Indian Music Of The Pacific Northwest Coast - Side D

Collected and recorded by Dr. Ida Halpern
Introduction and notes by Dr. Ida Halpern

The love songs of the Indians are poetic, charming, and quite witty. They were not courtship songs, as they might be with us, for courtship was nonexistent in Indian culture. Marriages were arranged by parents and based on status and family stature, not on the romantic sentiments of the young people.
Often such unions were planned when the children were mere infants. The bride was bought by the parents of the bridegroom and presents were sent as payment from the groom's parents to those of the bride. In some tribes, the young husband served his bride's parents until after the birth of their first child. If a married Indian developed an interest in another married woman the husband and the rival fought with fist and spears. The winner got the woman and had to pay for her according to custom. So that occasionally marriages became not only a matter of business but of sentiment.
Northwest Coast tribes were divided into groups controlling marriage and descent. Amongst the Haida, one was born into the "Raven" phratry or the "Eagle" phratry and had to marry into the opposite group. When a man was a "Raven" his wife and children were "Eagles" because of matrilineal descent.
With the Kwakiutl the object of marriage was to acquire clan crests, privileges, and songs, which the wife brought in as a dowry and handed down to the children.
Marriage with a slave women was forbidden. If she had a child it became a slave.
The Indians of the Pacific Northwest Coast were very class-conscious. The upper class had acquired knowledge by instruction and know how to behave. The lower class, not having this privilege, lost the knowledge of their past. "Knowing their past would make them high class." (The Maori cling to the same belief. Certain persons have a right to speak, knowing the past.)

Play song


Performed by


Native Words



Love Song Mungo Martin Love song made by Mungo Martin for Mrs. Martin and translated by him.

This is sung by Mungo Martin together with his wife. A complicated melody with wide range--descending. Numerous repetitions of melody with varied text. Each has a very short refrain with syllables a je a ha. It is interesting to note that the melody ends on the lowest note of the scale (c) whereas the short refrain ends on the second lowest note (d), leading back into repetition of the melody which starts on c, an octave higher.

Range: 9th. Intervals: 2nds, 3rds, a 4th. Main beat.

1- Ya-as kás gwe-ma-la kás ous gee y
2- Klu mas chan-tla sis gwe ma la sa ous
3- Ya la mas gwa-tla ka
4- Eis gi ya ous
5- Eis klas ha-sa-lath
6- Ou am tlin
7- Ya kee las hasila tla gwa-tla lach
8- Ou am tlis bpn-ka lath-gee ya u
9- Ka ess gee ya ous
10- La min gwas sa ka in gkis ya aya
11- Klu ma ams klu ma
12- Gkes klin ha sa lack gwa sa la
13- Ou min wa nanuchl tlah
14- Ya gkeese klin gwa-sa-tl
15- Ka nath kin guya ya
16- E sa la tlin
17- Kuse klin kwio sath ka an gi ya ya
18- Kuse klin tsi-kwil ka an gi ya ya
19- He ga am klin gwa sa glith ktlin gi ya ya
20- Kin na tla
21- Kin awal la tla gwil la
22- He gwa am klin-sa ghichtl t ghichtl klin gi ya ya
23- O la klin on tsila a
24- Wa na wha an
25- La nack way ou u lie ta la gi ya
26- La guwa wach die la kin gi ya
27- La guwa wach die la kin gi ya
28- Yu la nach-whay ou lista lái sa
29- La bou men ta les sa la kin gi ya ya
1- "Oh what you mean to me
2- It hurts an awful lot
3- I am mourning what you mean to me
4- I am not mourning aloud
5- I am just grumbling about it now and then
6- I am crying, really crying
7- But I am not crying aloud
8- I am crying to myself
9- I am not crying for the one I do not love
10- I am crying for the one I love
11- I am not crying for the one I don't love
12- I am lonesome for the one I love
13- I am not lonesome for the one I don't love
14- I wish I could be used an a pillow for the one I love
15- I wish I could be tucked under the pillow."
War Song For Marriage Billy Assu Indians considered marriage as a basis for conquest between two families. Therefore they used war songs for marriages. In the marriage ceremony the bride was brought by her family to the groom's house or village by canoe. The movements of the paddlers can be heard in the syllables He ja ah uh, imitating the paddle movement.
"Always married on the water," according to Chief Billy Assu).
Indian men honored and respected their wives. For instance, during a potlatch, if the wife was in charge she was not considered a female but a male, equal to any man, with a man's name. (According to Mabel Stanley who is a female chieftain of a Kwakiutl tribe.)

Three steps ascending, very affirmative. Pendulum movement, about a 6th. Hu hei ja hu hu hu Rhythm throughout is iambic.

The melody leads up to the tonic on a sustaining note. This note changes its pitch microtonally. He ja ho. We find here the highest note, the tonic-sustained note-embroidered and closely associated with the tone nearly a 2nd below. The melody appears four times with a mixture of text and meaningless syllables. Some phrases have a mixture of text and syllables, while others are entirely syllables. The main melody is built on three consecutive notes. Each time it has a very short refrain with syllables. There is only one singer.

Range: about a 6th. Intervals: 2nds and approximately a 6th
1- Ya la min gwa gwa la la sus sin si dzi kav lus
2- Ya la mus kwm kwm gi la sus
3- Ya la ams gwm gwm ki la sus sin kla-kwa us
4- Ya la am glu-gmla
1- In a humble way I am asking you, great one
2- You are the one that has copper in your possession as your dowry.
Paying For Daughter Song Billy Assu Mrs, Mable Stanley's explanation:
Mrs. Stanley refers to this song an a "Redeeming" song and in her own words she describes it as such. "Redeeming song is one in which the bride's family give a potlatch in retaliation for the potlatch which was given by the groom's family. When the 'redeeming' potlatch was given she was no longer a possession of the groom whose family had originally given a potlatch in her honor, in marriage. Now the bride's family had the right to take her back if she were not treated properly by the groom's family."
This happened at the time of the birth of the first child. Clan privileges were formally bestowed, along with property. Payment annulled the marriage, the father had redeemed his daughter. She could then leave, or stay with her husband. Often the husband, to renew his claim on her, would make another payment. This entire transaction was usually part of a big Winter potlatch.

Rhythm-even beats throughout. Long melody-starts upwards, then descends as usual and ends on a low traditionally prolonged note. The first two notes of the melodic beginning are in our scale, ascending, the third one deviating. An extensive playing around within a 2nd on the main tone. Sometimes he sings b. Sometimes b flat.

Now I am giving the potlatch in honor of my oldest daughter. It is frightening because it is so big. So great is the potlatch. (Feast is part of the potlatch--feeding.)
1- Tsu nu qu dzi
2- La maus tsu nu qua ka ja tlach
3- Quaus o ma qui-lah owk
4- La ams kla dzi kás kla
5- Ou-ma sa las gke ni ya sese ki-detl as ouse
6- La ams dagagla i thal
7- La mins din dack sil lath ou-ma i noi as sins gkie-deth
1- Giant being of the woods (tsu nu qua = hairy person, dzi = big)
2- Now we have the giant on our crest
3- For our child we have made great
4- You will be getting much
5- How great your honored daughter is
6- You are bringing in the wealth
7- We will sing praises to our honored child.
Cradle Song Mungo Martin The following is Mungo Martin's explanation: "YA SELLA-cradle song. YA'TLELA-rocking. It comes from the Quiquasutima tribe." Mungo Martin is half Kwakiutl, half Quiquasutima, hence knows it. "You can hear the child cry. (imitative) Don't cry-Tsonoqua. (Tsonoqua is the hairy being of the woods.) Three men use eagle feathers. One man scares him. Second man holds the cradle. In the early morning when the baby is born all people come to the chief's house. Tsonoqua mask - UHOO THENAI."

This song belongs to Mungo Martin's granddaughter. It was his grandfather's grandfather's song. "Don't cry. Nobody hold the cradle. He will run away for a long time. He is going to smoke, to make fire so they can see. HITAM. Running away from. He looks after baby. He is going a long way. Nobody will look after you. Nobody. He is going a long way. From some other tribe coming to look after baby. BABAWAY. Some hiding. Do not cry. Nobody will look after your way. He is gone long time ago. Hamatsa scared the baby."

Descriptive programmatic song. Haj haj uh-imitating the rocking of the baby. (There is a big cradle and a man is pulling the rope.) Ha haj uh. Rhythm.
Mungo is joined by Mrs. Martin. Syllables imitate the content of the song (baby cry). Nasal-quality singing. Oscillation on the main tone which may be found on different levels. The main tone seems to move. Syllables are on notes about a minor 2nd apart. Occasionally there is a jump a 4th above or a 5th below.
Kwá kwas sus da
There, don't cry. Quiquasutima
Baby Song Sung by Dan Cranmer and explained by him "When you have a baby sitting on your lap you sing this song. Cradle song to put babies to sleep. When you put the baby in the cradle you sing. I'm going to sing the song they sang to me when I was a baby. When we lived on the original reserve on one side of the hill the people on the other side had the right to the top of the hill. They say, "Don't play on the top of the hill. You play on the bottom." Second verse - You are very strong. You did overthrow (name of fellow)."

Rhythm: even beats. Two distinct melodic sections. The first consists of material in 4ths; the second has 3rds up and down. Slight melodic changes to fit the text, such as doubling of one melodic note and identical rises. After numerous repetitions of the main melody, a second melodic section appears, repeated only once more between appearances of the main melody.

Range: 8th. Intervals: 2nds, 3rds, 4ths.

"Don't play in my playground, your playground is there."
Tlo-kwe-w dzi (dzi-big)
I wrestled with other children.
Cedar Bark Dance Song Mungo Martin Cedar bark was of great importance to the West Coast Indians. There were three varieties-white, red, and yellow. They used it for firewood, clothing, ropes, towels, mats, baskets, and for lashing wood. In addition to the daily uses, it played an important part in their ceremonies and beliefs.

One of the ceremonial practices was the so-called Cedar Bark dance. It had specific rules which regulated when the white and when the red cedar bark was to be used. The White Cedar Bark dance preceeded the Red Cedar Bark dance.
During the dances noises were made with a whistle in the house (as was customary in a Winter dance). "Four times the use the cedar bark in winter. They dye the four nights in a row."

According to Mungo Martin "They only use the cedar bark in Winter. They dye the cedar bark and make it soft, making a mask for everybody, boy or girl. One dancer is in the house. Sometimes one man dances in the house, sometimes two. One old man calls in to distribute the cedar bark. This particular old man is in charge of it. in the summertime he prepares and dyes it. He dances while distributing it. Sometimes after the dance they give him back the cedar bark and next year he gives it out again. Only one man in a tribe is allowed to do this. It is considered a great honor. OM HIT, (Mungo's uncle) gave out the cedar bark."
Every person who enters into the hall is given a piece of cedar which is originally quite long but is cut to a length sufficient to go around the head and be tied into a cedar headband. (Mrs. Mabel Stanley) Again according to Mungo Martin, "In the dance they sing four time Ai--, four times U---, four times uip---, and four times ha ba ba ba."
His description of a typical Cedar Bark dance with its proper protocol is thus: "It happens in one night. First, enters Maumtakela--Kwakiutl's daughter. Second, Mamelilikala-Wilson Island Indians. Third, Nimpkish-Alert Bay. Fourth, Slawitzistauna Island. Fifth, Denakdowo-Nance Inlet Indians. As each daughter of each chief enters, a song is sung. They come singly and withdraw and next daughter enters. Sixth, Madispi tribe-are going to move into the Sawitch's place. Seventh, Nakkewaclows- Brandon Harbor Island. Eight, Kwatsula- Smith's Inlet Indians. Ninth, Noowiti- Klateseekwa Indians.
"Four men and four women dance for each tribe. Some man come in, call Hamatsa. They watch the clock-sometimes sing for three or four hours."
"The Cedar Bark dance is strictly a Winter dance. Women dance it clad in Cedar Bark dress. Men made songs for women in the Kwakiutl tribe."
"Fort Rupert is the place where many of these dances were held. One, two, or three women would dance counterclockwise."

Song 6 was the Winter Dancing Song of Mrs. Martin. It was an old song, for Chief Tom Johnsons, her brother.

Rhythm: Even beats mixed with modified dactyls. Dactyl, modified. Timbre-tone color-dark, somewhat sombre. Here again as in a few instances before we have a distinctive minor quality, resulting from the juxtaposition of minor 3rd, minor 2nd, and major 3rd.

lst time-1 singer-even beating-ha ma ma mai
2nd time-2 singers-even beating-ha ma ma mai
Contrast-2 singers-drumming pattern with text, on two notes g and f sharp, possibly a d (indeterminate).
3rd time-2 singers-even beating, on first two ha-ma-mai, then pattern on remainder.
4th time-2 singers-even beating on first two ha-ma-mai, then pattern on remainder.
Spoken recitative with mixture of beats 5th time--like 4th Contrast 6th Time-like 4th
Range: aprroximately a 6th. Intervals: 2nds, 3rds.

This could be considered a Hamatsa dance song in cedar bark dress.
1- Tia kil las kás glu guala kás ou
2- Back back wil nuch dá
3- Ka ke kala am klin nuch
4- Ka ke kala yu di sis gwk-me-nai
5- As ghi gwala kás ous
1- There you that have received the spiritual power
2- Having the power of the mythical being
3- We shall build up the fire.
4- As to how you built your fires in your wealth
5- You great one in your spiritual power. (Bach baquala is the spiritual power of the Hamatsa. This power, a mythological being, transforms into the Hamatsa.)
Gambling Song Mungo Martin This type of song shows the humor and temperament of the Indians, and their great inclination to gamble which sometimes took them to extremes. They were known to gamble away their possessions or more than they owned. In some British Columbia tribes they forfeited wife and children.
Their favorite gambling game was a-la-huoi, or lehal, or slahal. It was played with sticks made of bone. Two parties were formed of two tribes which played against each other. Alternately, each man would hide the stick and the other would try to guess where it was. If rightly guessed, the winning side got the stick. If not rightly guessed it was lost. The play continued until one side or the other had all the sticks.
A delightful little legend is connected with this game. It tells that this game was already a favorite before the Flood and that since all humans then spoke the same language their play involved only one stick. After the Flood, however, humans became dispersed. They began to speak different languages and required more sticks for this game.
Today, according to Mungo Martin, "It is played with seven sticks on each side-14 all together. Before was 10 on each side-20 all together. Salish people played it with 10, Kwakiutl with 7 to 14 sticks.
Before the game starts they sing the song, and after the first bone is won the winner sings. "One man knows how to get the bone." The song says: "Try a chance to get the bone. You once missed--you twice missed--you three times missed it-you four times missed it! You try your chance with the man who knows how."
Lahal songs have few or no words, only music and vowels.
Song 7 is in the Chinook jargon, according to Mungo, who commented that the shouting became interesting. Mrs Martin added, "You can never beat the Kwakiutl." In this song the Kwakiutl are playing against the Musqueam tribe.

Three beats at the beginning. Rhythmically straighforward. It appear that melody one has a pentatonic scale structure but at closer scrutiny one realizes that b is actually b- and a is a+. The distance between them is less than a tone but not as small as a semitone and therefore it would be a misinterpretation to call it the pentatonic anhemitonic scale.
Text: o hoi ha he he
ja a hoi ha hee
primitive portamento.

Microtone raises are marked by - and +. Melodic phrase is repeated several times in the different rises, between a semitone and a tone, beginning on e and ending on f. In the melodic pattern the main interest is on 5ths and 4ths, the latter falling into the major 3rd.
The second part of this two-part gambling song (representing the two playing parties or tribes) has a wider range-a 10th. The first motif moves in 3rds and 2nds. The first phrase consists of two distinct melodic motifs, each of which is built up on 3rds and 2nds, a 4th apart. Noteworthy
is the occurrence of two 3rds in succession and the jump of 7th. Typical descending melody with its pitch rises. Rhythm is in even beats, almost in double time, but not coinciding with the melodic beats. Meaningless syllables are connected with meaningful text (see transcription).
Range: 10th

Melody one: Simple melody, repeated twice, forming the first phrase; small finishing part built up of whole tone. Range is a 6th, small finishing part one tone below 5th. It appears three times, leading into the simple melody again. A gradual rise appears. Main melody appears four times altogether. Rises:
1. e,b-
2. e,b
3. f,c
4. f,c+
Melody two: The whole two-part phrase appears three times. On second appearance motif one is slightly extended while motif two is a literal repetition. In the last appearance we have an extension before the ending of two thirds in succession, which, by notes, form a triad leading into the raised main tone.