1923: Yet another version of the “Seattle Illahee” song

Not so many locals understood Chinuk Wawa in 1923, so there’s another reason why the newspaper editor left this one untranslated.

moosum rice cooker

A family-friendly little moosum (image credit: ubuy.mg, the Madagascar Amazon)

It’s the notoriously naughty “Seattle Illahee” song.

Thanks again to reader Darrin Brager for this find!

Here again we have (Marstyn) Pollough Pogue contributing a local-color article to a Vancouver, BC newspaper, and getting some Chinook into it.

This is one of two versions I know of the song as documented by Pollough Pogue; he published the other one in 1915.

I detect some influence in this version from the “be not kwass of nika” song, which also turns up (sometimes as “poetry”) several times in early PNW newspapers. (Here’s another “be not kwass” and a “be not quass“.)

There’s a third strand of PNW folk poetry/song on a related theme, the “Lines to/by a Klootchman/a sitkum Tutchman” group 🙂 

Anyway, here is Pollough Pogue’s alternate “Seattle Illahee”, minus that infamous name:


I envied Kelly his capacity to lie slack on the yarder sled and watch with clear eyes his cigarette smoke twisting up into the blue sky. Then he lifted a limpid voice and sang to himself, some characteristic lines of a Pacific coast minstrel, as an outlet for his felicity: 

“Sweet klootchman, fly with ni-i-ika 
     An’ leave y’ur light canim
We’ll take a hy-as klattawa 
     Into thuh fo-o-orest dim. 
Where there’s hiyu clams an’ mowitch
     Where thuh silvery salmon play; 
We will iskum tenas moosum 
     When daylight fades away. 
No more I’m goin’ tuh wander 
     An’ pack my blankets ’round. 
But I’ll build me a tenas cabin 
     On the banks o’ Puget Soun’.”

The shrill whistle of the yarder, operated at a distance by the whistlepunk, interrupted the ballad. Kelly sprang to his feet.

— from “The Donkey Puncher” by Pollough Pogue, May 17, 1923 (Page 6 of 24), The Vancouver Daily Province, Vancouver, British Columbia

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