CW “The Night Before Xmas”

Happy Chinook Christmas!

chinook christmas

(Image credit: GoodReads)

From Duane Pasco’s 1990s magazine Tenas Wawa…

After some mail and email correspondence over the years, I recently met Duane for the first time when he joined our Saturday study session on Zoom. It’s a pleasure to chat with someone who was instrumental, and creative, in our current revival of the Jargon.

Here’s Duane’s text as I posted it years ago on the first CHINOOK listserv. You’ll see no analysis or commentary from me today, but I’ll add in each line of the famous poem’s original version, “A Visit from St. Nicholas“:

December 9, 1993

Happy holidays from the Sesquipedalian! We hope you enjoy this
rendition of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ as translated into Chinook
Jargon, the Northwest trade language of the 19th century, by Duane
Pasco (with accompanying translation back into English) :

Kopa polaklie elip Xmas, konaway ka keekwullie kopa house,
(On night before Xmas, everywhere inside to house,)
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Wake tillikum chako pe klatawa, hoolhool weght
(No people come and go, mouse also.)
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

Stoken, klaska midite kow kloshe kopa chimney,

(Stocking, they be tied good to chimney,)
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

Kahkwa spose klonas St. Nick chako yahwa tenas laly alki.

(Like if maybe St. Nick come there soon.)
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

Tenas tillikums mitlite waum kopa klaska bed

(Children be warm in them bed.)
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;

Klaska nanitch la suk plums keekwullie kopa klaska la tate.

(Them see sugar plums inside them head.)
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

Mama mitlite hakatshum kopa la tate pe naika mitlite moosum chapo,

(Mama have handkerchief on head and me have sleep hat,)
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

Nesaika chee mamook youtlkut moosum.

(We begin longsleep.)
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

Klahanie kopa illahee, naika kumtux kopa kwolan iktas.

(Outside on ground me hear things.)
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

Naika sopena klak bed, naika tikegh nanitch yaka.

(Me jump off bed, me want look him)
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Naika coolie hyak kopa window pe mamook hahlakl yaka.

(Me run fast to window and open him.)
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Moon kopa chee snow, yaka mamook kahkwa sun towagh kopa konaway iktas.

(Moon on new snow, him make like daylight on everything.)
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,

Naika kumtux kopa eye, ikt tenas sleigh pe stotekin tenas mowitch

(Me see one little sleigh and eight little deer and)
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

Pe ikt hyak tenas ole man.
(One big little old man.)
With a little old driver so lively and quick,

Naika kumtux hyak, yaka St. Nick, nawitka.

(Me know fast, him St. Nick, indeed.)
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

Hyak kahkwa chak-chak kawak okoke stotekin mowitch.

(Fast like eagle fly this eight deer.)
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

Pe okoke tenas ole man, yaka whistle pe skookum wawa klaska yahul.

(And this little old man him whistle and strong talk them name.)
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Alta Dasher, alta Dancer, alta Prancer, alta Vixen

(“Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer, now Vixen,)
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!

Klatawa Comet, klatawa Cupid, klatawa Donder pe Blitzen.

(Go comet, go Cupid, go Donder and Blitxen.)
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!

Saghalie kopa porch, saghalie kopa kullaghan,

(Up on porch, up on wall,)
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Alta klatawa hyak, alta klatawa hyak, alta klatawa hyak konaway mesaika!

(Now go fast, now go fast, now go fast you all!)
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

Alta klatawa saghalie kopa koosah,

(Like dry leaves fly on strong wind,)
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

So saghalie kopa house okoke mowitch kawak,

(And go high in sky. So up on house this deer fly.)
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew

Klaska sleigh pahtl kopa toys pe St. Nick weght.

(Them sleigh full with toys and St. Nick also.)
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

Alta hyak naika kumtux kopa kwolan,

(Now, fast me know with ear,)
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

Konaway mowitch klaska koko le pee, saghalie kopa house.

(All deer them tap feet, up on house.)
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

Kunsih naika chako kilapai klak window, naika nanitch St. Nick.

(When me come return off window me see St. Nick.)
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Yaka chako whim kopa chimney.

(He come fall down chimney.)
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

St. Nick capote yaka tkope animal tupsoo

(St. Nick coat him white animal hair)
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

Keschi capote mitlite hiyu ashes kopa yaka.

(But coat have many ashes on it.)
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

Ikt hyas la sak pahtl kopa toys St. Nick lolo kopa okoke.

(One big bagfull of toys St. Nick carry on shoulder.)
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

Yaka kahkwa klahowyum mahkook man kunsih yaka mamook hahlakl la sac

(Him like poor sell man when him open bag.)
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.

St. Nick mokst eye, klaska kahkwa mokst tenas towagh.

(St. Nick two eye, them like two small light.)
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!

Yaka kapala klaska kahkwa mokst pil le bal.

(Him cheek, them like two red ball.)
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

Yaka emeets kahkwa hyas pil amota.

(Him nose like big red strawberry.)

Yaka tenas la push, yaka kahkwa kow pil la loba.

(Him small mouth, him like tied red ribbon.)
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

Seeowist tupsoo, yaka tkope kahkwa snow.

(Face hair, him white like snow.)
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

Youtskut la peep, yaka mitlite kopa la tah,

(Short pipe, him be in teeth.)
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

Smoke, yaka mitlite kahkwa tkope kweokweo lowullo saghalie la tate

(Smoke, him be like white ring around above head.)
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;

St. Nick mitlite hyas pil seeowist pe hyas yakwatin.

(St. Nick have big red face and big stomach.)
He had a broad face and a little round belly

Okoke yakwatin, yaka hullel kahkwa jelly kunsih St. Nick mamook hee-hee.

(This stomach him shake like jelly when St. Nick laugh.)
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

St. Nick, yaka youd tenas ole man.

(St. Nick, him happy little old man.)
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

Naika halo kwass pe naika mamook hee-hee kunsih nanitch yaka

(Me not afraid and me laugh when look him.)
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

St. Nick mamook pe yaka halo wawa.

(St. Nick work and him not talk.)
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

Kunsih yaka kopet mamook pahd konaway stoken, yaka nanitch kilapai

(When him stop make full all stocking, him look back.)
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

St Nick le-doo tenas koko yaka emeets.

(St. Nick finger tap him nose)
And laying his finger aside of his nose,

Yaka klatawa saghalie pe klak enatai chimney.

(And him go up and off other side chimney.)
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

Yaka sopena kopa sleigh pe mamook whistle.

(Him jump to sleigh and do whistle.)
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

Mowitch, klaska kawak hyak, nawidka.

(Deer, them fly fast, indeed.)
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

Keschi, naika kumtux kopa kwolan, kunsih klaska klatawa siah,

(But, me know with ear, when them go far,)
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

St Nick skookum wawa “Kwan Xmas pe kloshe polaklie kopa konaway tillikum.”

(St. Nick yell, “Happy Xmas and Good Night to all people.”)
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

What do you think?