Don’t Drink the Water: The Persecution of Native Americans in the 1800s
When first hearing Dave Matthews Band’s “Don’t Drink the Water,” you might believe the song is about the apartheid having knowledge of Matthews’ country of birth but when you continue to listen to the song the listener will discover a different story behind the song. Matthews moved to The United States when he was two leading him to write about different events in America’s history. Through the different stanzas Dave Matthews Band’s lyrics criticizes the story of America’s massacre and removal of the Native Americans in the 1800’s.
In the first stanza Dave sings “Come out come out, no use in hiding,” then continues on a few lines later with “not room for both, just room for me, so you will lay your arms down, yes I will call this home,” signaling the first effect of the Americans on the redistributing of the Native Americans. In the early 1800’s America, many Americans wanted more land as their population increased which therefore meant moving west into territory already claimed by the Native Americans. The Native Americans, after being moved countless times before due to the arrival of the Europeans (turned Americans), did not want to give up this land. Both sides (The Natives and Americans) knew neither could coexist with one another, hence the lyrics “not room for both, just room for me.” To come up with a solution to the Native Americans living in land that the American’s wanted the Indian Removal Act and Dawes Act were created and adopted by the US Congress that ultimately took the land of the Natives and moved them west of the Mississippi and then dispersed the land taken from the Native Americans amongst the Americans. The dispersion of Native Americans led to the creation of Reservations, which were pieces of land given to the Indians that were much out of the way of the American settlers. The people of the United States and the Government together viewed the Native Americans land as “an uninhibited or unimproved wasteland that a god wanted to be populated by Europeans, versus inhabited by aboriginal peoples” (Niezen, 2003, p.150). It is clear that in interpreting the second stanza you can see Matthews speaking of the removal of the Native lands (more than 25 million acres) by the American settlers in “so you will lay your arms down, yes I will call this home” and continues with the lines “away, you have been banished, your land is gone, and given to me,” With the views of Americans at that time, the settlers moved the Natives out and took over their land but the Natives did not go down without any commotion that led to an unfortunate set of deaths for many. In his novel, The Origins of Indigenism: Human Rights and the Politics of Identity, Niezen describes indigenism as not only the similarities of “legal category and an analytical concept but also an expression of identity,” which can be transferred to the beliefs of the Native Americans whom identified themselves with the land that was being possessed by the American settlers, they considered the land to be their land. Natives were being banished from a land that they identified with and moved somewhere completely different without many of the necessities they needed to continue their tribe successfully. “What’s this you say, you feel a right to remain, then stay and I will bury you,” After being uprooted before by the settlers, many Natives tried to fight against their removal. As a result of the law “The President to send any eastern tribe beyond the Mississippi if he wished, using force if needed,” (Unger 235) The Indian Wars began with the Natives fighting the Army. The President during the time of the Indian Removal Act, Andrew Jackson, said to Georgia’s governor “starvation and destruction await them if they remain longer in their present abodes,” (Jackson) speaking of the Cherokee tribes that did not want to move from their land. Thousands of Native Americans were killed in these...
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