The Cultural Conservancy - Mojave Creation Songs
|Wally Antone occupation – Wally Antone (Quechan) at the
Ward Valley occupation. Photograph by Philip M. Klasky
These songs help to protect our lands. They are a map of our sacred territory. We sung the songs at our gatherings to educate people and to protect ourselves. Each song tells a story. Our Creation Songs come from Spirit Mountain and tells about the Almighty. We will always be under attack by the federal government, we will always need to prove that this is our land, just like the older days when they displaced us.
-- Mojave elder and spiritual leader Llewellyn Barrackman
The Storyscape Project was founded in 1998 to assist the Mojave people in the preservation of their sacred Creation Songs. The Mojave Creation Songs are used for memorials and contain a 525 song cycle describing the origins of the Mojave people, teaching from their creator and spirit mentors and describe a physical and spiritual landscape as for guide the Mojave people. The Creation Songs assist the deceased in their sacred journey and serve as a spiritual bond for the Mojave.
As an environmental activist, Storyscape Project Director Phil Klasky worked with the Colorado River Indian Tribes Tribes (Fort Mojave, Quechan, Cocopah, Chemehuevi and Colorado River Indian Tribes) in the successful battle against the proposed Ward Valley nuclear waste dump.
As a result of his collaboration and friendship with Mojave elders and as part of his graduate studies in Cultural Geography, Klasky studied Mojave Bird Songs and Creation Songs to understand their role in protecting the land rights and indigenous cultures of Colorado River Indian tribes.
Songs are the maps, libraries and spiritual core for indigenous cultures around the world. The geographic aspect of the songs are multi-dimensional in purpose, meaning and levels of reality. Mojave Creation Songs are both physical and spiritual maps of ancestral territory that lead the ancient traveler to places of food, water, medicines and sacred sites where stories reside in the landscape. The Creation Songs travel from Avi Kwa Me (Spirit Mountain) located at Mt. Newberry, Nevada to Avi Kwahath (Greasy Mountain) at South Mountain, Arizona and relate the teachings of the spirit mentors of the Mojave people.
|Llewelyn with football – Llewellyn Barrackman holds a photograph of the
Fort Mojave Football Team including his uncle Emmett Van Fleet.
Photograph by Sandra Wong Geroux.
Mojave elder Emmett Van Fleet was the last of the Mojave Creation Song singers. In 1972, Van Fleet was recorded by amateur ethnographer Guy Tyler and they produced a set of thirteen reel-to-reel tapes of the Creation Song cycle complete with a description of the songs in the Mojave language. Van Fleet bequeathed the Creation Songs to Llewellyn and Betty Barrrackman, Mojave elders, culture keepers and tribal leaders. These precious songs lay dormant for nearly forty years until the Barrackmans asked the Storyscape Project for help in preserving the aging recordings so that they may once again come into voice. Klasky took the aging reel-to-reel tapes to the University of California at Berkeley to transfer them onto to compact discs for the exclusive use of the Barrackmans and returned to the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation to record Mr. Barrackman’s translation of the Creation Songs from Mojave to English. These recordings are a Rosetta Stone of Mojave, proto-Mojave and English and are archived along with a transcript of the translation at the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley.