Haida drinking song

nawitka hayu masi (many thanks indeed) to Rein “snas” Stamm for noticing a Jargon song we hadn’t spotted previously.

It’s on a 1986 album from the Smithsonian Institution’s Folkways label titled “Haida: Indian Music of the Pacific Northwest“.

The song, titled “Haida Drinking Song” on the album, has its lead sung by the famous Kwakwaka‘wakw carver Mungo Martin, a known skilled speaker of Chinook Jargon, which makes this quite a nice find. It was apparently recorded in 1951.

My impression solidifies: Haida folks, once they decided to learn CJ, which was supposedly quite some time after they were exposed to, really took to the language as a creative medium.

We’ve been finding such a large number of Haida-associated Jargon songs that I think you could refer to a Haida genre of them.

Dipping into today’s “drinking song”:

At roughly 1:03 in the song, the lyrics switch from Haida/vocables to Chinuk Wawa.

I’m hearing these words (I use *asterisk to show uncertainty):

(vocables (song syllables))

nawitka mayka tlosh təmtəm kapa nayka
nawítka mayka (t)łúsh-tə́mtəm kʰapa náyka
indeed you(singular) good-heart to me
‘You sure are good-hearted to me;’

nixwa maykas təmtəm pa(t)łach ey(t)łas* nayka 
níxwa mayka-s [1] tə́mtəm pá(t)łach éy(t)łas* [2] náyka
please you(singular)-POSSESSIVE* heart give drink* me
‘How do you feel about giving me a drink*?’

ałqi wax̣ nayka kakwa
áłqi wə́x̣(t) nayka kákwa
eventually also I that.way
‘In a while I’ll do the same.’



háw’aa* ‘yaa*! [3]
thank.you* how.strange* 

‘Thanks*! My oh my*!’


mayka-s [1]: Documented sporadically in what I broadly label the northern dialect of Chinook Jargon is the apparent English-language-style suffixation of -s onto personal pronouns, to make a Possessive form. For example, George Shaw’s 1909 dictionary discusses this pattern. This may be the first time I’ve found it “in the wild”. 

éy(t)łas* [2]: Not a known Chinuk Wawa word, this has a Haida-language sound to my ears; in the Sealaska dictionary, I find a similar verbal root, níihl ‘to drink O’ (i.e. it always has a direct Object). I welcome the input of Haida experts here and on the following footnote!

háw’aa* ‘yaa*! [3]: My readers may already have recognized this sequence from our recent discussions of Haida-influenced BC Jargon songs that Franz Boas published. Folks frequently punctuated their lyrics with Haida exclamations, and we’ve seen ‘yaa ‘how strange’ used this way. Háw’aa ‘thank you’ is new to us in these songs, but I feel pretty fair confidence in perceiving that it’s present. 

Another observation — if I’m not mistaken, “pop songs” like this one are exceptional in that they’re not owned by anyone. That’s in contrast to songs that convey traditional knowledge, ones that are used in ceremonies, and so forth, which (in my outsider understanding) are definitely the property of one person or family.

In the album’s liner notes I find the following musical transcription of today’s song:

haida drinking song 01

haida drinking song 02

You can see that the scholar who collected and analyzed these songs for the album, Ida Halpern, doesn’t show recognition that Chinuk Wawa is involved. In fact I’m not aware that she spoke CW, judging from other material from in print and on audio records.

ida halpern

Ida Halpern, escapee from the Nazis & first Canadian woman to hold a doctorate in musicology (image credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t find this song in John Enrico & Wendy Bross Stuart’s 1996 book “Northern Haida Songs”, and that’s perhaps no big surprise. Mungo Martin, a Vancouver Island resident, may have had more contact with Haida Gwaii people than with northern (that is, Alaskan) Haidas.

In any event, today’s song is recognizably in the genre of north coast Chinuk Wawa songs that we’ve seen so many of on this website.

What do you think?