Sing, my friend, sing

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Gray Sutherland, poet and translator, worked with Quamichan Elder Sti’tum’at (Ruby Peter) to translate into Hulquminum a poem from his book The Land Between. The poem has been translated into Hulquminum and then back into English.

Translating is hard work, especially when the cultures of the two languages is very different. However, this poem really struck a chord with Ruby as singing is such an important element in Coast Salish culture, and she and Gray had an interesting time translating it.

Thanks to Thomas Jones for sound recording and editing, and Donna Gerdts for transcription and help with English translation.

t’ilum lhu, nu sye’yu, t’ilum 

Sing, my friend, sing.

’uy’ skweyul nu siiye’yu
Good day my friends

’ii tseep ’uw’ ’eli ’ul’?
Are you all fine?

nan ’uw’ ’uy’ skweyul, nu siiye’yu.
It’s a beautiful day, my friends.

m’i tseep nuw’ilum, m’i tseep ’imush nuw’ilum.
Come in, walk in.

nilh nu swe’ nu lelum’ tun’a.
This is my own house.

’i’ nan ’uw’ ’uy’ skweyul,
And it’s a beautiful day.

’uy’ skweyul kwunus ’i lumnalu.
It’s a beautiful day to see you.

’uy’ nu shqwaluwun kwun’s ’ilup tetsul ’u tthunu lelum’.
I’m happy that you have got here to my house.

m’i tseep nuw’ilum ’un’s ’uw’ ’umut.
Come in and take a seat.

nilh tse’ suw’ t’ilum tst.
We will sing.

nan ’uw’ ’uy’ tthun’ shqwultun’ulup.
You have beautiful voices.

na’ut hwu ’iyus tthunu lelum’.
I have a happy home now.

’uy’ skweyul kwutst sq’uq’ip.
It’s a good day for us to be together.

’i’ stem kwu’elh tun’a?
And what is this?

na’nuts’a’ tthu ’uwu kwlh ’i t’ilum’.
One person is not singing.

qwul’qwul’ lhu, si’em’,
Tell about it, sir,

’uw’ niis nutsim’ ’un’sh ’uwu kwlh ’i t’ilum.
the reason that you are not singing.

nutsim’ ’un’sh ’uwu kwlh ’i t’ilum?”
Why are you not singing?”

“’i tsun p’e’ ’uw’ hiina’nuts’a’ ’ul’.
“I am all alone.

’uwu te’ nu ts’lhhwulmuhw.
I have no family.

tl’lim’ nuw’ xwumnuts ’uwu te’ lhwet.
They have all been wiped out.

’uwu te’ nu s’eluhw, ’uwu te’ nu siiye’yu.
I have no Elders, I have no relatives.

mukw’ ni’ wulh ’ikw’.
All of them have died.

ni’ wulh st’e ’uw’ niis tth’uw’ tthu tumuhw.
As if the earth has been vacated.

tstamut yuhw tsun kwu’elh?”
What am I to do?”

“t’ilum lhu, nu sye’yu, t’ilum!
Sing, my friend, sing!

m’i lhxilush t’un’ustham’sh
Come and stand beside me

’un’s ’uw’ t’ilum.
and sing.

t’ilum ch ’u kw’u stitum’
Sing very hard

suw’ tusth ’u tthun’ suli ’u thun’ tth’ele’.
so it will go to your soul and heart.

t’ilum ch ’i’ nilh tse’ st’e ’u kw’uw’ tstl’um tthun’ sxun’u.
You will sing until your foot will jump.

t’ilum ch kws hwu ’iyusth tun’ni’ ’u tthun’ thathun.
Sing until joy comes from your mouth.

t’ilum ch ’i’ nilh tse’ ni’ lhe’wut tthun’ suli.
Sing and it will heal your soul.

’i’ nilh tse’ st’es ’u kw’uw’ nem’ ’uw’ lhakw’
And it will fly away

taanthaam ’u tthun’ xlhiluwseen.
all your suffering will leave you.

’i’ nilh tse’ st’es ’u kw’uw’ hwu hwnuts’ulwum,
And it will all become one,

tthuw’ mukw’ ’i ’u tun’a tumuhw.
everything on earth.

t’ilum ch, si’em’ nu sye’yu, t’ilum ch.
Sing, my honored friend, sing.

’i’ nilh tse’ st’es ’u kw’ ni’ ni’ ’u tthu stsuhwum
And it will be like the wind

kwun’s ni’ t’it’ulum’.
when you are singing.

’i’ nilh tse’ ni’ shni’s ’i’ st’e ch ’ukw’ nuw’ lumnuhw,
And that will be the time that you will see

hwlamulus ’u kwthun’ syuw’e’nulh ’un’ sht’unaalhtun.
envisioning your ancestors and your heritage.

’i’ nilh tse’ suw’ st’es ’u kw’ nuw’ lhexun’thaam
And it will be like you are given medicine

’u kwthun’ shtunaalhtun, ’un’ syuw’a’numa’.
by your tribe, your ancestors.

’i’ nilh tse’ kwthun’ syuw’en’ nem’ ’imushstamu,
And they will be the one to walk you down,

nemustamu ’u kwthu sta’luw’ qa’.
taking you down to the river.

suw’ nilh tse’ kwthuw’ mukw’ mustimuhw
And all the people will

st’eekw’ ni’ hwlamulus ’utl’ nuwu.
observe it in you.

tthuw’ mukw’ ’i ’u tun’a,
And everything here

tthu sqw’ulesh, tthu tumuhw,
the birds, the earth,

thuthiqut, smunmunut, stal’uw’,
trees, mountains, and river,
tthuw’ mukw’ ’i ’u tun’a st’eekw’ ’uw’ lumnaam, ts’uwnaam.
all that are here on earth will see you, help you.

’i’ nilh tse’ ni’ st’ee kw’uw’ sts’istaam
And it will be the one that uplifts you

kwun’s ’i hwusye’yu ’utl’ nuwu.
those that have become friends with you.

m’i ch kwu’elh ’ewu t’un’ustham’sh
You will thus come over and sit by me

’un’s ’uw’ t’ilum ’u kw’u ’uy’.”
and sing as beautifully as you can.”


Original English Version

Huy’ tseep q’u sii’em’

Good day to you all family and friends
respected ones elders and ancestors
good day to you all please come in
this is my house it is a good day
it is good to see you all

Good to welcome you to my house
please come in and sit now let us sing
your voices are sweet they fill the house
with goodness yes, it is a good day to be together
But what is this? A friend who does not sing.

Tell, friend, what is wrong? Why do you not sing?
I am alone. I have no family,
No respected ones, elders, ancestors.
They are all lost, the land has disappeared.
What am I to do?

Sing, my friend. Come, stand by me, sing with me,
sing till the music fills your heart
sing till your feet cannot keep from dancing
sing till your voice becomes sweet once more
sing till your soul is healed, until the pain
Floats silently away, until the voice
of time and of the world become as one.
Sing, my friend, close your eyes and sing
until you see your ancestors again
and feel their smile surround you, blessing you.

Then they will lead you to the water’s edge
so all the world can see you too – the birds,
the trees, the hills, the fish, the animals,
all welcome you as one of them, their friend,
come, stand by me now, close your eyes, and sing

Huy’ tseep q’u sii’em’