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Invoking the Spirits of Our Ancestors:

Mojave elder Llewellyn Barrackman vice!chairman of the "ri#e a#out the importance of the
songs$ %"he songs help to protect our lands$ "hey are a map of our sacred territory$ &e sung the
songs at our gatherings to educate people and to protect ourselves$ 'ach song tells a story$ Our
(reation Songs come from Spirit Mountain and tells a#out the Almighty$) Mojave Bird Songs
and (reation Songs are #oth real and metaphorical maps of ancestral territory that lead the
ancient traveler to places of food water medicines and sacredness where teachings reside in the
"he intimate dance #etween land and culture is still practiced in the *orth American Southwest
where patches of wildlands and pockets of native peoples survive$ +ederal land use policies and
decisions have often failed to comprehend this connection or have sought to su#vert it$
"he loss of language is an intimate destroyer vanishing story meaning perception and spiritual
knowledge$ +or people with oral traditions the loss of language is like a fire in the li#rary
leaving pieces of an intricate pu,,le$ But somehow language stories and songs endure$ (ulture
#earers teachers artists and ethnographic recordings provide a map that new generations can
sing giving new meanings to old traditions new life to ancestral guides$ "he songs descri#e the
personal the natural and supernatural landscape in a multi!dimensional reality that Salt Song
singers say ena#le them to fly from place to place$ Like the hot spings at -oo .a Bah flowing
through desert rock the songs nourish healing and transformation$ "he last four Salt Songs aid
the spirit into the ne/t world !! a sacred ritual performed for one and as a service to the whole$
"oday the songs are providing the gift of unity connecting the past with the present uniting
peoples people with the land and the land with our future$ 0
%&e1ve #een here for thousands of years) an elder e/plained %And even if you move to Ohio or
2enver or wherever you move the &estern Shoshone will still #e here #ut what the 3nited
States will leave for us is polluted land) 4interview 55 Octo#er 5667894. 7508
%"he stories that have surfaced however are powerful #ecause they portray a
thoroughly humani,ed version of the :reat Basin that counters popular percep!
tions$ "he Reno Gazette-Journal issued a series of articles on the Shoshone %Spirit
;un) an annual event during which tri#al mem#ers travel a 57o!mile encirclement
of the *evada "est Site to make visi#le their opposition to the <ucca Mountain
project$ ;unners carry an 0!foot eagle staff an average of 7= miles each day followed
#y others who plant willow #ranches adorned with ri##on flags in the six Shoshone
sacred colors$ "he occasion provides an opportunity for a#original people to com!
municate their deep attachments to the land and there#y challenge interpretations
of the #asin as a place for waste$) =>>
Behind the prayer circle the wooden frame of a sweat lodge stood as another visi#le reminder of
continued American Indian presence in the area$ We come up here twice a year to warn the
people, the public, that this is not a safe place to put nuclear rods, (or#in said We come
up here and try to warn the public and protest what they are doing to the land and to us.
So much death caused by radiation 4interview 5? *ovem#er 566789 the land has #een
closed to the pu#lic since the 3S government #egan testing atomic weapons there in the early
@?=6s9 "he spirit runs are an e/ample of this #ecause they are pu#lic enactments of contested
history around land use and social justice in the American &est$ "he pu#lic enactment of the
spirit runs drew attention to the intersections #etween internal coloni,ation the cycle of nuclear
production and the importance of land justice$) 750
The animist intersubjective worldview not only blurs the boundaries between mountain
and snake, but also assumes both are animate beings.
%Other Shoshone and -aiute opponents of the <ucca Mountain site e/press concern over putting
nuclear waste in <ucca Mountain #ecause of the emotional effect it will have on the spirits of the
plants animals and the mountain itself$)4A@?78
%In these comments the air the earth and the ecosystem are seen as sensing #eings$ Based on
what we know a#out the animist intersu#jective #eliefs of the Shoshone and -aiute stating that
the earth air and other #eings are alive implies that they are also sensing #eings capa#le of
interactive relationships with humans$)
%By discussing the spirits and #eings that dwell in the area an implied comparison is made
#etween human and non!human #eings$ 3nderstanding animist intersu#jectivity as a cultural
presumption that places human and non!human #eings within the same category of sensing
#eings provides important conte/t for evaluating and understanding these arguments$)
%More #roadly Shoshone and -aiute arguments e/press the concept that the earth is a living
#eing and that harm to the earth from nuclear waste ripples throughout all life on earth$) 4A@?>8
&estern cultural perspectives that fall with in the human control over nature portion of
Aluckholn and Strodt#eck1s continuum$ "his view Bis characteristic of the &estern approach1
that Bhas a long tradition of valuing technology change and science1 and #elieves Bthat nature
was something that could and had to #e mastered$1 4A@0C8
2espite not knowing a#out the causal
relationship #etween the components the Indian person will assert with
an assurance derived from his 4or her8 epistemological system that
removing the gravel will affect the tortoise$ 4Stouffle @58
&estern science is #ased upon an epistemological premise that
knowledge a#out the world and its components derives from evidence that
one component is measura#ly related to another$ 4@58
western scientists and American Indian people have
diametrically opposite views of the world$ "o western scientists the world
as a whole is not confidently understood #ut gradually #ecomes known #y
analysis of the interrelationships of its components$ "o Indian people the
whole world is confidently known #ut the interrelationship #etween some
of the components may not #e understood$ 4@>8