Ballad of Dull Knife – Lyric Video

Music and Lyrics by Conrad Askland (ASCAP) © 1995.

“Ballad of Dull Knife” is one of the first songs I wrote that ended up being on a released album (around 1995). It is about the Cheyenne chief Dull Knife (Morning Star) and the emotions I imagined he might have felt as his lands were being taken away.

Back around 1994, I was playing at the Museum Club in Flagstaff, Arizona with a country band called “Cochise”. To my memory. the Museum Club had been in business since the 1920’s and was full of taxidermy animals all over the walls. It had quite a history.

There was an Indian reservation near the Museum Club and during the week I was playing there I got to be friends with a Native-American from the res. He told me I should read a book called “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”. I bought the book that week and after reading it I was absolutely devastated at the cruelty that had been historically aimed at the Native-American community in the United States.

After reading “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” in 1994 is when I wrote “Ballad of Dull Knife”. The song was not received with open arms. The lyrics are dark and a bit stilted with forced rhymes. But for me, in retrospect, this release was a small step toward writing material that has to do with human rights.

My path since then, particularly since 2008, has been a constant nudging toward creating works that deal with Human Rights. I think of so much that I learned with Cirque du Soleil about global stewardship. My studies at Berklee College of Music, Harvard and Colorado State University that all kept that nudging toward the power of the arts for positive change.

So to me this song was the beginning of a personal journey and I tip my hat to the younger me that started the journey without even being aware of it.

This is also one of my first video edits in Final Cut Pro. I’m enjoying the process of learning more about video editing. One of my favorite parts in this video is around 1:10 where a photo of Chief Dull Knife (“Morning Star”) begins to appear in the constellations of the night sky.

*NOTE: In researching photos of Dull Knife (“Morning Star”) it seems that the only official verified photo of him is the photo at the beginning of the video (and in the star sequence and at the end) that is Dull Knife by himself. At the end of the video is a photo of two Native Americans sitting and it is disputed whether the person the right is actually Chief Dull Knife. Some theorize the man on the right is actually the nephew or a relative of Chief Dull Knife. So for history’s sake, when you think of Dull Knife, think of the photo where he is alone. It was very moving to look at that photo while looking again at some of his history and story.

LYRICS

I have no particular place to go
Yet in bondage wherever I roam
I’m a poor man escaping the bitter cold
Yet this is where I call home

Promise me please that you’ll lay me back home
If it’s there at the end of my life
When they pick up my pieces all scarred and torn
They will see life used a dull knife

I harbor no bitter consequence
Of any events in my life
But my future doubts grow more intense
While my nation’s cut with a knife

Promise me please that you’ll lay me back home
If it’s there at the end of my life
When they pick up my pieces all scarred and torn
They will see life used a dull knife

Ballad of Dull Knife © 1995 Conrad Askland (ASCAP)

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