CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: FLOYD WESTERMAN- Custer Died For Your Sins (1969)

Floyd Westerman was a Dakota Sioux musician, political activist, and actor. After establishing a career as a country music singer he later in his life became the leading actor depicting Native Americans in American films and TV. He worked as a political activist for Native American causes and released two full-length albums, one of which features here, Custer Died For Your Sins, which took its title from a popular book.
Floyd ‘Red Crow’ Westerman
August 17, 1936 – December 13, 2007 
On the tenth anniversary of his sad passing (or entering the spirit world as he would himself put it) we offer up Floyd Westerman’s debut album as part of our Classic Album Review series. It comes with a free download which you can find further down the page and we hope you will take us up on this. Floyd was an engaging singer-songwriter and it’s a shame he never got around to making another dozen albums of protest songs. After all his people and their sad and tragic history could certainly supply the material to fill them.

CUSTER DIED FOR YOUR SINS

For the lies that were spoken
For the blood we have spilled
For the treaties that we broken
For the leaders you have stilled
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin
Custer died for your sin
For the tribes you terminated
For the myth you keep alive
For the land you confiscated
For our freedom you deprived
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin
Custer died for your sin

Now A new day must begin
Custer died for your sin
For the truth that you pollute
For the life that you have cost
For the good you prostitute
And for all that we have lost
Custer died for your sin
Custer died for your sin
Now a new day must begin

Custer died for you sin
Now a new day must begin

SLEEVE NOTES

From our hearts thank you by Vine Deloria Jr.

By a thousand campfires, traveling the endless miles of reservation frustration, huddling in the desolate urban centers and Indian bars, the soul of the American Indian cries out to his gods for justification.

Until now there has been no answer, no joyous cry of freedom. With this album. Floyd Westerman takes the giant step across cultures to bring the anguish and unquenchable pride of the American Indian to the forefront.

Raised in government boarding schools, supporting himself since he was fourteen, victim and conqueror of the society that betrayed his ancestors, Floyd is the only person who could have done these songs.

A veteran of the contemporary Indian movement, his rendition of Where Were You When? reflects the bitterness of those who have fought too hard only to be shunted aside in favor of newly arrived “Indian experts” who have all the answers.

The defiant title song, Custer Died For Your Sins, could only be sung by one who has glimpsed the Indian renaissance in the reservation backwash of American society.

Thirty-five More Miles, the story of Floyd’s mother represents the senseless waste of Indian lives by a society that does not understand and could not learn to care.

Red, White and Black and Missionaries tell of the struggle against hopeless odds which seeks to create in American society new sense of the dimensions of cultures.

Floyd was born to sing these songs and they were written in search of a singer like Floyd. Like the eyapaha, the cryer of old who summoned the camp to action, Floyd will provide the spark, the badly needed war songs that thousands have waited to hear. Hear him well.

The songs, brilliantly penned by Jimmy Curtiss, are a testimony to Jimmy’s ability to transcend time and space and live with the people in their sorrow and triumphs, to understand their sense of hopelessness and yet to see their vision.

With this album the continental divide of oppression is crossed and a new day begins. Remember it as the years pass and a new history for the American Indian is forged out of the decades. Remember how the world was before the songs were heard. The day is corning when you will not remember how it started — that it started with this record.

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Floyd Westerman was born on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe. It is one of the tribes of the Eastern Dakota subgroup of the Great Sioux Nation, living within the U.S. state of South Dakota. At the age of 10, Floyd was forced to go to the Wahpeton Boarding School, where he met Dennis Banks, who would later become a leader of the American Indian Movement. There Westerman and other boys were forced to cut their traditionally long hair and forbidden to speak their native tongue. This experience would profoundly impact his later life and as an adult he would champion his own heritage. He graduated from Northern State University with a B.A. degree in secondary education and also served two years in the US Marines, before beginning his career as a singer.

Custer Died For Your Sins was his debut release and is one of his few. He never created a large body of work throughout his career, but the tricks he had up his sleeve were good ones. Whilst playing in Colorado he met and became friends with the author Vine Deloria Jr., also a songwriter. They talked about the lack of Native American issues and traditions in song and a collaboration began. Floyd took sections of Deloria’s book, Custer Died for Your Sins, and created profound, sometimes humorous songs from the subjects. This led to the release of his debut album, titled after his friend’s book. The album has a strong country flavor that suited Westerman’s voice and has remained a sought-after classic ever since. The title song is tough and to the point, while other songs such as ‘Here Come the Anthros’ reveal a stinging satirical sense of humor. Two anthems on Side Two are particularly hard-hitting: ‘Missionaries’, certainly a well-deserved jab and ‘Where Were You When’ which takes a poke at Native American pride of the opportunistic sort. He established a solid reputation as a country-western music singer and his recordings offer a probing analysis of European influences in Native American communities. In addition to his solo recordings he collaborated with Willie Nelson, Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell and Kris Kristofferson among others.

After years of performing as a singer Floyd became interested in acting and he debuted his film career in Renegades (1989) alongside Lou Diamond Phillips. Additional film roles included Dances with Wolves (1990), The Doors (1991) and numerous others. His television roles included Walker, Texas Ranger, Northern Exposure and multiple appearances as Albert Hosteen on The X-Files. Westerman was recognized for his political advocacy for Native American causes and at times he participated in and supported the American Indian Movement. Floyd Westerman died on December 13, 2007, at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California after an extended illness and complications from leukemia.

MISSIONARIES

Spread the word of your religions
Convert the whole world if you can
Kill and slaughter those who oppose you
Its worth it if you save one man

Take the land to build your churches
A sin to tax the house of god
Take the child while he is supple
Spoil the mind and spare the rod

Go and tell the savage native
That he must be christianized
Tell him end his heathen worship
And you will make him civilized

Shove your gospel, force your values
Down his throat until he’s raw
And after he is crippled
Turn your back and lock the door

Like an ever circling vulture
You descend upon your prey
Then you pick the soul to pieces
And you watch as it decays

‘Cause religion is big business
As your bank account will show
And Christ died to save all mankind
But that was long ago

Missionaries, missionaries go and leave us all alone
Take your white god to your white men
We’ve a God of our own

Musicians: Floyd Westerman: Vocals, Rythm Guitar *John Palmer Trivers: Bass * Bob Abrahams: Acoustic Lead Guitar * Jerry Shook: Harp, Dobro * Barry Lazarowitz: Drums * J.C. (Jim Curtiss): Rhythm Guitar * Pete Drake: Steel Guitar

Produced by Jimmy Curtis & Terry Philips

Recorded at Al Studios, New York City and Music City Recorders, Nashville, Tennessee

More On Floyd Westerman

Wikipedia  WebSite  Obituary  JohnKatsMusic

THE LONDON CELTIC PUNKS ‘STEPPING STONES’ CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW SERIES

This album was brought to you as part of our regular series where we bring you something a little bit different to what you’re maybe use to. Lost or hidden and sometimes forgotten gems from the legends and also unknowns that have inspired and provoked folk music and musicians right up to modern age celtic-punk music. The albums are usually out of print so we can provide a free download link for you.

You can find our Steppin’ Stones page here with the full list of albums to choose from.

(if the links are broken please leave a comment and we will fix)

 

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