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Friday, July 24, 2015

Let your heart soar!

Today is the anniversary of the birth of a great Native American leader, environmentalist, poet, essayist AND actor.  Chief Dan George, born in 1899, became a household name in the 1960s and '70s with his poetry and his acting, especially in the award-winning 1970 Dustin Hoffman film Little Big Man.

I was in the military in Europe at the time and my wife and I were traveling in Denmark when the movie reached that country.  We saw it on a Danish screen (it was in English with Danish subtitles and it was weird how we found ourselves trying to read the Danish -- which we could not, of course -- even though we could clearly hear the words).

Chief Dan George

George, who was born in Canada and served as chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, a coastal band located in North Vancouver, B.C., played Cheyenne chief Old Lodge Skins in this major acting role after having done a few roles on TV and in smaller movies beginning at age 60.  He was 71 when he accepted the Little Big Man role.  For his efforts he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and won many other awards from almost every major organization that judges films and acting. 

His famous line in the movie was “My heart soars like a hawk,” based in part on his poem “My heart soars,” which is his best-known written work.  The poem was recited by Canadian born actor Donald Sutherland at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. 

My Heart Soars
The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass ... speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky,
The rhythm of the sea ... speaks to me.
The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning,
the dewdrop on the flower ... speaks to me.
The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away ... they speak to me.
And my heart soars.


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