Mudcat Café message #2323926 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #10065   Message #2323926
Posted By: GUEST,NormanG
24-Apr-08 - 02:47 AM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: The Renegade (Ian Tyson)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Renegade (Ian Tyson)
I've been looking for the Native words within "The Renegade" since I first got the album around 1970! So excuse me for posting this more than a decade after an earlier poster (Les Blank) made a good stab at the words and meanings. Allow me to comment/update.

First off, it seems that Ian was using Chinook jargon which is not really the language of one particular tribe (though there is a Chinook tribe)but was the lingua franca along the coast in the heyday of early trading. This would have been an odd choice for the renegade to use in addressing his mother (as he does in the first line of the chorus) but what the heck, poetic license forgivable in a truly great song way ahead of its time in a white man's sympathetic rendering of Native struggles!

Okay, so the first word in the chorus is Kla'-How-Ya, a very well known greeting both when meeting and when departing. In this case it would be "farewell mother"

Later on in the chorus, it goes, And I'll hunt my own..." For years I assumed I was hearing "knowledge" and it still sure sounds like that on careful listening. Given that the story takes place during the era of forced residential schooling, that would make sense. But, there is a Chinook word, probably borrowed from the Nuu-Chah-nulth (formerly Nootka) language, "Mah´-witsh" which means deer and that would make fit well.Remember that one of the many infringemnets on Natives was that they were supposedly under the hunting lawsof the white governments (Canadian legal cases have to an extent restored such hunting rights)

The potlatch - which the 1997 poster said was "a campfire or elders meeting" was enormously more than that. It was one of the great events and institutions of life among the coastal tribes. There is a pretty good article on Wikipedia about this event. A key point is that in the 1880s the Canadian government enacted a law forbidding potlatching. Hence, the fires of the potlatch, being all scattered into ashes. The ban stayed on until 1951! Today, potlatching is once again thriving especially among the Kwa'kwa'la speakers of Northern Vancouver Island.

The earlier poster just gave the phonetic pronunciation for the second line of the second verse, "A-se-chi-tama-now is the evil ones remains." He guessed that it might mean "covers the ground". Far more likely the phrase is "masachie tamahnous" which refers to witchcraft or necromancy. Here, this idea of lingering evil meant, no doubt, the evil non-Natives who were taking over the land and eroding the spirit of the Natives.

Of course, it would be best if Ian Tyson could be accessed to confirm what he really wrote - I've tried that numerous times, even meeting him as he left a show in eastern Canada many moons ago but to my query "what were those words" he just gave a wry and good natured smile.