Chinuk Wawa in a Stó:lō hymn book (Part 7)


(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I do believe they got some of their Chinook to rhyme!

That’s hard to achieve in Chinuk Wawa, so hats off to the Methodist translators of the Fraser River Mission for a minor accomplishment. It was probably culturally important to them.

Now let’s see how their translation fared…

What they were working on was the hymn “There is a Happy Land“, originally by Andrew Young (1807-1889).

In the following look at it, I use asterisks to show uncertainties. The indentations are hard to pull off in my website’s simple HTML, so forgive some wonkiness there.

there is a happy land



Mit-lite klosh illahie,
míłayt (t)łúsh [1] ílihi,
exist good place,
‘There is a good place,’
Siah, siah;
     sayá, sayá;
     far, far;
‘far away, far away;’

Kah mit-lite klosh tilikum,
qʰá(x̣) míłayt (t)łúsh tílikam, [2]
where exist good people,
‘where there are good people,’ 
Siah, Siah;
     sayá, sayá;
     far, far;
‘far away, far away;’

Oh, konaway-klaxta sing,
ó, kánawi-(t)łáksta síng, [3]
oh, all-someone sing,
‘Oh, everybody sing(s)’, 

Jesus Christ, nesika King,
djísəs* kráyst*, nsáyka kíng*, [4]
Jesus Christ, our king,
‘Jesus Christ (is) our king,’ 

Hyas nesika sing,
háyás nsáyka síng,
loud we sing,
‘we sing (it) loud,’
Kwansum, kwansum.
     kwánsəm, kwánsəm.
     always, always.
‘always, always.’ 


Klosh chako okook sun,
(t)łúsh cháku [5] úkuk sán,
good come that day,
‘Let that day come,’
Chako, chako;
     cháku, cháku;
     come, come;
‘come, come;’

Ikta kwansum moxt tumtum?
íkta kwánsəm mákwst-tə́mtəm?
what always two-heart?
‘Why always doubting?’
Chako, chako;
     cháku, cháku;
     come, come;
‘Come, come;’

Alkie nesika klosh,
áłqi nsayka (t)łúsh,
eventually we good,
‘In the future we’ll be all right,’ 
Konamoxt mika Jesus,

kánamakwst máyka(,) djísəs*,
together.with you, Jesus,
‘Together with you, Jesus,’
Kah halo sick-tumtum,
qʰá(x̣) hílu sík-tə́mtəm,
where not.any hurting-heart,
‘Where there’s no being sad,’ 
Kwansum delate.
     kwánsəm dlét. [6]
     always right.
‘always really.’


Mit-lite klosh illahie,
míłayt (t)łúsh ílihi,
exist good place,
‘There is a good place,’
Kopa saghalie;
     kʰupa sáx̣ali;
     in above;
‘up above;’

Halo klaxta sick yahwa.
hílu(-)(t)łáksta sík yawá.
not.any-someone hurting there.
‘No one is sick there.’
     Halo memaloost;

     hílu míməlust;
     not.any dead;
‘None dead;’
Oh, kwansum klosh tumtum,

ó, kwánsəm (t)łúsh-tə́mtəm,
oh, always good-heart,
‘Oh, always happy,’ 
Kwansum, kwansum konaway-sun,

kwánsəm, kwánsəm kánawi-sán,
always, always every-day,
‘Always, always every day,’
Oh, kwansum klosh tumtum
ó, kwánsəm (t)łúsh-tə́mtəm
oh, always good-heart
‘Oh, always happy’
Kopa saghalie
     kʰupa sáx̣ali
     in above
‘up above.’


míłayt (t)łúsh [1] ílihi = ‘There is a good place’, because as I’ve often observed about Chinook Jargon, you don’t talk flower in this language. In this case, it just isn’t easy or natural to say ‘a happy land’ in CJ. Unless maybe you’re personifying a locality. And even when the earth does humanlike things, like wrinkling up or swallowing people, in Native stories that I’m aware of, it never seems to have a personality. All to say that ‘a good place’ is about the closest you can really get to saying ‘happy land’ in Jargon. 

(t)łúsh tílikam [2] ‘good people’ may have been intended as ‘saints’; it’s how Catholic missionaries expressed that concept. We’ve seen the Catholics borrow a10 Commandments translation from these Methodist missionaries, so maybe the influence went both ways. 

kánawi-(t)łáksta síng [3] — in this phrase using the widely-used alternative to sha(n)ti ‘sing’, it’s hard to tell if the translators meant it as an indicative ‘everybody sings’ / ‘everybody will sing’ or a command ‘everybody sing!’

kíng* [4] J is not a well-documented word in Jargon, but I’d bet that it’s one that Native people heard plenty. 

(t)łúsh cháku [5] úkuk sán seems like it should mean ‘let that day come’, but judging by the second verse of the original English (below), it may mean a direct command ‘come today!’ Since the other possible commands in this translation don’t use (t)łúsh, it might’ve been clearer if the translators had written something more like them, such as chaku mayka ukuk san

kwánsəm dlét [6] isn’t easy to figure out either. Without extra clues, I’d take it as ‘always really (so)’, although I wouldn’t be surprised if the translators were trying for ‘always right’ as in ‘always the way things should be’. 

Summary of the preceding:

The grammar of this translated hymn is pretty fair; however, I don’t think these lyrics say what the translation team intended.

there is a happy land english

Page 26

These differ from the original English lyrics by Mr. Young:


THERE is a happy land,
Far, far away,
Where saints in glory stand,
Bright, bright as day.
O how they sweetly sing:
Worthy is our Saviour-King!
Loud let his praises ring,
Praise, praise for aye.


Come to this happy land,
Come, come away;
Why will you doubting stand,
Why still delay?
O we shall happy be
When, from sin and sorrow free,
Lord, we shall live with thee,
Blest, blest for aye.


Bright in that happy land
Beams every eye;
Kept by a Father’s hand,
Love cannot die.
On, then, to glory run;
Be a crown and kingdom won,
And bright above the sun
Reign, reign for aye.

For those with some knowledge of Stó:lõ Salish, here’s the translators’ version in that language:

there is a happy land stolo

Page 26

What do you think?