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Conscience and the Constitution

"Song of Cheyenne"

Original English Translation

Song of Cheyenne

by Eddie Yanagisako and Kenroku Sumida
Translated by Violet Kazue de Cristoforo

Aloha, Cheyenne -- inside the cage
Finally, seven men are living here,
Whiskers are shaggy --
Who has the longest?

Aloha, Laramie County, Wyoming.
Eight o'clock in the morning -- at night, rumbling,
Poker games and gambling Hana cards.
Before sleeping -- foolish talk.

Aloha, Heart Mountain. I long for you.
Don't know when I'll be back.
Pork sausage from messhall.
Caused diarrhrea -- running.

Aloha, Heart Mountain, I love thy sky.


Awaiting trial in the Cheyenne County Jail, the resisters found themselves eating wild game: moose, deer, and tule elk. The jailers provided the groceries and the resisters did their own cooking, but not all the resisters enjoyed the rich diet. Scrawled on a scrap of paper were the lyrics for a song we found in the camp papers of resister James Kado.

Our translator, Violet Kazue de Cristoforo, a tanka poet in her own right, noted that the authors must be Hawaiian due to the formal structure and the use of "aloha." We believed it was a poem, but when we gave it to Mako, the founder of East/West Players in Los Angeles and an Academy Award nominee, he recognized the meter as that of an Issei work song, "Hore Hore Bushi," which would be sung by Hawaiian plantation workers as they cut the sugar cane. Both Kado and Yanagisako confirm the song was meant to be sung, not recited. It is this song which is heard in the documentary.


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