Manhattan Island
    You pushed my nation to the reservation,
    This land was stole by you from me.

Woody Wasn’t Oblivious

Was Guthrie himself uncomfortable with the song’s glaring failure to acknowledge the facts of settler colonialism?

There’s no record of his views on the issue. But we do know that he was very aware of – and concerned with – the history of Native American dispossession.

For example, he was angry enough with his cousin, the country singer “Oklahoma Jack” Guthrie, for claiming credit for a song that Woody had written, titled “Oklahoma Hills.” But as Woody wrote in an unpublished annotation to the lyrics, Jack had also left out “the best parts of the whole song” – the names of “the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole” who had prior claim to the lands of Oklahoma.

Then there’s a soundbite in a posthumously discovered live recording from 1949:

“They used dope, they used opium, they used every kind of a trick to get these Indians to sign over their lands,” Guthrie says to the crowd.

One of these real estate tricksters was actually Woody’s own father, Charley Guthrie. As biographer and journalist Joe Klein writes in Woody Guthrie: A Life,” “Because he was able to speak both Creek and Cherokee, Charley became known as especially adept at relieving Indians of their property.”

How did Charley learn these Native tongues? Was it possible that the Guthries had Native ancestors?

In a tantalizingly vague 1950 letter to activist Stetson Kennedy, Woody notes “the rainbow blends” of his own bloodline, including “pure virgin island negro” and unnamed “Indian tribelines.”

And in an unpublished poem entitled “Sweety Black Girl,” written the same year, Guthrie writes:

    blood beats Spanish and my breath burns Indian and my
    soul boils negro. 

Guthrie admitted that he was ashamed of his father’s disreputable real estate practices. And while he may have idealized his own genealogy, there’s no doubt that he was fully aware of “whose land was whose.”

Some Native Americans See an Ally

Interestingly, not all Native Americans view the song in the same light as Obomsawin.

The song has proved adaptable and malleable enough to enable some Native American artists to work with it.

In 2007, the Anishinaabe songwriter and musician Keith Secola sang his Ojibwa-language version of “This Land” on the album “Native Americana — A Coup Stick.”

Secola said in an interview that his version “reflects a worldview, of being a part of the world and not detached from it. Woody was into people creating their own stories. … That’s what I got from him – how to apply this strategy, this procedure of songwriting, to the topics that affect American Indians.”

A few years before Secola’s cover, two of Guthrie’s previously unpublished songs – “Indian Corn Song” and “Mean Things Happenin’ in This World” – were recorded by the Navajo siblings, Klee, Clayson and Jeneda Benally.

“We wanted to keep the spirit of Woody Guthrie alive,” Clayton said in a 2012 interview. “He wrote songs about the Dust Bowl and unions, but he also wrote about American Indian issues.”

Clayson noted that “Indian Corn Song” was one of his favorite songs to play, because in it Guthrie “talks about wastefulness and how Indigenous people are … living off the planet in a balanced way.”

Mali Obomsawin might take heart from Secola, the Benally siblings and the other artist-activists who have adopted and adapted “This Land Is Your Land.”

Woody Guthrie might not have been perfect, they say, but we don’t need to “cancel” him.

We’ll work with him instead.

“Sweety Black Girl” and unpublished Woody Guthrie correspondence and annotations, words by Woody Guthrie © Copyright Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc., all rights reserved, used by permission.

Will Kaufman is professor of American literature and culture, University of Central Lancashire.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment PolicyAllegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive language toward other commenters or our writers will be removed.

56 comments for “The Misguided Attacks on ‘This Land Is Your Land’

  1. Ottmar Straub
    September 4, 2019 at 13:07

    what a good article – chapeau

  2. Seamus Padraig
    September 1, 2019 at 07:34

    Well, well. What a surprise! It appears that the ‘New Left’ continues to airbrush away the Old Left: Derrida has replaced Marx, and it even appears that socialist-realist murals from the 30s are no longer welcome if they should happen to ‘trigger’ today’s precious little snowflakes:

    Sad, but predictable.

  3. dhinds
    August 30, 2019 at 11:33

    For Native Americans; Land was inhabited and interacted with, rather than “owned”

  4. Beverly
    August 29, 2019 at 00:17

    I have been a fan of Woody and Arlo Guthrie since my late teens. I have loved their social and political messages that were so fitting for a very critical period in the United States, the 1960s with the civil rights movement and Vietnam. To me this song was about the land being the land of the people, not the landowner oligarchs and the government. I would be very surprised if Woody’s understanding of ‘people’ excludes indigenous people…. not from what I can tell by looking at his life.

  5. August 28, 2019 at 16:42

    The fake left are more dangerous than the KKK.You know they will be calling for the pulling down of the statues of the founders of the country and have already been decrying ” Rational ” thought and fact based science as “white supremacy”…..

    Evergreen College students back at it with ‘no white people’ day

    Bonfire of the academies: Two professors on how leftist intolerance is killing higher education

    Just ONE example…..its happening all over the country.

    If this is the way they are going to conduct themselves is it any wonder white people will join White groups?
    Where else are they supposed to go?

  6. August 28, 2019 at 16:30

    Caitlin Johnstone’s brief, but rather brilliant take on the purpose and function of “identity politics” within the empire.

    • August 28, 2019 at 22:29

      Divide and conquer

      The oldest tool in the shed

      • Anonymous
        August 30, 2019 at 21:10

        Yet somehow, it never gets dull. We don’t learn because we can’t; it’s based on the perversion of an otherwise necessary survival mechanism. The only drawback to divide and conquer is that it will be the eventual downfall of mankind – but nobody seems to care.

  7. Alex Cox
    August 28, 2019 at 12:00

    Interesting that the Smithsonian – temple to US exceptionalism – should be the source of this attack on Woody. If we need any more evidence that identity politics is an elite project designed to divide and conquer, here it is.

    • August 28, 2019 at 17:48

      Dear Alex, who ever did this hack job, did not read when Woodie was at nj hospital, visited by Bob Dylan, told Fylan the story why he wrote this song 1941 finished 1949. He and his family lived in a Trump building, Woodie was not happy with the way Fred Trump treated people and finished the song. This story is aechovied under Woodies name, I’m from Jersey, I remember reading the article.

      • August 29, 2019 at 11:13

        As the person who wrote this “hack job,” may I tell you that I’m also the person who discovered Woody’s writings about Fred Trump?

  8. bob
    August 28, 2019 at 07:53

    Smithsonian Institute – a fancy name for warmongering narratives

  9. August 28, 2019 at 04:45

    You’ve got Oklahoma history wrong in the drably predictable leftist way.

    The five tribes weren’t native to Okla, they were moved into Okla from Dixie via the Trail of Tears, and they brought their black slaves with them. The Cherokee weren’t cheated in 1900, they figured out how to play the white game. Other tribes, especially the Osage, wasted their oil money on booze and big cars. The Cherokee used their money to buy politicians and to become politicians. Since then they’ve been the main power in Okla, and they’ve used their power sanely and constructively.

    Before Euro settlement, tribes were conquering other tribes for thousands of years. Many tribes were wiped out by war and genocide. Slavery was normal, which is why the Cherokee adapted nicely to owning black slaves.

  10. Phoebe Sorgen
    August 28, 2019 at 02:29

    It’s a critique, not an attack. And it’s quite valid, not misguided. It’s not ok for progressives to sing this song without referencing its original noble and tragic origins, but canceling the song is out of the question. It merely needs an introductory, inclusive verse. Cappy Israel’s verse requires explanation if people who aren’t Native American sing it. So I’ve revised it, removing the us/them so all kinds of people may sing it, and clarifying that “This land belongs to you and me” includes indigenous people (who lived more in harmony w/ nature, taking better care of this land):

    This land was stolen. It once was free land ’Til settlers purchased Manhattan Island, And pushed 1st Nations to reservations. Now let’s all live in harmony.

    After becoming “woke”, thnx to Crow Dog, Seeger honored this land’s original people whenever he sang the song. So can we! It’s the least we can do.

    from Songfacts: Seeger was profoundly affected by the incident and spoke of it often, saying he had a hard time performing the song after that. Each time he played it, he would repeat the story about Chief Crow Dog and add a verse about the theft of Indian land, composed by activist Carolyn “Cappy” Israel.

  11. Phoebe Sorgen
    August 28, 2019 at 02:27

    It’s a critique, not an attack. And it’s quite valid, not misguided. It’s not ok for progressives to sing this song without referencing its original noble and tragic origins, so we need an introductory verse. But Cappy Israel’s verse requires explanation if people who aren’t Native American sing it. So I’ve revised it, removing the us/them so all kinds of people may sing it, and clarifying that “This land belongs to you and me” includes indigenous people (who lived more in harmony w/ nature, taking better care of this land):

    This land was stolen. It once was free land ’Til settlers purchased Manhattan Island, And pushed 1st Nations to reservations. Now let’s all live in harmony.

    After becoming “woke”, thnx to Crow Dog, Seeger honored this land’s original people whenever he sang the song. So can we! It’s the least we can do.

    from Songfacts: Seeger was profoundly affected by the incident and spoke of it often, saying he had a hard time performing the song after that. Each time he played it, he would repeat the story about Chief Crow Dog and add a verse about the theft of Indian land, composed by activist Carolyn “Cappy” Israel.

  12. Pamela Larson
    August 27, 2019 at 23:11

    Oh my gosh this is so not true there you go again taking everything out of context the president said before if you ladies think you can fix the problems year in the USA why don’t you first go back to where you came from and fix their problems and then come back and show me how to do it that’s exactly what he said not exactly verbatim but paraphrasing stop lying about the president you are feeding the hate all these people are going around boiling with hate towards our president and everything you’re saying about him is a lie you’ve got to stop this it’s so wrong

    • Josep
      August 29, 2019 at 17:25

      Is this “hate” towards our president any worse than the “hate” he expresses towards those he disagrees with, especially the four congresswomen? Whatever happened to “don’t shoot the messenger”?

      Also, please use punctuation. It exists for a reason.

    • September 9, 2019 at 23:44

      Pamela: You appear to have gotten lost on the internet and stumbled onto a progressive site that is based on FACTS–NOT right-wing propaganda & PR for Trump. Plus: this article is about folk singer Woody Guthrie–NOT Donald Trump, so, you’re illiterate defense of the Racist Liar In Chief is completely out of any context. Move along now…or you could just stay & READ (WITHOUT comments) and actually LEARN SOMETHING.

  13. Sam F
    August 27, 2019 at 20:44

    Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie would surely update the song were they here, so I’ll do them the favor:

    From sleazy Wall Street, to their bought news media,
    From their corrupt Congress, to their crooked judges,
    From their secret agencies, to their mass surveillance,
    From their endless warfare, to their debt in trillions,
    From the loss of your rights, to the loss of my rights,
    This land was taken from you and me!

  14. DH Fabian
    August 27, 2019 at 17:39

    How shocking that any song or story or article could possibly overlook any of the myriad of issues that could conceivably be of public concern. We can add that “This land is my land” didn’t say a word about gay rights or nuclear proliferation, and in its many verses, I don’t see a word about Asian-Americans. Or we can point to a single verse that indicates just how quaint this song is, depicting values that America no longer has:

    In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
    By the relief office I seen my people;
    As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
    Is this land made for you and me?

    Relief office? Heck, we’re over 20 years into our war on the poor!

    • ElderD
      August 28, 2019 at 12:33

      Exactly. The insistence of self-obsessed snowflakes on banning or revising every bit of culture that doesn’t conform to rigid and narrow requirements, lest it offend or “trigger” someone, somewhere, is simply childish.

  15. August 27, 2019 at 17:16

    This recent brief poem by Caitlin Johnstone hits right at the heart of the oligarchy’s use of identity politics to obfuscate and divide and distract progressives into conflicts such nonsense as Woody’s song, so that we are never in danger of actually paying attention to what actually matters:

    Intersectional Omnicide – Caitlin Johnstone

    Our weapons will be manufactured by corporations
    that have pansexual CEOs and Muslim shareholders.

    The bombers will be emblazoned with rainbow flags
    and flown by empowered women of all colors
    who will scream “YAAASSS QUEEN!” as the mushroom clouds arise.

    The desert sand will turn to glass in the blasts,
    and that glass will become a ceiling,
    and that ceiling will be shattered
    by a lesbian CIA Director.

    People will be vaporized on the spot,
    or watch their own bodies fall apart like sandcastles,
    but they will never be misgendered.

    We will march as equals,
    white, black, Asian, indigenous,
    and whatever miscellaneous extras we can find
    (so long as they’re photogenic enough for Instagram),
    arm-in-arm singing “Fight Song” in one voice
    beneath a drone-filled sky
    to the edge of extinction
    where we will leap together
    screaming “This is all Susan Sarandon’s fault!”
    into the face of the abyss.

    It won’t be pretty,
    it won’t be wise,
    but at least,
    for one glorious flash,
    we will get to feel like we really tried.

  16. August 27, 2019 at 16:52

    My favorite part is when these simpletons call you a “fascist” and a “communist” at the same time – ha ha!

  17. Henry Steen
    August 27, 2019 at 15:34

    Illuminating article on Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and others. It should be widely read.

  18. bardamu
    August 27, 2019 at 15:15

    It seems simple enough on a reading of the lyrics, enough to hold all the huff in vain as a critique of Guthrie, whatever other ideas of value any of it might contain.

    Why would his phrase “you and me” not refer to whosoever might be singing or listening? Perhaps someone imagines that because the singer is white, at least if it is Guthrie or Seeger that is singing, he refers only to white people. But nothing whatsoever in the song suggests that, and it sure cuts against the spirit of the work otherwise.

    The lyric and the song rises above failures to interpret it and is more central than additions or retractions that Seeger or anyone might have implemented for one or another audience or one or another circumstance at one or another time.

    • August 27, 2019 at 22:58


    • shaydeegrove
      August 28, 2019 at 05:20

      Well put.
      The meaning of the lyrics couldn’t be clearer.
      When something belongs to “you (pl.)” and “me,” it belongs to “us,” which means “everybody.” And when something belongs to everybody (i.e., nobody), we all must share it equally according each and everyone’s abilities and each and everyone’s needs. Now if there are American aboriginal people who have a problem with that, then they are merely denying their own social traditions.

  19. Jacquelynn Booth
    August 27, 2019 at 14:48

    I have always regarded “This Land” as an anthem for the oppressed and dispossessed. Nit -picking and grand-standing aside, it is a powerful statement for inclusion and economic rights. It is a Labor Rights Song. Look at the last verses.

    • DH Fabian
      August 27, 2019 at 17:57

      No, it’s not a labor rights song. It’s a song of the Great Depression era, the first modern era of mass job loss and poverty. It doesn’t talk about labor, but does note those left jobless — the people who turned to the relief (welfare) offices that once existed. Check the sixth verse, for example:

  20. Jon Dhoe
    August 27, 2019 at 14:43
  21. robert e williamson jr
    August 27, 2019 at 14:34

    Seems to me that the neglected conversation is the one we should be having about a long compromised or other wise corrupted DOJ which can be no more a law abiding justice enforcer that the AG.

    It does not take long to see the Barr and his Justice department are naked to the world. Just check out the history of his career.

  22. August 27, 2019 at 14:03

    I opened up this COMMENT section to write a “defense” of Woody.
    Now that I’ve read the prior comments, there’s little new or relevant left for me to add.
    Walter (just above) neatly summed up Woody’s belief system and his intentions.
    I knew Woody, and my dad was an intimate friend of his; Woody empathized with every
    person, class or group who had ever been on the receiving end of the ugly abuse of power.
    Woody’s song is meant as an antidote to the “colonialist” restrictions of private property and criminalized state lines.
    “The other side didn’t say nothin”…. that side was made for you and me.

    • August 29, 2019 at 11:22

      Mr Longhi – I loved your father’s memoir about his friendship with Woody and Cisco. It’s been a major – and inspirational – source for my work on Woody, particularly my last two books.

    • Anarcissie
      August 29, 2019 at 17:22

      — “The other side didn’t say nothin”…. that side was made for you and me.

      I’m glad you mentioned that. My favorite line.

      We on the Left have been suckered by idpol, which is a divide-and-rule strategy of the Established Order.

  23. Jane Christ
    August 27, 2019 at 13:28

    To me “This land is your land. This land is my land ” includes all of us . It includes the Indians who were here first, the later settlers , and those whose ancesters came as slaves. What is the problem?

    Some of my ancesters were Delaware Indians: some were English Quäkers : some were German immigrants. I don’t see the problems.

  24. bjd
    August 27, 2019 at 12:41

    I couldn’t get past ‘bloodline’.
    Sorry — we have to stop thinking and talking in those terms.

  25. Tom Lucas
    August 27, 2019 at 12:24

    It is clear and simple to me. “This land is your land, this land is my land
    From the California to the New York island
    From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters
    This land was made for you and me”… . This land belongs to everybody. He wrote it in the Great Depression when the bankers were stealing everything. That’s what he was singing about. For context, he wrote “Jolly Banker”, “My name is Tom Cranker and I’m a jolly banker,
    I’m a Jolly banker, jolly banker am I.
    I safeguard the farmers and widows and orphans,
    Singin’ I’m a jolly banker, jolly banker am I.”…

    • vinnieoh
      August 27, 2019 at 16:28

      Tom: thanks for that, yes it has to be put into the context of the times and what was happening at the moment. After the Gilded Age and then in the Great Depression. Was going to comment something similar in support of Jeff G. below, and also thanks to Jaime Longhi above for that personal insight. As someone with only haphazard sporadic historical knowledge, it seems to me that Woody didn’t really give a damn about his “bloodline” or heritage, but was a natural descendent of Diogenes who considered himself a “citizen of the world.” As do I.

  26. Jeff Harrison
    August 27, 2019 at 12:13

    This kind of crap always pisses me off. Right enough, the song doesn’t address the theft of Indian land by the US government but it wasn’t supposed to. And I am extremely well aware of that theft since I live on an Indian reservation on land that the US government reopened to settlement after the tribe was granted their reservation. The song is about the beauties of the land called the United States of America and how the land is “ours”. Not ours as in white vs Indian vs black etc but ours as in the people vs the capitalists who seek to own everything.

    • DH Fabian
      August 27, 2019 at 18:19

      Like millions of white people, I descend from immigrants who didn’t reach this country until after 1900. They were ordinary farmers and factory workers. One side came here one step ahead of the Bolsheviks, the other fled Eastern Europe one step ahead of the Nazis. None drove anyone off their land, none owned slaves, and while some (my father included) were labor activists, none had the economic or political power to have a role in the decisions made by American’s ruling oligarchy.

  27. Bob In Portland
    August 27, 2019 at 11:52

    When the CIA chose Gloria Steinem to lead the feminist movement their purpose was to divide progressives and to stir up racial resentments. It worked to divide men and women in civil rights and anti-war movements. Nowadays the right just rewrites history. Attacking “This Land Is Your Land” has been long-due in a country as stratified as ours.

    What’s interesting is that there is no real examination of The Star-Spangled Banner. The third verse explicitly condemns runaway slaves and runaway indentured servants and promises that they’ll be hunted down and killed in the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. Imagine if someone sang the third verse at a major sporting event.

  28. Jeff G.
    August 27, 2019 at 11:47

    I think this misses the point entirely. My sense of this song is that it isn’t about racial or ethnic issues. It’s about equality of mankind, all of us, including all races and factions. It’s anti-authoritarian. It’s about “We, the People.” Those “People” all of us. He sings about seeing a sign as he rambled that says, “No trespassing” on one side. “On the other side, it didn’t say nuthin’, That side was made for you and me.” It’s a populist battle cry against the overpampered entrenched aristocracy, the illegitimate ruling class. That’s all it is. And it’s a good one, too.

  29. Bob Van Noy
    August 27, 2019 at 11:40

    Again Consortiumnews, perfect timing. This is a neglected conversation that America desperately needs to openly discuss so that we can have a broad honest conversation about who we actually are and how Justice might be addressed.

    I first encountered this thought while intensely involved in the study of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the people he interacted with in Concord, Massachusetts. I was totally wrapped up in the New American Intellectuals, loving how they had to refer back to Europe to estimate their own learning when it suddenly struck me that they were concerned about the Indians on the “other side of Walden Pond and I immediately realized their near total indifference to the Native plight. For me, it was a huge let down realizing these newly found heroes were racist. I’ve never really gotten over it.

    One more story about my personal blindness. I was raised in Nevada, I spent all of my childhood growing up with delightful peers in one small town. Recently, I asked one of my dear friends with a Hispanic sounding name, where his ancestors came from and he answered “right here” which seemed impossible to me until he told me he was Shoshone and his people “always” lived there. I was stunned by my own indifference and naiveté. It seems we have much to learn about our shared culture…

    • Dianne Leonard
      August 27, 2019 at 17:14

      My dad grew up in a town in Nevada. Everybody spoke English in class, but when the kids were on the playground or running around together after school, all the kids used a pidgin that was mostly Shoshone and Basque, those being the largest populations in and around the town. The Shoshone kids came from a nearby reservation, where there was no school. A few families, like Dad’s, spoke English and French. Dad said there were lots of marriages between Basque and Shoshone people, as both were sheep herding cultures. Even in his 80s, Dad remembered some words the kids used. He added that the Shoshone kids taught sign language to the other kids (so the kids could talk in class without the teacher knowing.) I have no idea what the town, Wells, is like now, or if the kids still speak that Shoshone/Basque as they did in the 1920s, when Dad’s family lived there.

      • Bob Van Noy
        August 27, 2019 at 19:33

        Thank you Dianne Leonard.

    • Sam F
      August 27, 2019 at 22:06

      It is interesting that the proximity of cultures with incompatible methods, especially in land and property, aggravates the ordinary conflict processes of tribal hubris, xenophobia, dependence and demagoguery. Apparently the French explorers and colonists did much better with the natives. Despite the Enlightenment philosophies of human rights, and the fact that many were in effect refugees, the colonists simply couldn’t figure out how to coexist with noble savages. Yet they were never satisfied with the land they had taken, pushing ever westward by the most unethical means.

      I will admit that the colonies and early US were accommodating the dispossessed of Europe, and that the natives’ excessive land wealth and lack of a sense of land possession would not have created much of a sense of taking their land. Also that the natives themselves had not purchased the land, but merely moved here themselves from the Pacific. But those rationales would have to be extended to any larger population that might seek to dispossess the U.S., such as the poorest of India or China or Africa, who would not be welcomed by the present inhabitants.

      • Bob Van Noy
        August 28, 2019 at 08:29

        Thank you Sam F. Yes, we agree as we so often do. That is why I thanked Consortiumnews (Joe Lauria) for the timing of this article. We are in rather desperate need right now of a broad and far reaching conversation about what America is and how it may become more honestly introspective. I know of your deep and organized concerns in this regard, may our press achieve the independence necessary for the people to become more aware…

  30. Abe
    August 27, 2019 at 11:22

    Foxtard Hasbara “Warriors” = “conservative media outlets” get paid to do a lot of ‘splainin’

    Breitbart “journalist” Nolte worked for Daily Wire, and Zanotti is a “senior editor” at the right wing pro-Israel loon site.

    Daily Wire was spawned by Ben Shapiro and Jeremy Boreing, who worked for right wing pro-Israel loon site TruthRevolt, which was funded by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

    Know the Hasbara networks.

  31. Anonymous
    August 27, 2019 at 10:27

    Why even validate the idea behind this by writing an article addressing it? There is too much nonsense now more than ever and the last thing anyone needs to do is add fuel to the fire that these trolls so enjoy

  32. August 27, 2019 at 10:24

    Woody Guthrie wrote a song about Donald Trump’s father, Fred who was Guthrie’s slum lord in NY at the time.

    • evelync
      August 27, 2019 at 14:30

      Thanks much for this link, O Society!!!!!!
      you couldn’t have found a more relevant piece of music to represent what’s going’ on right now.

      and thanks to Will Kaufman for this piece!
      This Land is Your Land was about the way things SHOULD be (for everyone including those trampled on by the aggressors) and that’s I’m sure what Woody intended.
      Arlo Guthrie is still performing around the country and may be able to shed some light on some of the unanswered questions mentioned in this piece……

      • August 27, 2019 at 18:54

        Glad you enjoy it, Evelyn. History doesn’t really repeat itself, but it sure as hell does rhyme – ha ha!

        Fred Trump built his NY slum projects with money he got off the government teat. Here we are all these years later and his conman son is still stealing everything not nailed to the floor.

  33. bevin
    August 27, 2019 at 10:08

    Just what you’d expect: a Woody Guthrie expert in Central Lancashire. I learned about Woody on the other side of the Pennines-there was a time when “So Long Its Been Good to Know You” vied with “Goodnight Irene” by Huddie Ledbetter when the Working Mens Club closed.
    So far as the song lyrics are concerned, it is anachronistic to treat Woody as if he were part of the present. If we did there would real questions would be about his songs like Grand Coulee Dam and others that celebrated ‘triumphs’ over nature.
    What Woody knew and was really saying was not that the land belonged to the settlers as opposed to the twice cheated survivors of the Trail of Tears, who were dumped in Oklahoma, but that the land belongs to everybody and thus to nobody. The First Nations can relate to that.

    • August 27, 2019 at 19:04

      This is my take as well, Bevin This land belongs to everyone, which means it belongs to no one because it is for the public good.

      It’s called “sharing,” which is something we are all taught in kindergarten in America, but most everyone forgets all about by the time they become an adult.

  34. Walter
    August 27, 2019 at 09:49

    I have heard audio of Woody in which he said” Not exactly a Communist, but I been in the red all my life.”

    Perhaps we might be illuminated by seeing the song as existential by a Socialistin the Socialist 1930’s.

    Indeed it belongs to the people. The oil, the coal, the iron, the beauty – and the people have the power to take it away from the idle and cruel fatkat rentier class who control almost all of it.

    I thought that was what the song was about. It was about then, and it’s about now.

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