The Ballad of Ira Hayes

"The Ballad of Ira Hayes" is a folk song by Peter La Farge. Ira Hayes was a Pima Native American and one of the Marines in the famous photo from Iwo Jima. However, following his heroic deeds during World War II, Hayes battled alcoholism and an unhappy life on a reservation in America.

Date: 1963Composer: Peter La FargeText: Peter La Farge

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The Ballad of Ira Hayes
by Peter La Farge

Ira Hayes, call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinkin’ Indian
Nor the Marine that went to war.

Gather round me people, a story I will tell
About a brave young Indian you should remember well
From the tribe of the Pima Indian
A proud and peaceful band
Who farmed the Phoenix valley in Arizona land.

Down the ditches for a thousand years
The sparkling water rushed
‘Till the white man stole their water rights
And their running water hushed

Now Ira’s folks were hungry
Their farm grew crops of weeds
But when war came, he volunteered
And forgot the white man’s greed


Call him drunken Ira Hayes
He won’t answer anymore
Not the whiskey drinkin’ Indian
Nor the Marine that went to war

Spoken: They started up Iwo Jima hill,
Two hundred and fifty men
But only twenty-seven lived
To walk back down again

And when the fight was over
And Old Glory raised
Among the men who held it high
Was the Indian, Ira Hayes.


Spoken: Ira Hayes returned a hero
Celebrated throughout the land
He was wined and speeched and honored;
Everybody shook his hand.

But he was just a Pima Indian
No money, no crops, no chance
At home nobody cared what Ira’d done
And when do the Indians dance?


Spoken: Well, Ira started drinking hard;
Jail often was his home
They let him raise the flag and lower it
As you’d throw a dog a bone!

He died drunk early one mornin’
Alone in the land he fought to save
Two inches of water in a lonely ditch
Was the grave for Ira Hayes


Yes, call him drunken Ira Hayes
But his land is still as dry
And his ghost is lyin’ thirsty
In the ditch where Ira died.

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