The most-translated song into Chinuk Wawa? “Lilly Dale”

I’ve now found at least 4 separate translations of this 19th-century sad pop song into the Jargon.


(Image credit: Library of Congress)

All of them should get recorded, I say.

We need to put every single one of the dozens of known Chinook Jargon songs into listenable form. (Hopefully in multiple genres, styles, & remixes.)

It’ll do wonders for the revitalization effort! Hearing a language sung really gets it into your brain.

That said, the following is awful Chinuk Wawa 🙄 Don’t try to talk this way, kids, just sing some genuine bad Settler Jargon & don’t ask questions!

The Jargon here is so bad that I’m not going to bother analyzing it for you. Sorry. I’ll just put *asterisks* on the words that got misspelled by some ignorant typesetter.

Afterwards, I’ll show you the original 1852 lyrics by H.S. Thompson (not Hunter S. Thompson, who would’ve been more likely to intentionally (or unintentionally, due to bad drugs) mistranslate it into Jargon).

lilly dale oregon native son


(In Chinook.)

Hyas klose polikely *kliminilimin* *tocope*,
     Mitlite klose konawa kah;
Pe yacka tillicum mitlite memaluse bed,
     Nika *kilihium*, Lilly Dale.

         Chorus —

O Lilly, klose Lilly, hyas close, Lilly Dale,
     Alta tipso mitlite kopa yacka tenas memaluse house,
     Kekwilla stick pe tipso klose illahee.

Yacka chako ankutty nanich hyas close
     Iscum sick hyas tekope,
Memaluse chuck mitlite yacka tekope latate,
     Nika kilihium, Lilly Dale.

Chorus — O Lilly, klose Lilly —

Nika klatawa yacka wa-wa kopa cain illahee
     Spose wake nika iskum till;
Nika wa-wa kopa nika, gah, wake siyah house;
     Mika mitlite, Lilly Dale.

Chorus — O Lilly, klose Lilly —

Keqwill chesnut stick, kah klose, tipso mitlite
     Kah chuck klatawa klose illahee,
Kah kullakulla wa-wa tenas sun
     Kopa mitlite, Lilly Dale.

Chorus — O Lilly, klose Lilly —

— from the Oregon Native Son I(3):177 (July 1899)

If you like, you can compare whatever you were able to understand of those lyrics (can you explain “cain” & “gah” to me?) with…

…the original 1852 lyrics in English by H.S. Thompson:

Lilly Dale

[Verse 1]

‘Twas a calm still night,
And the moon’s pale light,
Shone soft o’er hill and vale
When friends mute with grief,
Stood around the death bed,
Of my poor lost Lilly Dale.


Oh! Lilly, sweet Lilly, dear Lilly, Dale,
Now the wild rose blossoms o’er her little green grave,
Neath the trees in the flow’ry vale.

[Verse 2]

Her cheeks that once glowed, with the rose tint of health,
By the hand of disease had turn’d pale,
And the death damp was on the pure white brow
Of my poor lost Lilly Dale.


[Verse 3]

“I got, she said, to the land of rest”
And ere my strength shall fail,
I must tell you where, near my own loved home,
You must lay poor Lilly Dale.


[Verse 4]

Neath the chestnut tree; where the wild flowers grow,
And the stream ripples forth thro’ the vale,
Where the birds shall warble their songs in spring,
There lay poor Lilly Dale.
Recommended Citation: 
Thompson, H. S., “Lilly Dale” (1852). Historic Sheet Music Collection. 838.

Bonus fact:

Want to know a great tip for researching & finding Jargon stuff we never knew about before?

Get online, open up an old Chinuk Wawa text like the one above, pick a word, and search for it in Google Books etc.

Add the word “chinook” or “indians” as needed. (These are old books.)

Scroll through the results. 

Kahtah mika tum-tum?
What do you think?