Nigh And Day By Day

A wonderful disc for you today that I’ve been meaning to post for a while, but had held off as I had very little information about it. I can’t even remember who first alerted me to its existence – it may have been Bob at Dead Wax, or Bob at The Wonderful and The Obscure. It may not have been a Bob at all. Never mind: whoever it was, I thank you.

Released in June 1954 (it was listed in Billboard, 19 June), although the writing credits for the plug side, Day-By-Day, are given to Hank-Oliver and Rusty-Newby, the song clearly owes a lot to Cole Porter’s Night And Day. And no, I’m not being heavy handed with the hyphens here, they pepper the titles and credits on the labels of the original release, including the flip side, Cry-Heart-Cry-On.

Choi-Nump-Ni, “a full-blooded Indian” (Billboard, May 1954), or Native American as we would politically correctly say now was signed by Academy Records, of Fresno, California, to “a long-term recording contract,” although this particular 45 seems to have been his only release. Confusingly there was another Academy Records, this one operating out of Chicago, at exactly the same time. Our Californian cousins issued at least one further 45, Word of Honor by Rusty Newby (without a hyphen this time). Newby led his own hillbilly act, Rusty Newby and the Saddle Serenaders.

So who was Choi-Nump-Ni? Well, he was also known as Hank Oliver, which explains the co-author credit on the disc, and he passed away last year at the grand old age of 91. Choi/Hank was the last member of the Choinumni tribe to speak its native language fluently, although his sister, who survived him, could speak the language reasonably well. The retired logger and ranch worker loved music, and he recorded several songs in the 60s and 70s, including In the Snows of Wounded Knee, which he recorded shortly after returning from the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, which had been the site of a Native American massacre in 1890. The occupation, also known as the Wounded Knee Incident, began in February 1973, when around 200 Native Americans seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, following the failure of the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) to impeach tribal president Richard Wilson, who was accused of corruption and abuse of opponents. Protesters also criticised the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans. Hank also recorded a song about the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands in the 1830s.

An advocate of peaceful protest, Hank Oliver was quite a guy. When he was just 14 he was forced to take on the role of head of the family to his seven sisters and two brothers after their father was run over and killed by a car. He moved to Oregon to work as a logger, and also fought wildfires with the U.S. Forest Service before returning to his tribe’s ancestral land in Fresno County, where worked to protect sacred sites and teach the native language.

Oliver, who was Navajo on his father’s side (his father came from Albuquerque, New Mexico) and Choinumni on his mother’s, was buried at the Choinumni Sacred Burial Grounds on the tribe’s ancestral land in Piedra, not far from Fresno, where he had lived for more than three decades. Since 1991 Hank had lived in a small house, owned by United California Citrus, which was situated on land that had once belonged to his tribe. His former boss, Mo Zuckerman, insisted that the now-retired Hank stayed rent-free. Hank's mother, Emma, was the last princess of her tribe, and lived to the grand old age of 106: the family maintained that she was actually 109. She outlived all but four of her nine children.

Although Hank/Choi’s performance might seem a little harsh to Western ears, the sentiment is pretty special: “When I’m dead, I don’t want you to cry or grieve for me… I only ask for you to be merciful and kind.”


Download Day HERE

Download Heart HERE

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