A portion of this song is quoted on page 16 of the printed Heritage Songbook.
Voulez-vouz écouter chanter
Une chanson de vérité?
Le dixneuf de juin la bande des Bois-Brûlés
Sont arrivés comme des braves guerriers.
En arrivant à la Grenouillère
Étant sur le point de débarquer
Tout aussitôt bous avons déviré
J’avons agi comme des gens d’honneur,
Le Gouverneur qui était enragé
Le Gouverneur qui se croit empereur,
Il s’est trompé, il s’est fait tuer
Si vous aviez vo tous ces Anglais
Qui en a composé la chanson?
Come and you will hear me sing
A song of a true and a brave thing.
The nineteenth of June our band of Brule Boys,
Arrived like soldiers full of joy.
When we arrived upon Frog Plain,
We were about to ride away,
An envoy then we did send
The governor thinks he’s an emperor,
For his mistake with his life he paid;
You should have seen those Englishmen
Who is the singer of this song?
This is a song of the Métis — the French-speaking people who arose from the interbreeding of French and Indians in Canada. They were largely outcast from the society of English Canada, and tried to make their own way in the western part of Canada — first in what is now called Manitoba, later in Saskatchewan.
Unfortunately, the English were always pushing them — first with the establishment of Winnipeg, then as railroads let farmers move into the lands of Saskatchewan and Alberta. At one stage of the conflict, quite a few Métis ended up in the upper Red River Valley area of Minnesota.
Sometimes the Métis yielded ground; sometimes they fought back. In the end, the fighting would destroy them; they were slaughtered at the Battle of Batoche (May 12, 1885) and their leader, Louis Riel, was executed. Bill Gallaher wrote a very beautiful song about this, “The Last Battle,” recorded by Gordon Bok on his CD “In the Kind Land” (Timberhead Records, THD CD11). But that song is not traditional, and it dates from a time when the Métis were no longer in Manitoba and Minnesota.
This song comes from an earlier stage of the conflict between English Canadians and Métis; it comes from a time when western Canada was still ruled by the two great British trading companies, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Company. Neither was above using the Métis to raid the others’ outposts — which is what happened here: the song refers to a conflict that took place June 19, 1816 near Fort Douglas on the Red River. The Métis soldiers of the Northwest Company (who called themselves Bois-Brûlés after their relatively dark skins) fought a force from the Hudson’s Bay company and defeated it completely.
Pierre Falcon, the author of this piece, was a witness to the conflict, and reportedly wrote it on the night of the battle. The Métis name is Chanson de la Genouillère, the “Song of Frog Plain.” It is known as Falcon’s Song because it became famous — probably the most famous of all the Métis songs. Although it refers to an inter-company conflict (soon to be cleared up when the companies merged), it became a song of Métis pride and independence.
Source: The French words and tune are from Edith Fowke, Alan Mills, and Helmut Blume, Canada’s Story in Song, p. 122. The translation combines portions of several verses to reduce the song from ten verses to eight.