Chief Dan George (1899-1981) was an Indian Chief, an activist, an actor and a poet. His best-known written work was “My Heart Soars.” In this YouTube video, the poem is read by his son, Chief Leonard George.
Former Chief of the Salish Indians in Vancouver, Dan George, in his 70s at the time, went on to win an Academy Award nomination for his role in Little Big Man as well as other awards.
Always an activist, he silenced a stadium of 32,000 people in 1967 at an event to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday with this lament.
“Today, when you celebrate your hundred years, oh Canada, I am sad for all the Indian people throughout the land.
Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this Centenary, this hundred years? Shall I thank you for the reserves that are left to me of my beautiful forests? For the canned fish of my rivers? For the loss of my pride and authority, even among my own people? For the lack of my will to fight back? No! I must forget what’s past and gone.
Oh God in heaven! Give me back the courage of the olden chiefs. Let me wrestle with my surroundings. Let me again, as in the days of old, dominate my environment. Let me humbly accept this new culture and through it rise up and go on.
Oh God! Like the thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success-his education, his skills- and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society.
Before I follow the great chiefs who have gone before us, Oh Canada, I shall see these things come to pass. I shall see our young braves and our chiefs sitting in the houses of law and government, ruling and being ruled by the knowledge and freedoms of our great land.
So shall we shatter the barriers of our isolation. So shall the next hundred years be the greatest in the proud history of our tribes and nations.”
Take a look and make sure to watch the video, “Chief Dan George,” in spite of the irritating commercials. The video is excellent and the end is worth waiting for.