Introducing Judy Trejo
Song carrier Judy Trejo shares stories of her lineage as a Northern Paiute and Pitt River Indian, her ability as a child to heal wild pets, and her relationship with her great grandmother who was a healer.
This is Wisdom of the Elders. I’m Arlie Neskahi.
They say, in the old days, there were songs for every occasion, every turn of the season, every life transition. And there were songs for daily activities, like among my People, the Dine’ there were horse riding songs, corn grinding songs, songs for the weavers as they worked the loom. And just as today we use the radio to keep us company as we go about our daily lives, we sang to ourselves and one another. Can you close your eyes and imagine what a wonderful ambience… to grow up hearing your family singing all the day.Singer/historian Judy Trejo collects songs and carries them with her to teach to new generations. Trejo is a noted singer of songs of the Great Basin which spans Utah, Nevada, Southern Oregon and Southern Idaho, and in recent years has been performing and recording. She has won several awards for her releases, most notably the Indie Award for her release, Circle Dance Songs of the Paiute and Shoshone on Canyon Records.Listen with us now to master singer and teacher, Judy Trejo of the Paiute Culture.
Tuhva Tzi Buina (Pinenut Blessing Song)
Circle Dance Songs
My name is Judy Trejo – I am a..Northern Paiute, and Pitt River…I can only tell you about the Northern Paiute side. My lineage begins in Warm Springs, Oregon. I come from a long line of chiefs beginning with Chief We-awe-wah. The other line of chiefs came from the Kwea-pa-mas.
I grew up in McDermitt, Nevada and I had a very beautiful childhood. I was born as a very crippled child. I had a twisted leg, and drug my foot. And many of the mothers did not want me to play with their children. They would say, “Oh! Here she comes. She’s got bad pets.”
All of my pets were wild animals. And I think the pet they really didn’t care for was the owl that I had, a one winged owl. All of the pets that I had were rescued either by me or somebody else that felt sorry for them.
I was told that as a very small child I had the ability to heal wild animals. The owl I rescued he was hanging on a fence by his wing, and I put on a buckskin glove, took him home. And child that I was, I put some of that orange Mercurochrome on him. And it probably burned his wing just like it did my cuts and scrapes on my knees. In the morning when I went to check on him, his wing was just hanging by a thread. So I cut it off. And he became very tame, but he rode on my dogs’ backs when I went someplace. And I always from the time I was two years old, had a magpie and a crow that walked along behind me.
The Elders were the only people that accepted me. They didn’t call my pets bad and to translate what they called me, they called me “Puh-hud-sa-a” which meant a “Holy Girl” And probably I wasn’t very holy because I was very mischievous.
I retired from teaching school in 1996, and without realizing it, I started another career. Canyon Records offered me a contract to record our Native Circle Dance songs. And they kind of stuck out their neck by recording me. They’d never recorded Circle Dance Songs before. Neither had anybody else. And by some fickle finger of fate, it won the Indie Award. It won the Best Traditional in the Northwest Continent.
A couple of years later, I recorded songs from Owens Valley, California and that won me the Best Historical Record, and that one I got at the Native American Music Awards, called the Nammies.
Weather Song (Circle Dance Song)
Album: Circle Dance Songs
And since my first recording was released, I live pretty much on the road. And in spare time, I am working on two books. One is about my great-grandmother who was a healer. She died in 1954, at the age of 113. And the other is a book about my boarding school years. And the first few chapters are very interesting, because you’re looking through the eyes of a five-year-old girl.
And, I would like to share with you, a name that a great-grandmother called me. She couldn’t say Judy, and the nearest she could pronounce was “Chaudy.” She used two canes when she walked. And she would walk at least, I think it was 5 miles using two canes. And when she got very close to the house, she would start hollering “Chaudy!
Taheebvu Chaudy!” And I would be sent down to get her by the hand, and lead her up to the house. And she’d spend the day, pampering and spoiling me, which I really liked. I still like to be pampered and spoiled.
But the word Taheebvu is your maternal great-grandmother. And it also means great-grandchild. I shared the name with my own children and very seldom do they call me “mom” Even my grandchildren refer to me: “Oh! Chaudy’s on!” If they put a CD of mine on, “I’m gonna sing with Chaudy!” You’ll probably be hearing about Chaudy, or you’ll probably be hearing about Taheebvu. Because this eventually is what I would be – I will be some child’s great-grandmother, something I’m looking forward to.
Keith Secola and Wild Band of Indians
We’ll be hearing more from Paiute singer Judy Trejo in the weeks to come.
We are grateful to have some wonderful teachers here at Wisdom of the Elders. The healing traditions are some of the very foundation of our spirituality. They are teachings that maintain and affirm our relationship to the Spirit People of the Land.
I’m Arlie Neskhai.