As Long as the Grass Shall Grow – Johnny Cash

A ballad about the harsh and unfair treatment of Native Americans in the US, betrayed from Washington to Kennedy.

As Long as the Grass Shall Grow is a song by Johnny Cash, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century and one of the best-selling music artists of all time. It is the opening track of  the 1964 Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian album,  a concept album focusing the harsh and unfair treatment of Native Americans in the US. Cash had been convinced that his ancestry included members of the Cherokee tribe, and this partly served as inspiration for recording this album. Later on, as he began researching his ancestry, he discovered that he actually had no Cherokee ancestry, but Scottish, English, and Scots-Irish ancestry. The songs were written in part by Cash himself and in part by Peter La Farge, with the final track credited to Cash and Johnny Horton.

As Long as the Grass Shall Grow was indeed written by Peter La Farge – who later wrote and recorded his own version of the song as The Senecas (As Long as The Grass Shall Grow) – and it concerns the contemporary loss of the indigenous Seneca nation land in Pennsylvania due to the construction of the Kinzua Dam in the early 1960s. The dam, built across the Allegheny River, caused the flood of the Senecas’ land, forcing them to move north, in Salamanca, NY, abandoning a land owned for centuries. The project of the dam was authorized by J.F. Kennedy, who wrote a letter to the President of the Seneca Nation of Indians, breaking a promise made during his electoral campaign to the Senecas themselves.

Notably, “as long as the grass shall grow and the river flow” are the words used to conclude every treaty ever signed with the Native American people, not one of which was ever honored by the United States government.

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
The Senecas are an Indian tribe of the Iroquios nation
Down on the New York Pennsylvania Line you’ll find their reservation
After the US revolution corn planter was a chief
He told the tribe these men they could trust that was his true belief
He went down to Independence Hall and there was a treaty signed
That promised peace with the USA and Indian rights combined
George Washington gave his signature the Government gave its hand
They said that now and forever more that this was Indian land
As long as the moon shall rise…
On the Seneca reservation there is much sadness now
Washington’s treaty has been broken and there is no hope no how
Across the Allegheny River they’re throwing up a dam
It will flood the Indian country a proud day for Uncle Sam
It has broke the ancient treaty with a politician’s grin
It will drown the Indians graveyards corn planter can you swim
The earth is mother to the the Senecas they’re trampling sacred ground
Change the mint green earth to black mud flats as honor hobbles down
As long as the moon shall rise…
The Iroquios Indians used to rule from Canada way south
But no one fears the Indians now and smiles the liar’s mouth
The Senecas hired an expert to figure another site
But the great good army engineers said that he had no right
Although he showed them another plan and showed them another way
They laughed in his face and said no deal Kinuza dam is here to stay
Congress turned the Indians down brushed off the Indians plea
So the Senecas have renamed the dam they call it Lake Perfidy
As long as the moon shall rise…
Washington Adams and Kennedy now hear their pledges ring
The treaties are safe we’ll keep our word but what is that gurgling
It’s the back water from Perfidy Lake it’s rising all the time
Over the homes and over the fields and over the promises fine
No boats will sail on Lake Perfidy in winter it will fill
In summer it will be a swamp and all the fish will kill
But the Government of the USA has corrected George’s vow
The father of our country must be wrong what’s an Indian anyhow
As long as the moon shall rise (look up) as long as the rivers flow (are you thirsty)
As long as the sun will shine (my brother are you warm) as long as the grass shall grow

Sounds from the Bucket
Marco Principia

Born in Rome, his beloved city. Graduated with honors in Political Science and International Relations at Università degli Studi "Roma Tre". Currently employed at CIES - ONLUS as Fundraising Manager. Huge fan of A.S. Roma.
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