A 1969 phone conversation between the legendary songwriter and a local Indigenous activist points to song’s possible origin.
It was shortly after Lillian Piché Shirt pitched her tipi in Edmonton’s Winston Churchill Square to protest insufficient Indigenous housing in 1969 that a man approached to say there was an urgent phone call waiting for her at a local radio station.
When she arrived at CJCA, she was told John Lennon was on the line. He’d seen newspaper coverage of her protest during his famous Montreal bed-in peace demonstration with Yoko Ono and wanted to learn more.
The 26-year-old Cree woman from Saddle Lake, Alta., didn’t recognize the name.
“If you had said Dag Hammarskjold (second secretary general of the United Nations), I would have understood, or Martin Luther King. But John Lennon? This didn’t ring a bell with me,” recalled Shirt.
As Shirt remembers it, Lennon told her he wanted to support her cause, asking if there was a message ...