Denver Indian Center Inc.

On this Day in History: February 23, 1940

This Land is Our Land…

80 years ago on February 23, 1940, Woody Guthrie wrote the song “This Land is Our Land” as a critical response to the Irving Berlin song, “God Bless America.” Over time, both songs have taken on a patriotic note with the This Land is our Land song even associated with various civil rights movements with revised or added lyrics. In 1968 during the Poor People’s March in Washington DC, folk singer Pete Seeger and an African-American singer named Jimmy Collier were about to sing This Land is Our Land to the masses gathered at Resurrection City (I was a high school student and actually visiting Washington DC during this time). A Lakota man named Henry Crow Dog came up and poked Collier in the chest saying “Hey, you’re both wrong. It belongs to me.” Collier respectfully asked, “Should we not sing it?” Crow Dog smiled and replied, “No, it’s okay. Go ahead and sing it. As long as we are all down here together to get something done!” Pete Seeger was so moved by the incident that he spoke of it often, saying he had a hard time performing the song after that. Each time he played it, he would repeat the story about Henry Crow Dog and added a verse about the theft of Indian Land, composed by activist Carolyn “Cappy” Israel. This Land is your land, but it once was my land, Until we sold you Manhattan Island. You pushed our Nations to the Reservations; This land was stolen by you from me. I thought of the connection of the song, This Land is our Land and the slogan we are using to help bring attention to the 2020 Census, Indian Country Counts. The Denver Indian Center is actively gearing up to help the US Census get an accurate count of every American Indian living in the country. Your responses to the Census can help shape how billions of dollars in Federal Funds are distributed each year for programs and grants that help support organizations like the Denver Indian Center. The Census is our count, and our responses matter. I count, you count, elders count, newborns count and your neighbors count. Past under counts of Native populations have deprived hundreds of thousands of American Indians of their voice in government and the fair allocation of federal resources to Indian Country and Native serving organizations like the Denver Indian Center. Everyone living in your household on April 1 needs to get counted as part of the 2020 Census. Responding by mail or online is safe, simple and secure!

For more information or to complete the Census online starting March 12, go to THIS LAND IS OUR LAND and INDIAN COUNTRY COUNTS!!!


Rick Waters