River of the Big Canoes

by Bob Dyer

Guitars and vocals-Cathy and Dave; vocal-Ellie; mandolin-Paul; accordion-Win

The Missouri River makes its muddy, 2,500-mile way past our hometown of Boonville, Mo., and more than anyone else, poet and historian Bob Dyer has heightened our appreciation of the place in American history and imagery. Bob deserves some credit for a wider knowledge that Missouri means "people of the big canoes," a name given those earlier river natives by the Illinois tribe. Many have thought it means "muddy water," but that is the meaning of "Pekitanoui," an Indian name for the river.

You can see her in the mountains and the melting snow,
You can see her in the falling rain.
You can see her dancing down to a thousand valleys,
And she's got at least a thousand names.

She's the spawn of the ice of another age,
River of the Big Canoes.
And she's rolling on down from the Rocky Mountains
Carrying the great plains news.

Down the Yellowstone, the Musselshell,
The Milk and the Little Mo,
The James, the Grand, the White and the Bad,
The Cheyenne and the wild Moreau.

When the Frenchmen found her she was Pekitanoui,
A muddy river, wild and free;
And they gave her the name of the people who lived there.
The people called the Missouri.

She's been a river of fur and a river of gold,
A river of crazy schemes.
She's been a steamboat wrecker and a river of coal,
A river of broken dreams.

She's a ghost in the night when the moon is full,
A spirit in the mist at dawn.
She's the light in the eye of a painter's mind,
The music in a poet's song.