Kathleen Hooper, singing with LVDY at the Marquis Theatre, Denver, January, 2020
Witness Post: Songs Tell Us Who We Are
In this time of Covid-19, everyone has to get creative to keep honing their craft and making a living. Our daughter, Kathleen, has been supplementing her down time from her band, LVDY, by giving singing lessons to aspiring speakers and singers from age 6 to 76. She invites each of her pupils to develop their own mantra and chant, as a part of claiming their voice. The process is a combination of Buddhist guttural chanting and powerfully moving word play. The repetition of the song, like ancient chants, seems to be cathartic and powerful. Those who find their chant quickly are just as astonished as those who take longer to find their voice. It is a sacred tradition with deep, human roots.
According to Charlie Knight, a Ute Medicine Man, “Everyone has a song. God gives it to us. That is how we know who we are. Our song tells us who we are…If you know my song, you know Charlie.” In the book Wisdomkeepers, Knight recalled, “You’ve got to hear the little person to learn the songs.”
When Knight was a boy, he went up to Sleeping Ute Mountain to pray and ask God for a song. He climbed a long time and got so tired, he went to sleep. Then God came to him in a dream. “He sings [my] song.” When Knight wakes up, he remembers the song. “The little person helps me remember. Little person is inside me.” Knight taps his chest with his index finger. “In here. He is always there, even now.”
Sleeping Ute Mountain, Cortez, CO
And there are other songs, different songs for different things: songs for dancing, songs for singing, songs for healing. That is where the Medicine comes in.
Every sickness takes a different song. Knight recalls, “You tune the water drum differently for each song. Little person inside you tells you what song to sing. Little person comes from God, teaches the medicine man the songs he knows. You got to hear the little person to learn the songs.”
When Knight was in his early 30’s he had a vision. He discovered his healing song. Knight lay on his back on the ground, hands out. In the vision the Creator came down, like a big light. “There’s light coming out and He’s got angels all around him, all made of light.” The Creator came down and touched him on his hands, then He taught him his healing song and taught him how to heal. “He taught me how to use the eagle feather to find the sick place in a person.” Through sacred rituals, and repetition, the power of healing comes through Knight to his people.
“Everyone’s got to find the right path,” says Knight. “You can’t see it, so it’s hard to find. No one can show you. Each person’s got to find the path by [themselves].”
Along with the drums and the singing, Charlie burns cedar and sage. He allows the smoke to clear the space of unwanted spirits. “Smoke keeps the stick people away. I think they’re looking for you!” Smudging is a way to protect people for awhile, so they can escape to safety. It is critical to have time for the song.
Kathleen is onto something. She may not be a Medicine Woman, she may be a guide helping others find their little person. Perhaps she is tapping the wisdom of the ages, and the secrets are being revealed to her clients through their own bodies in song.
 Arden, Harvey & Wall, Steve, Wisdomkeepers: Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders, Beyond Words Publishing, 1990.
 Sleeping Ute Mountain towers over Towaoc and the Montezuma Valley. In Ute oral history, the Legend has it that this is a Great Warrior God who had come to fight against evil ones causing much trouble. A great battle ensued, and the Warrior God was hurt, so he laid down and fell into a deep sleep. The Warrior God lies with arms crossed on his chest to this day. He will wake again and show man how his mistakes have hurt Mother Earth.