Yellow Thunder Walking Home

from Wisconsin River by Chris Richards

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about

An old Ho-Chunk legend says the Wisconsin River was formed by a manitou (Great Spirit) in the form of a giant serpent who one day decided to make a journey from his home in the great north forest to the sea. He crawled over the land, creating a groove into which water rushed. Other serpents, terrified of the Great Spirit, fled in every direction, creating tributaries. When the giant serpent encountered a sandstone mass in his path, he pushed his head through a crack, creating the cliffs and bluffs at what is now called the Dells of the Wisconsin River, or Wisconsin Dells.

Chief Yellow Thunder made his home in the Dells. In 1836, he and several other Ho-Chunk chiefs were invited to Washington, D.C., and coerced into signing a treaty giving up their tribal lands in the western part of the state. Soon after, Yellow Thunder and his people were rounded up and loaded into boxcars and steamboats bound for Iowa, and later, reservations in Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska. He was never gone long, a few times reportedly beating his captors back to his home beside the Wisconsin River. He peacefully breathed his last breath on the river’s banks in 1874, at age 100.

lyrics

He came from near the Winnebago
The tall, beloved Ho-Chunk chief
His people called him Yellow Thunder
He was the man who would not leave

He was summoned by the white man’s leader
Who made him sign away their land
Shipped them cross the Mississippi
He would just walk back again

Didn’t really matter how he got there
He could feel it deep inside his bones
Nothing on this earth could stop him
Yellow Thunder walking home

I grew up not far from this river
I was lured away by dreamers’ dreams
The promise of an endless summer
And everything that leaving means

Now I’ve returned to walk the river
Lone, but not alone at all
Something trails a step behind me
A shadow that’s a bit too tall

Didn’t really matter how he got there
He could feel it deep inside his bones
Nothing on this earth could stop him
Yellow Thunder walking home

We look out at the wide Wisconsin
Fleeing serpents carved this stone
Wanderers, always returning
Yellow Thunder walking home

Didn’t really matter how he got there
He could feel it deep inside his bones
Nothing on this earth could stop him
Yellow Thunder walking home
No, nothing on this earth could stop him
Yellow Thunder Walking home


© 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)

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from Wisconsin River, released April 22, 2021

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Chris Richards Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Chris Richards is a critically acclaimed songwriter and recording artist from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

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