Bella Coola CW song, and more…

Reader challenge! Has any of you heard the “Chinook Love Song by Pat Schooner” from Bella Coola (Nuxalk country, BC)?

Mrs. Rev. Peter Kelly (right) (image credit:

I don’t think I have…

It’s at the BC Archives, and was recorded by Mildred Valley Thornton in 1953. 

I presume this is different from the “Chinook Love Song” sung twice by Mrs. Peter Kelly, a Haida lady, on a Smithsonian Folkways album. (Click on that link to hear it, plus her great conversation with the researcher.)

I’ve blogged about that one before, but let me transcribe the lyrics for the first time: 

tl’únas-qʰáta nayka tə́mtəm
ánqʰati nayka tíki mayka
álta nayka héylo tíki mayka
aay o wa li aa la

The Haida singer’s impromptu English translation of this is ‘Long time ago I want to love you but now I don’t want you any more.’

She also provides an on-the-spot Haida translation of the lyrics, but says she can’t sing them; the song was “made for Chinook”. 

It makes sense to me that by 1953, few people fluently understood Chinuk Wawa, and I have a sense that the singer’s translation is pretty good — but not quite what the singer meant.

Here’s my breakdown of the lyrics, minus the singer’s truly beautiful old Haida accent:

tl’únas-qʰáta nayka tə́mtəm
don’t.know-how I think
‘Gosh knows what I was thinking!’

ánqʰati nayka tíki mayka

previously I want you
‘I used to love you.’

álta nayka héylo tíki mayka
now I not want you
‘Now I don’t love you.’

[The “doo-wop” vocables aay o wa li aa la at the end might be conventional Haida interjections instead of nonsense syllables, as I’ve argued for so very many of the BC Coast songs in Jargon.]

These words are in the straight-up, identifiable Victoria style of Chinuk Wawa songs. 

I often think it’d be great to hear someone (A) re-record these songs with the original melody and rhythm (B) maybe sample them & turn it into hip-hop, (C) definitely do a country music version because it’s all about broken hearts, (D) follow your inspiration! 

Bonus fact:

There are more “Chinook songs” in the BC Archives…! You can order copies of them! I don’t think I’ve heard all of them yet.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?
tʔín ʔask’ʷíʔxʷənwət?