Great Basin Songs
By singing these songs of the Great Basin, one is experiencing a direct link to the ancestors who created them through their dreams.

About the Project

Traditional old-style Great Basin songs have always been transmitted orally, handed down from generation to generation. But within recent times, especially the last 30 years, many traditional songs have been lost as the younger generation has turned to western ways, or as the song carriers pass away. As a result there are precious few left who still know the songs, or who are able to pass them along. To help preserve the rich legacy and power within these songs for future generations, the songs are being written down and their meaning translated into the English language.

In many cases however, the original pronunciation has shifted over time and the true meaning has been misinterpreted. As a result NCPC has launched the Songs of the Great Basin Project in order to recover and retranslate 25 traditional Great Basin songs.

Various communities are being taught the correct pronunciation and melodies. The revised and corrected versions will eventually be available in the Judith Vander Collection of Songs at the University of Wyoming and the Idaho State University, which are attended by many Native American students.

About Traditional Songs of the Great Basin

We are told that traditional Great Basin songs have a deeper meaning beyond their literal translation. The words may be sparse and simply said, but provide a rich and varied source of information of the beliefs of the people. The songs are integral to Ceremony, bringing us to another level of reality.

The songs deal with two topics, the world of nature and the progress of the soul when it leaves the body. Within this world of nature, the songs deal with the creatures, plants, rocks, mountains, stars, sun, and water in its various forms of fog, snow, melting snow, rain, and running water that surround and sustain the newe or people of this earth.

Some songs are very ancient, going back thousands of years, and sung in the Great Basin musical style. They are true songs of the people who inhabited the vast area of high deserts and Rocky Mountains of this country. This style of singing is fast disappearing; contemporary Pow Wow music now sets the style.

By singing these songs, one is experiencing a direct link to the ancestors who created them through their dreams. Only the person who created the song so many, many years ago understood all of the song’s meanings, but if one takes the songs to heart, new meanings can be revealed that will be important to one's own life as well.