"Cherokee Bend" as written by and Gordon Lightfoot....
His father was a man who could never understand
The shame on a red man's face
So they lived in the hills and they never came down
But to trade in the white man's place

It was early in the spring when the snow had disappeared
They came down with a bag of skins
In the fall of the year of 1910
Daddy died by the rope down in Cherokee Bend.

Daddy didn't like what the white man said
'Bout the dirty little kid at his side
Daddy didn't like what the white man did
Nor the deal or the way that he lied
There was blood on the floor of the government store
When the men took his daddy away
But the boy stayed back till he come to his end
And he run like the wind from Cherokee Bend.

Now the mother was alone and the winter was at hand
And she prayed to her spirit kin
It was warm in the lodge in the Kentucky hills
On the day when the boy came in

Then a blizzard came down and it covered up the door

Till they thought that it never would end
And he told her the tale of the terrible affair
In the government store down in Cherokee Bend

Daddy didn't like what the white man said
'Bout the dirty little kid at his side
Daddy didn't like what the white man did
Nor the deal or the way that he lied

For three long days and three long nights
They wept and they mourned and then
She returned to her work and her weavin'
And they tried to forget about Cherokee Bend

Now the boy wasn't big but he hunted what he could
And they lived for a time that way
But the food run low and the meat went bad
And she said to the boy one day

I'm leaving tonight and I never will return
>From the land of my Spirit Kin
You must take what you need and trade what you can
For a Red Man's grave down in Cherokee Bend

It wasn't very long till she closed her eyes
And he wrapped her in a robe
He found her a place on the side of the hill
And he buried her in the snow

Early in the spring he was seen in the town
With his load looking ragged and thin
Not a year had gone by till he stood once again
In the government store down in Cherokee Bend

He was ten years tall and a Redskin too
So he hadn't much face to save
And the men sat around and they laughed and they clowned
At the talk of a criminal's grave

Then the man from the east didn't smile when he said
You're the son of that Indian scum
If you value your hide then you better abide
By the white man's rules here in Cherokee Bend.

Daddy didn't like what the white man said
'Bout the dirty little kid at his side
Daddy didn't like what the white man did
Nor the deal or the way that he lied

And he spit on the floor of the government store
And it served him to no good end
At the close of the day they had taken him away
To the white man's school down at Cherokee Bend

It's been 21 years since the boy disappeared
Where he run to, nobody knows
But they say he fell in with a man named Jim
And he rides in the rodeos

And they say he returns all alone to a place
Hidden deep in the Kentucky glen
And it's pretty well known who hauled up the stone
To the grave on the hill above Cherokee Bend

Daddy didn't like what the white man said
'Bout the dirty little kid at his side
Daddy didn't like what the white man did
Nor the deal or the way that he lied

There was blood on the floor of the government store
When the men took his daddy away
It was 1910 and they never had a friend
When he died by the rope down at Cherokee Bend
It was 1910 and they never had a friend
When he died by the rope down at Cherokee Bend


Lyrics submitted by ButNeverOutgunned

"Cherokee Bend" as written by Gordon Lightfoot

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Cherokee Bend song meanings
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6 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentIt's obviously a story about a Native American and his son going into Cherokee Bend where some white men make some nasty comments towards the man's son. He doesn't take it so the white men hang him. The rest of the story follows what happens to him afterwards and his disdain for how whites have treated them. I'm also pretty sure that he isn't Native Canadian.
    sanchomurphy1on December 10, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentGordon, being a Native Canadian, apparently felt alot of pride in his heritage. This song details the plight of Indians when the expansionist, bigotted whites showed up and robbed them of their way of life.
    sammyblueon June 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWait, Gordon is native Canadian? Who told you that? I'm pretty sure he's white, and if he was native, he wouldn't have much heritage in common with anyone in Kentucky.
    This song clearly deals with a much more recent event, with specific individuals, since it gives dates setting it in the 20 century.
    Anguson November 25, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentHe's definitely a native Canadian. Meaning, BORN IN CANADA. He also has some Native American (meaning, Indian) blood in him. Confusing terms, eh?
    ladyxxxlazaruson November 14, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhy the line at the end about the boy riding in the rodeos? The excitement associated with them is quite out of sync with the overall grim mood of the song.
    jerambamon April 19, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe young Indian rode in the rodeos to make a living.
    The story is partly copied from an excerpt of the book "When the legends die" by Hal Borland that Gordon read on Reader's Digest.
    The book was adapted on the movie "When the legends die" in 1972, with Richard Widmark and Frederic Forrest. I personally find it fabulous and emotional.
    daniel1032on May 23, 2017   Link

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