Sous le regard bienveillant de Pete Seeger, dont elle est l’invitée dans l’émission télévisée underground The Rainbow Quest, Buffy Sainte-Marie chante sa longue chanson aux accents épiques, écrite en 1964 et publiée deux ans plus tard, My Country ‘Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying – Mon pays, c’est de ton peuple que tu meurs.

C’est des Amérindiens qu’elle parle : de son peuple. Indienne Cree née au Canada en 1941, Buffy Sainte-Marie a consacré une part essentielle de son militantisme au sort fait aux premiers américains, en particulier aux États-Unis, réduits dans des réserves de misère, méprisés de la société, des livres d’histoire, de la conscience commune du pays. Dans cette chanson, à la structure étrange – un refrain d’un seul vers interrompt un discours fait de strophes de dimensions variables – elle raconte, elle dénonce, elle explique. Vous interdisez aux Indiens leurs langages, puis vous expliquez que l’histoire de l’Amérique commence quand Christophe Colomb quitte l’Europe… Où se trouve dans vos livres d’histoire l’histoire du génocide qui est au fondement de la naissance de votre pays ? Des prêcheurs qui ont menti ? De la déclaration des libertés qui a échoué ? A la place des livres d’histoire, c’est la chanson – que Buffy Sainte-Marie allait chanter dans les manifestations politiques comme dans les réserves – qui raconte les massacres, les famines et les épidémies provoquées, les évictions, le sang.

Le ton poignant de cette chanson tranche un peu avec celui, plus enjoué, de sa chanson sur le Général Custer, que l’on trouve également sur ce site, en duo avec Johnny Cash.


MY COUNTRY ‘TIS OF THY PEOPLE YOU’RE DYING

Now that your big eyes have finally opened
Now that you’re wondering how must they feel
Meaning them that you’ve chased across
America’s movie screens

Now that you’re wondering how can it be real
That the ones you’ve called colorful, noble and proud
In your school propaganda, they starve in their splendor
You’ve asked for my comment, I simply will render

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Now that the long houses breed superstition
You force us to send our toddlers away
To your schools where they’re taught
To despise their traditions

You forbid them their languages, then further say
That American history really began
When Columbus set sail out of Europe
Then stress that the nation of leeches that conquered this land
Are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best

And yet where in your history books is the tale
Of the genocide basic to this country’s birth
Of the preachers who lied, how the Bill of Rights failed

How a nation of patriots returned to their earth
And where will it tell of the Liberty Bell
As it rang with a thud o’er Kinzua mud
And of brave Uncle Sam in Alaska this year

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Hear how the bargain was made for the West
With her shivering children in zero degrees
Blankets for your land, so the treaties attest
Oh well, blankets for land is a bargain indeed

And the blankets were those Uncle Sam had collected
From smallpox-diseased dying soldiers that day
And the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored
A hundred years of your statesmen have felt
It’s better this way

And yet a few of the conquered have somehow survived
Their blood runs the redder though genes have paled
From the Gran Canyon’s caverns to craven sad hills
The wounded, the losers, the robbed sing their tale

From Los Angeles County to upstate New York
The white nation fattens while others grow lean
Oh the tricked and evicted they know what I mean

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

The past it just crumbled, the future just threatens
Our life blood shut up in your chemical tanks
And now here you come, bill of sale in your hands
And surprise in your eyes that we’re lacking in thanks

For the blessings of civilization you’ve brought us
The lessons you’ve taught us, the ruin you’ve wrought us
Oh see what our trust in America’s brought us

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying

Now that the pride of the sires receives charity
Now that we’re harmless and safe behind laws
Now that my life’s to be known as your ‘Heritage’
Now that even the graves have been robbed

Now that our own chosen way is a novelty
Hands on our hearts we salute you your victory
Choke on your blue white and scarlet hypocrisy
Pitying the blindness that you’ve never seen

That the eagles of war whose wings lent you glory
They were never no more than carrion crows
Pushed the wrens from their nest
Stole their eggs, changed their story

The mockingbird sings it, it’s all that he knows
« Ah, what can I do? », say a powerless few
With a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye
Can’t you see that their poverty’s profiting you?

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying