An excerpt from Sharing Our Knowledge: The Tlingit and Their Coastal Neighbors (March 2015) edited by Sergei Kan, with Steve Henrikson.
X’eigaa Ḵaa (Tlingit Warrior)
In Tlingit, the name for warrior is xeig̲aa ḵaa. Many “Lower 48” tribes have songs for the warrior, but we seemed not to have any specifically for them.1
Since my dad was a World War II combat veteran, I always viewed him as a Tlingit warrior. I grew up while the Vietnam War was going on and watched it on the evening news. So much second-guessing and critiquing of the war occurred while our troops were in combat. It was an impossible war to win, and we lost more than 53,000 men.
A Tlingit clan had a war in which many were lost. About a year and a half later they were discussing the war, saying, “They should have done this and that and maybe if they had done this the war would have gone this way.” A baby in a swing started speaking to them: “Do you know what happened during the war? Were you there when the battle took place?” To them, the baby was a reincarnated warrior who saw the battle and was chastising them for their conversation. This story is used to illustrate that we can’t second-guess battles and that at times we should listen to the younger people.
My dad helped me with some of the harder words and phrases to this song.
The first verse says, “From my swing, I saw the bloodiest parts of the battle; this war was not meant for you, but you still died in our place. Children of all nations, now you know it well.”
The second verse says, “Warriors! Stand up! Your hair is always tied in a knot, ready for battle. Because of this, you can all still see the flag. Children of all nations say, ‘Thank you!’ ” (A warrior would tie his hair up in a knot to keep it out of the way for battle and as a sign of preparedness.)
Hei yaaw hei yaaw hei hee yaaw hei yaaw hei yaaw
Hei hee yaaw hei yaaw hei yaaw hei hee yaaw hei yaaw hei yaaw
Hei hee yaaw hei yaaw hei yaaw hei hee yaaw aaya
Hei yaaw hei yaaw hei hee yaaw aya hei ee yaaw aaya hei hee yaaw aya
Kejaa daxh kunaxh koolijeeyee ye adaawootl tgat kaawahaa Tlel has du daadi xaa aaya haa eeti ganeki wunaa
Ldakat naa yax’i; yaayeedat gidein yiysikoo Hei hee yaaw aaya hei ee yaaw aaya (2x)
Xeigaa kaax’u gaayeedaanaak aya, tiakw shawdichin yeewhaan has Ach awe aankweiyi tlein ch’u yei yiysiteen
Ldakat naa yatx’i; gunalcheesh yoo daa yatooka Hei hee yaaw aaya hei ee yaaw aaya (2x)
Hei yaaw hei yaaw hei hee yaaw hei yaaw hei yaaw X’eigaa kaa wusitee ax eesh.
Thank you, Pop, for these words, through which we’ll hear your voice for many, many more years.
- Harold Jacobs insisted that we reproduce his own spelling of Tlingit words and sounds, even though it is somewhat different from the standard ones used throughout this book.