Newe Hupia: Shoshoni Poetry Songs

Newe Hupia: Shoshoni Poetry Songs

Newe Hupia: Shoshoni Poetry Songs

Newe Hupia: Shoshoni Poetry Songs


This collection presents written texts of songs in Shoshoni and English, with both figurative and literal translations, and is packaged with a CD containing performances of the songs by Earl and Beverly Crum. The songs fall into several categories based on the contexts of their performances, such as dance songs, medicine songs, and handgame songs. The texts are framed with an introduction and commentary discussing the cultural background, meaning, forms, and performance contexts of the songs; Shoshoni language; and methodology. Glossaries of Shoshoni terms are appended. As the first major linguistic study of Shoshoni songs, Newe Hupia is an important contribution to scholarship. It also marks a significant achievement in the preservation of an important aspect of Shoshoni language and culture. And it has literary value as a presentation of Shoshoni verse and aesthetics. Furthermore, many readers and listeners will find the songs to be lyrical, pleasing to the ear, and evocative of the natural world.


This work is a collection of Newe hupia ‘Shoshoni poetry songs’, which celebrate the traditional Shoshoni hunting and gathering lifeway and world view. For centuries the ancestors of the Shoshoni lived in the Great Basin and surrounding areas of what is now the western United States, moving seasonally from place to place harvesting various roots, berries, grains, pinenuts, herbs, and game animals. the poetry songs are rich in describing this way of life, which is intimately connected to the natural world. Today, Shoshoni people still sing these songs celebrating the traditional lifeway.

From the Shoshoni perspective, nearly everything in life and nature is sacred and worthy of being put to song. Thus, many songs are about specific details of nature such as animals, plants, and geographical and meteorological phenomena. They are also about traditional human activities such as hunting game and gathering and preparing foods, as well as spiritual practices and themes. On the one hand, the poetry songs are a traditional art form for the enjoyment of all who sing and hear them. On the other hand, they are used to help people learn about the specific details of nature, which are extremely important for people living in a hunting and gathering lifeway.

The themes of Shoshoni poetry songs are often not what either songs or poetry might be about in the modern Western tradition. the beauty of the lyrics of the songs lies in their simplicity and their power to capture details of nature and human existence that some of us may overlook or not pay much attention to. the poetry songs offer us a fresh look at the world, making the familiar vivid and alive. They give us insight and invoke clear imagery of the ordinary yet wondrous world we live in, expressing the experience of seeing the world as it is.

The poetry songs invoke imagery rather than describe it. in fact, elaborate description is avoided, and the songs use as few words as possible. Thus, the poetry songs are minimalist, simply illuminating the wonders of everyday life and celebrating its sacredness. the imagery is what is important, and so what is invoked is to some degree individual. Different singers of the same song and different people listening to it may have different interpretations. Each person has his or her own experience in the world, and so different interpretations of a given song are possible. What is important is taking . . .

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