Chinuk Wawa in a Stó:lō hymn book (Part 6)


(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Right up front, I want to praise the translators of this song for their punctuation…

…Punctuation is so often chaotic in old Chinook Jargon documents, but it’s an actual help here.

So much care went into it that the 3-man translating team even anticipated the Grand Ronde dictionary and my own favored practice, joining words into idioms with dashes. So < klosh-nanitsh > and < konaway-iktah > below become much more quickly understandable for the average reader.

Here’s a Protestant hymn that’s well-known beyond church walls; plenty of country-music artists have recorded this one. Probably you’d recognize the tune.

sweet bye



Nika kumtux ikt klosh illahie,
nayka kə́mtəks íxt (t)łúsh(-)ílihi, [1]
I know one.certain good(-)land, 
‘I know a certain good place,’
     Kah Jesus, nesika Savior, mitlite;
     qʰá(x̣) djísəs*, nsayka séyviya* [2], míłayt;
     where Jesus, our savior, be.located;

     ‘where Jesus, our savior, lives;’
Yahka mamook klahowyum nesika,
yaka mamuk-łax̣áwyam nsayka,
he make-pitiful us, 

‘He takes pity on us,’
     Yahka kwansum klosh-nanitsh nesika.
     yaka kwánsəm (t)łúsh-nánich nsayka.
     he always good-watch us.
‘He always takes care of us.’ 

     Alkie chako klosh nesika tumtum,
     áłqi chako-(t)łúsh nsayka tə́mtəm, 
     eventually become-good our heart; 
     ‘Bye and bye we’ll become happy,’
     Kahta-laylie nesika chako saghalie-illahie.
     qʰáta-líli [3] nsayka cháku Ø sáx̣ali-ílihi.
     how-long.time we come to above-land.
‘Whenever we reach Heaven.’ 


Nesika sing kopa saghalie illahie,
nsayka síng [4] kʰupa sáx̣ali-ílihi,
we sing in above-land,
‘We’ll sing in Heaven,’
Halo chako sick tumtum nesika,
     hílu chaku-sík-tə́mtəm nsayka,
     not become-hurting-heart we,
     ‘We won’t (ever) get sad,’
Nesika praise nesika Saghalie Papa,
nsayka préys* [5] nsayka sáx̣ali-pápá,
we praise our above-father,
‘We’ll praise our Father Above,’
Yahka potlatch konaway-iktah kopa nesika
     yaka pá(t)łach kʰánawi-íkta kʰupa nsayka.
     he give all-thing to us.
‘Who gives us everything.’

Comments on the above:

íxt (t)łúsh(-)ílihi, [1] — My readers may remember that the word for ‘one’ (íxt) typically means (when you’re not actually counting stuff) ‘a certain’ or even ‘another certain’ one. My more advanced readers will also realize that the phrase < klosh illahie > (lit. ‘good land’) is the conventional way to say a ‘farm; cultivated field; meadow’ etc.; as such an idiom, I’d write it with a hyphen. But here we can take it in the generic, literal sense, as ‘a good place’.

séyviya* [2] — (Guessing this pronunciation because the translators were educated British fellas.) This is not known as a word of Jargon from other sources. It’s thrown in by the translators because they themselves used it all the time in their preaching, and because it would ruin the singability of this hymn to explain the ideas behind it. That would probably take a full sentence, I imagine, such as *< yahka mamook spose wake nesika klatawa kopa kikwillie illahie > ‘he (who) makes it so that we don’t go to hell’. Compare with Kamloops Chinuk Wawa, where they had < tolo > (literally ‘to win’) as the usual preaching-register word for ‘save’. And early-creolized Jargon around Fort Vancouver had < chako tlush > for ‘get saved’. Does either of those work any better for you??

qʰáta-líli [3] The “Indian Methodist Hymn-Book” translators liked this invented expression of theirs, literally ‘how a.long.time’. An intended meaning as a relative time (‘when(ever)’) seems inferable from the context, but I believe it would be odd and kind of puzzling to the average Jargon speaker. That said, you have to concede that it was somewhat hard to say ‘when’ in Chinuk Wawa in a way that speakers of all dialects would understand. (Bonus: another question word that was a mild headache was ‘why’.)

síng [4] — Here we get additional confirmation that the English word was in common Chinook Jargon use. We also see it at Kamloops and Grand Ronde, instead of the older French-derived sha(n)ti.

préys* [5] — I’m confident in saying hardly any singer or listener of these lyrics would understand this word, unless they were also fluent in English. Like an enormous portion of these 3 missionaries’ Chinuk Wawa, it’s really just a case of them throwing in a word from their native language instead of bothering to explain an idea they have in mind.

Summary of the above:

The grammar of this song is particularly good use of Chinuk Wawa, standing out from most other examples of these Methodist missionary-translators’ translation. Aside from a couple of foreign (i.e. literary English) words, these lyrics are solid Jargon.

We can compare them with the original 1868 English lyrics by Sanford Fillmore Bennett:


There’s a land that is fairer than day,
and by faith we can see it afar;
for the Father waits over the way
to prepare us a dwelling place there.


In the sweet by and by,
we shall meet on that beautiful shore.
In the sweet by and by,
we shall meet on that beautiful shore.


We shall sing on that beautiful shore
the melodious songs of the blest;
and our spirits shall sorrow no more,
not a sigh for the blessing of rest.

It’s clear that the Chinook Jargon translation departs really far from the original’s ideas. But that’s probably worth it, to achieve a strong CJ text.

What do you think?
Kata maika tumtum?