Native Son
Recording Artist: Bryan Adams
Writers: Jim Vallance
Bryan Adams
Date Written: July 1986 / Vancouver Canada
Albums: Into The Fire (A&M Records, 1987)
Audio:
  Bryan Adams: rhythm guitar, piano, vocal
Jim Vallance: percussion
Keith Scott: rhythm guitar, lead guitar
Tommy Mandel: organ
Ian Stanley: keyboards
Dave Taylor: bass
Mickey Curry: drums
 
Produced by Bob Clearmountain and Bryan Adams.  Associate producer Jim Vallance. Recorded by Bob Clearmountain, September 1986, at Cliffhanger Studios, West Vancouver. Mixed by Bob Clearmountain, January 1987, at AIR Studios, London.
Comments:
Click on image above to
view lyric manuscript
When Adams and I were writing "Native Son" I was an eager participant.  In retrospect, however, it all seems a bit "precious". We were trying to make an important statement about the treatment of native Indians by the early white settlers, but I think it comes across as forced and insincere.

"I had that title for about two years", Bryan said on the Rockline radio show. Initially however, we had trouble finding a lyrical theme to go with the title.

When I mentioned this to my friend Duris Maxwell, who's part Indian, he suggested I look into the story of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce ("nose pierced") tribe of Dakota.

I went to the Vancouver library and read everything I could find on Joseph, which turned out to be a truly fascinating story. I wrote a page of notes at the library (see left margin), most of it direct quotes from Joseph's speeches.  With a little modification those notes became the basis for the song.
 
 
Here's what I learned:  In 1877 Chief Joseph resisted the takeover of his Oregon lands by white settlers, who ordered Joseph and his people to move to a reservation in Idaho. Members of Joseph's tribe killed a group of settlers during a skirmish.  Joseph tried to flee to Canada with his followers. They travelled more than 1,500 miles through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Along the way they fought several battles with the pursuing U.S. Army. Eventually cornered and forced to surrender, Chief Joseph spoke these words on October 5, 1877.

"I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are - perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever."
Lyrics: I've seen many moons through these wrinkled eyes
The years have made me old but they've made me wise
Now the white man lives where our rivers run

For now better days have passed
We walk the streets of broken glass
Our people vanished as snow before the summer sun

Like dogs we were driven from this place
Such injustice time will not erase
All these changes cannot be undone

When you feel the anger inside of you
Hold your head high - let your aim be true
Though your heart beats like a drum
My native son

Once there was a time my little one
Before the wagons - before the soldiers' guns
When this land was ours as far as the eagle flies

No white flag - no broken truce
With few words one can speak the truth
I don't hear it
Time won't heal it now

With each new day that comes to pass
Will the great spirit free us all at last?
He said we were the chosen ones

For all we had there's nothing left
We wont forgive - we can't forget
You know that your day will come
My native son

With each new day that comes to pass
Will the great spirit free us all at last?
What has happened can never be undone
When I was young - not yet a man

The sun rose and set upon our land
We were the chosen ones
My native son