“Snow melting mountain. Snow melting mountain. Mountain rock, cliff point water zigzagging down the mountain."
(Shoshone Springtime song.)
It's [it means] something like the snow on the mountains melting on those rocks that slide, cliff-like down the mountain.
When you sing that song, when you dance, Mother Nature's going to give you all the berries, They're going to grow good. And water too. There's those songs and dances. Our place looks really good. That's what that means. It makes things grow – it makes the seeds grow. I heard the Nevada people have that dance all the time.“ - Emily Hill, Eastern Shoshone
My grandparents always talked about how to start your day. For hundreds of years my ancestors lived and taught the generations about morning prayers and practices. My grandparents taught me about the importance of water and the way water gives us life. I always sleep with a glass of water close to me or close to my head, to keep my dreams pure and clean. Water is pure and life-giving. Every morning I get up before the sun comes up, drink a little bit of water, and then I wash my face, praying with the water, praying with the spirit of the water to help me get ready for the day. I ask the spirit of the water to cleanse and wash me; mind, body and spirit. When I'm done then I go get my gopi, my coffee going. As I pour water over the coffee grounds and watch it slowly saturate the grounds and drip into my coffee cup, I sing a Shoshone morning song. The song is used to greet the sun when it is just coming light and when everything is waking up; the water, land, plants, birds, or relatives two legged and four legged ones are waking up. Then I jump in the shower and pray and sing our ceremony songs. Then I get dressed, pray over some oatmeal and then I give thanks for our food, our water, our family and home and all of our relations. Finally, I offer a little water to the earth, so that she has water too and so that our ancestors that have crossed over also are blessed.
What I'm really doing is seeding my day, my life with prayers and gratitude. I am setting those prayers out in front of me as I walk into my day. As we say in ceremony, I am walking in a sacred manner, walking with my prayer, carrying it like a precious infant. It's more than something we say, approaching “all of our relations” like the water, the earth, remembering our home and our ancestors, it's woven into all that we do. And these practices set the day for us to remember what we value most, to remember the value of life. We remember humbleness. We remember that we live because they share life with us in the way of air, water, meat, berries, and an understanding of how to live.
I try to be humble with my life, and I try not to walk on top of my prayers and be grateful with what the Creator has given me. When the sun comes up, it’s giving us another chance to honor life and try to get it right today, whatever it is. My understanding is we must work on our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional parts every day, no part our lives is better or worse than the other, you can't separate the parts of our lives. You can't separate physicality from spirituality. It’s all connected! Every step we take connects with the earth, and with all of life. The beautiful songs from our winged relatives, the sounds of our four-legged relatives moving on the earth. They remind us that they were here before us and we should learn from them, not to harm or hurt them and to grateful.
Everything has a spirit, and if, it has a spirit it has a life. I try to stay humble on a daily basis and stay away from the disease called ego. I try to remember my place, to walk before, but behind my prayer. One of my spiritual practices is to eat last at gatherings or ceremonies, it helps me to remember the importance of staying humble and to put others in front of myself. Life isn't centered around us, but we move with Life.
I remember, as a young person, I wouldn’t get up early sometimes, My Grandma told me, get up and greet the sun, don’t sleep all day because when you cross over to the spiritual side, you will sleep forever! I understand her words and what she meant now, years later. She also told me about the water, to share with the earth and offer some water to our earth, but, do it in a gentle way, because she is gentle with us. The Shoshone people use water as a medicine or they call it a doctor water because it heals us, it’s powerful and strong, you cannot breakwater. That's why we sing and pray with it. Our songs and dances help us to remember these practices and teachings.
During this new season where life is bursting and the water flows down from the mountains and as families gather together for Springtime ceremonies, I pray that we remember to live humbly and in gratitude knowing that each of us matters as much as the next and that our lives are not separate but connected with the earth and to one another.
Wishing you and yours many new beginnings,
Ted “Bear” Jackson
Native American Spiritual Leader
Mule Creek State Prison
Folsom State Prison