-- Stolen Land --
January 1986. Toronto, Canada.

Found on:

Waiting For A Miracle, Singles 1970-1987 (1987) [compilation album]

Bruce Cockburn Live (1990) & (2002) [live album]

You Pay Your Money And You Take Your Chance (1997) [live album]

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 2 (2014) [compilation album]

Greatest Hits (1970-2020) (2021) [compilation album]

From Tierra del Fuego to Ungava Bay
The history of betrayal continues to today
The spirit of Almighty Voice, the ghost of Anna Mae
Call like thunder from the mountains -- you can hear them say
It's a stolen land

Apartheid in Arizona, slaughter in Brazil
If bullets don't get good PR there's other ways to kill
Kidnap all the children, put 'em in a foreign system
Bring them up in no-man's land where no one really wants them
It's a stolen land

Stolen land -- but it's all we've got
Stolen land -- and there's no going back
Stolen land -- and we'll never forget
Stolen land -- and we're not through yet

In my mind I catch a picture -- big black raven in the sky
Looking at the ocean -- sail reflected in black eye --
Sail as white as heroin, white like weathered bones --
Rum and guns and smallpox gonna change the face of home
In this stolen land...

If you're like me you'd like to think we've learned from our mistakes
Enough to know we can't play god with others' lives at stake
So now we've all discovered the world wasn't only made for whites
What step are you gonna take to try and set things right
In this stolen land

Stolen land -- but it's all we've got
Stolen land -- and there's no going back
Stolen land -- and we'll never forget
Stolen land -- and we're not through yet

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • 1990 - "We were about to do a benefit in Vancouver in support of the Haida land claims in the Queen Charlottes, or Haida Gwaii, as the islands should be known. I wanted a dramatic song which touched on Native issues. I had partial lyrics and a pretty good head of steam built up about the Haida situation, and that in Arizona at Big Mountain, where government industrial hanky panky was forcing people off traditional lands. I had no musical ideas, but got together with Hugh Marsh to work on it. We managed to cook this up- the funk part is definitely Marsh. Trying to make this song work for a subsequent solo tour, I discovered that if I played a Bo Diddley beat on the bohdran, the Irish drum, I could sing the song with it. It appears that way on the live album."

    - from "Rumours of Glory 1980-1990" (songbook), edited by Arthur McGregor, OFC Publications, Ottawa, 1990. Submitted by Rob Caldwell.

  • 2021

    "We were booked to play a benefit for Haida elders arrested in their blockade of Lyell Island logging. I felt like I needed a song that addressed the things Indigenous people face. These lyrics came. Hugh Marsh came up with some intensely funky music for my words and vocal line."

    ~ from the liner notes of Greatest Hits (1970-2020)

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    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.