Different cultures around the world perform different ways on how to take care of a deceased loved one. The Southern Paiutes have their traditional way of taking care of the body and its spirit. In the Paiute way we don’t call it a funeral, it is known as the cry ceremony or simple called a sing. During the cry ceremony there are singers and dancers. This is a 142-cycle song singing, the songs are called salt songs. When a person passes away the ceremony is held where that person is from, for example when a Shivwits member passes there cry ceremony is held on the Shivwits Paiute Indian Reservation. The Southern Paiutes all participate in the cry ceremony, not just one group, the whole Paiute nation will gather together and sing and all will dance, these songs are about sacred places and animals. The spirit will follow a trail from one scared place to the next, the trail the spirit follows is called the Salt Song Trail. Dancers will dance and the singers sing this helps get the spirit to the next life. Out of all the songs the last four songs are the most important.
The sing is an all-night ceremony, people from all over the Paiute nation come to help the family going through the difficult time. During the sing men are on one side women on the other, on the men’s side they hold a gourd or a rattle. During the ceremony people will get up and share stories about the person some are about their life and accomplishments, nothing but good things are said. When the songs are sung people will walk down the middle holding pictures or belongings of the deceased one. This is what happens in the cry ceremony, during the ceremony no pictures or audio recordings are allowed.
The reason why we the southern Paiutes do this ceremony is to help the spirit travel to the next world. The spirit is going to travel on the Salt Song Trail, the songs make the journey easier for the spirit to get to the finale crossing. When people go down the middle this to makes it an easy path for the spirit. Without the song and dance the spirit will have a difficult journey. The songs are called cry songs because you’re supposed to let out all your emotions during the ceremony.
After the all night ceremony the last four songs are sung, this is when the spirit makes the jump from this world to the other side.
My family and I participate in this ceremony. This ceremony is very strict and there are a lot of rules, some people don’t understand why this ceremony is so special. This is our culture this makes us who we are. This ceremony is the only one that we Paiute people perform. We have to keep this ceremony alive, and I hope that all the young people of the Paiute nation learn these songs and understand why this is an important custom to who we are. When I participate I feel good inside knowing that I’m helping someone. When I sing the songs it gives me a feeling of importance and realizing that I can’t let these songs die. I pray and hope that the youth will come to their senses and realize that these songs and dances are very important.
I asked my grandmother, who is a Kaibab Paiute and one of the traditional singers about what the songs mean, and why they are important and she said this quote:
These songs are very powerful. They are the songs that are going to unite our people again. It’s going to be a spiritual awakening of the Native American people, especially other Paiute people. It has to happen. It has been prophesized. How do you stop prophecy? You can’t stop prophecy. -- Vivienne Caron Jake