The Eagles song Don Henley wrote about Native American rights

Don Henley swore to “go Michener with it” while penning “The Last Resort,” in reference to the long epics written by American novelist James A. Michener that revolve around stories of generational families. Glenn Frey referred to the 1976 song as “Henley’s opus” because of how strong Henley’s lyrics were at the time the Eagles were writing songs for Hotel California. The song examines the human cost of capitalist greed, highlighting the persecution of Native Americans and the devastation of their land, while also challenging America’s racist past.

When Frey reflected on the song’s creation on In the Studio with Redbeard, he said that the band was very concerned about environmental issues at the time because they had been involved in anti-nuclear campaigns. Henley also saw the song as the ideal way to explore the album’s many disparate themes. Frey recalled, “It was the first time that Don, on his own, took it upon himself to write an epic story. [He] found himself as a lyricist with that song, kind of outdid himself.”

The Native American concept of reverence for the land was mentioned in his lyrics: “People were smilin’ / They spoke about the red man’s way / And how they loved the land.” He then told a straightforward account of how white colonists colonized the area, saying, “Some rich men came and raped the land / Nobody caught ’em.”

In a 1987 Rolling Stone interview, Henley reflected on his career and said that “The Last Resort” was one of his favorite songs. He said, “That’s because, I care more about the environment than about writing songs about drugs or love affairs or excesses of any kind. The gist of the song was that when we find something good, we destroy it by our presence – by the very fact that man is the only animal on earth that is capable of destroying his environment.”

Henley was motivated to create the song at the time by the historical “rape and pillaging of the West by mining, timber, oil, and cattle interests,” the effects of which are being felt today. He said, “We’re constantly screwing up paradise, and that was the point of the song – that at some point there is going to be no more new frontiers.”

He added, “I mean we’re putting junk into space now. There’s enough crap floating around the planet that we can’t even use so it just seems to be our way. It’s unfortunate but that is sort of what happens.”

In order to further advance the environmental cause, Henley not only discussed these worries on “The Last Resort,” but also founded a number of nonprofit organizations, including the non-profit Caddo Lake Institute and the Walden Woods Project. He said, “The environment is the reason I got into politics: to try to do something about what I saw as the complete destruction of most of the resources that we have left. We have mortgaged our future for gain and greed.”



Leave a Comment