Nootka & Quileute Songs: Side 1

Recorded and Edited by Frances Densmore
Folk Music Of The United States Issued from the Collections of the Archive of American Folk Song L32
The songs in this series are from three tribes living on the Northwest Coast, these being the Makah, Clayoquot and Quileute. They were recorded at Neah Bay, Washington, in 1923 and 1926 in connection with the writer's study of Indian music for the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution.* The Makah and Clayoquot are Nootkan tribes and the Quileute are a Chimakuan tribe.

The land occupied by the Makah is in northwestern Washington, bordering on the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Neah Bay village being on the strait, near the end of Cape Flattery. The home of the Clayoquot is on the west coast of Vancouver Island and the songs of this tribe were recorded by two women from Clayoquat Sound who married Makah men when they were young and had lived among the Makah ever since. The Quileute village is on the shore of the Pacific Ocean south of the territory of the Makah and the Quileute songs were recorded by a woman from that village who came to Neah Bay to attend the celebration of Makah Day in 1926. The number of songs recorded and transcribed was 210 and the singers were eleven in number, three being women. This is an unusually large proportion of women singers. The singer recording the largest number of songs was Young Doctor, a Makah, who recorded 60 songs.

These Indians obtained most of their food from the sea, their principal food being the meat and oil of the whale. As in other tribes, they received songs in "dreams" which gave special power and they had songs for success in hunting whales and all forms of fishing, as well as songs to calm the sea when rough weather interfered with their endeavors. Singing was connected with the treatment of the sick as in other tribes, and the number of songs for children is unusually large in this series.

The manner of life in the old Makah village was adapted to the rigors of the long, cold winters. Young Doctor said that his father's house was 14 fathoms long and that about 20 people lived in it, including the children. There were bunks for sleeping and four fires on each side that were used for cooking. There were six houses in the village and back of them was a large, communal hall. Instead of having carved posts like totem poles in front of their houses the Makah had carvings inside the dwellings. Sometimes these carvings were ornamental and sometimes they represented the tunamos (spirit helper) of the owner. According to Yung Doctor, there were usually two "drums" in each house, one at each end. These were boxes about four feet high and eight feet long. Three men sat on top of each and kicked it with their heels or struck it with sticks or their fists, in time with the singing. This environment developed a social life with many dances and feasts and it also encouraged much attention to the children. Many sorts of handwork were practiced by both non and women. Among the articles made by the Makah in early days were canoes and whaling implements, conical hats, dog's hair blankets and feather capes as well as bark mats, knives and daggers.

Young Doctor said that the first canoe at Neah Bay was a war canoe, the stern as high as a man and the bow still higher. In such canoes the Makah went to war. They were head-hunters and returned with heads of the enemy. The last war expedition took place when Young Doctor was a child; two heads of the Elwas (a band of the Clallam) were brought back and placed on the sand between Neah Bay village and Cape Flattery. They remained there four days, after which they were brought to Reah Bay, where they were placed on poles stuck upright in the sand, in front of the present site of the village. Two songs connected with head-hunting were recorded.

The environment and customs of the Nootka and Quileute present an interesting contrast to those of the tribes whose songs have previously been presented.

*Nootka and Quileute Music, Bulletin 124, Bur. Amer. Ethnol. 1932.

Play song

Name

Performed by

Description

Native Words

Translation

Notes

Song In The Canoes Young Doctor POTLATCH SONGS

The ceremonial of the potlatch is general among tribes of the Northwest Coast. Its name is derived from a Nootka word which means "giving" or "a gift." In old times a man might impoverish himself by generosity in giving a potlatch but he was abundantly rewarded, in his own estimation, by the respect with which be was afterward regarded by the people.

Before a potlatch was held a delegation was sent to deliver the invitation to neighboring villages or tribes. This delegation was sometimes so large that it filled several canoes, the largest of which might contain 48 men. At this time the "canoe songs" inherited in families were sung. The song next following was sung by a delegation inviting to a potlatch and is an old song inherited in Young Doctor's family. It is a favorite of his though be does not know the meaning of the words. He said, "Nothing could be prettier than the sound of the paddles and the voices when singing this song." At the syllables "ho, ho" the paddles were held upright, then the song was resumed and the paddling of the
canoe continued. Young Doctor recorded the song.
Nootka
Quileute
Young Doctor's Canoe Song (a) Charles Swan Two of Young Doctor's canoe songs were sung at the celebration of Makah Day, at Neah Bay, and were recorded by Charles Swan. Nootka
Quileute
Young Doctor's Canoe Song (b) Charles Swan In the next song the canoe is referred to as an animal, the first word being commonly used in referring to a wolf. During a fasting dream, Young Doctor saw a canoe with short legs near one end. Threatened by sharks it went on land and carried its occupants to safety. Charles Swan recorded this song. On all fours on the water is my craft, Flashing light is my craft. Nootka
Quileute
Song Of The Host At A Potlatch Young Doctor When the invited party approached the village they sang in the canoes, such a song being recorded. After the party landed the host sent a man to say that a meal would be served them at once, and the messenger escorted them to the place where they would be fed. At this time a song might be sung by one of the guests.

The festivity began in the evening and the local people opened the event with a dance which they may have prepared for the occasion. The women also danced and sang "honor songs" and the host danced alone. The following is the song used on such occasions by members of Young Doctor's family. The words mean, "I am wealthy, that is why I am singing." The song was recorded by Young Doctor.
Nootka
Quileute
Song Before Distribution Of Gifts Young Doctor The next song was sung before the distribution of the gifts which were piled in front of the host. While singing this song the dancers clapped their hands at different heights. Some almost touched the floor in a low bow, at the accented tones of the song. The words mean "It is I who am dancing." The song was recorded by Young Doctor. Nootka
Quileute
Song Challenging To Contest Of Physical Strength (a) Young Doctor The host at a potlatch invited the local people as well as those from a distance. The guests were fed twice or three times a day for four days and the number was so great that 40 boxes of pilot bread were required for each meal. The food was varied and included dried berries, prepared in various ways, dried halibut and slices of whale blubber.

SONGS WITH CONTEST OF PHYSICAL STRENGTH AT A POTLATCH

Physical strength was closely connected with the economic life of the Makah and with their safety in time of war. Contests of physical strength were often held at weddings and tribal feasts to determine who were the strongest men in a locality. Thus it was known on whom the people could depend in emergencies. There were no songs with such contests but Young Doctor described a contest which preceded a large potlatch and recorded its songs. The men of three villages took part in this contest, each group having its own songs. The first was the song of the people from Wyatch and is not presented. The following is the song of the Neah Bay people on that occasion, recorded by Young Doctor.
Nootka
Quileute
Song Challenging To Contest Of Physical Strength (b) Young Doctor The next is the song of the Suez people, these three being the only songs that were sung on that occasion. It was recorded by Young Doctor. In this contest the people of Neah Bay were successful. Nootka
Quileute
Modern Klokali Song Charles Swan KLOKALI SONGS

The greatest event of the year among the Makah was the Kloka'li which was held about midwinter and lasted several days. James Guy stated that the Klokali meant "people who had been among the walrus," and Young Doctor said the purpose of the organization was to display wealth. In the old days a meeting lasted six days and closed with dramatic dances on the beach. In these dances the newly admitted members imitated the actions which, in their belief, the birds and animals have inherited from mythical ancestors. The modern form of the Klokali is a gathering solely for pleasure and lasts only one day.

At Klokali, as at a potlatch or any important event, there were renditions of songs which were inherited in families. These were sung by individuals and there was no dancing with them. Two or three could be in progress at the same time, each person singing his own song. This custom has been seen by the writer, two or more persons singing without interference, each rising in his place, singing his song and resuming his seat. Several such songs are in the present series.

It is interesting to compare the old Klokali songs with a song recorded by Charlie Swan which, he said, is a "new sort of Klokali song." It was sung when all were assembled and ready to enter the building. Probably this is associated with the form of the dance which was said
to be for pleasure and to continue only one day.
Nootka
Quileute
Wand Dance Song Charles Swan An interesting dance connected with the Klokali was the Wand dance which was witnessed by the writer at the celebration of Makah Day, in 1926. It was danced by Charles Swan who later recorded the following song. His costume consisted of a decorated cotton robe, or blanket, and a headdress of eagle feathers and eagle down. He carried a stick about 18 inches long, firmly held between his hands and moved with fluttering steps, the blanket waving freely around him. Nootka
Quileute
Song With Impersonation Of The Wild White Geese Helen Irving On the fifth evening of the Klokali, after the lightning and certain other dances, a wide variety of birds and animals were imitated in the dances. A majority of the impersonations had special songs, and variouus sorts of wooden headdresses ("masks") were worn by the dancers. Almost all these dances were, given on the beach and the waves often formed part of the little pageant. The dances were given in the order of the member's social standing. An announcer gave out the name of the person and stated what animal he would impersonate. An infant was represented by an adult who was well paid for his services. The parents of a 7 or 8 year old boy would probably choose that he represent a snipe and the little boy would dance, but boys 14 or 15 years old would have the responsibility and do most of the dancing. For this aid they were paid by the boy's father. Each wore on his head a band of pounded cedar bark with a sharp stick projecting in front, like the bill of the bird. They wore white blankets with black markings and danced along the beach, dancing out when the tide went out and running along with the breakers, imitating the actions of snipe.

The songs of these dances were sung by women, Six songs of impersonations were recorded by Mrs. Helen Irving. Among the most picturesque dances was that impersonating the wild white geese. Their costumes were white blankets and headdresses with a projection like a bird's beak. They danced on the beach, not in unison but each with a different motion, and with sounds like the honking of geese. After "sweeping around" they squatted on the sand in a circle, then rose, singing this song, and imitated the action of soaring and flying away. The song was recorded by Helen Irving.
Nootka
Quileute
Song With Impersonation Of The Deer Helen Irving Those who represented the deer carried nothing in their hands and more nothing that was associated with the deer. Their costume consisted of a blanket, a belt, and a headdress decorated with white shells. The dancers stood in a semicircle and at either end were men with drums. They "danced standing still" and the motion consisted of slightly bending the knees and turning from side to side. It was said to be a particularly difficult dance. The song was recorded by Helen Irving. My hands are my feathers Nootka
Quileute
Song With Impersonation Of A Little Fish Helen Irving The singer who recorded the next song said that her father dreamed that a bullbead was swimming toward him. This was the song of his dream and he used it in the representation dances of the Klokali. The motion of the dance was like that of a small fish swimming, and the singer said "it looked very nice when several people danced it." She never knew what the words meant and it is probable they were in a "dream language." Helen Irving recorded the song, and at the present time she sings it at social gatherings. The drum and striking sticks are silent in the opening measures.
Nootka
Quileute
Song Of Pintlachatl Dance James Guy SONGS OF SOCIAL DANCES

In old times the dancing of the Makah continued all winter, the various communities competing with one another. These contests would have become monotonous except for the invention of new dances with varied costumes and postures as well as new songs. The accompaniment consisted of striking on boards with short sticks, while some of the dancers carried drums. Certain songs were sung by individuals or by the dancers but a majority were sung by the entire assembly.

Among the dances when entering the building was the Pintla'chatl. This dance was originated by a man at Wyatch village about 50 years ago. The manner of the dance came to him in a dream, when the people of his village were entertaining and were "hard pressed for new dances." The men entered the building first, followed by the women, and this was a long-continued dance as each person was allowed a little time in which to dance alone after entering. Two songs of this dance were recorded by James Guy and it is probable they were received by the man in his dream. Only one song is presented.
Nootka
Quileute
Song Congratulating A Rival Musician Mrs. Gilbert Holden Among the Quileute there lived an old woman named Sada'iks. In the next song we have an interesting glimpse of her character. She and another woman were trying to see which could make up the best song and they took turns in singing at a dance. Sadaiks made up this song, saying that the other woman had done better than she, and the song was afterward used at social dances. The Quileute women dance with a gentle motion of the body, holding the hands slightly below the level of the shoulders with palms outward. They advance from one position and the "dance" is little more than a rhythmic response to the music. The song was recorded by Mrs. Gilbert Holden. Nootka
Quileute
Song At Parting Chester Wandabart It was the pleasant custom of the Makah to hold informal social gatherings at which the principal features were the singing and refreshments. The writer and her sister attended a gathering of this sort on the-beach at Neah Bay. After a repast of fish cooked on the shore, the people seated themselves on the sand, facing long planks arranged on three sides of a square. The people pounded on the planks with short sticks as they sang, and it was the custom for each person to start a song in which the others joined. This was usually a song handed down in his or her family, though general songs might be used. Fifteen such songs were recorded and show a wide variety.

The words of the following song are partly in English and partly in Chinook, the word "good-by" being in English and the remainder in Chinook. It was sung at these gatherings and was recorded by Chester Wandabart.
Goodby, my sweetheart Nootka
Quileute