“Another Dark Night Come Over Me”

I’ve been indexing the raw files of Kalifornsky’s cassette tapes, which he recorded at home in 1988, and just found this beautiful, painful lament.

Peter Kalifornsky’s great-great-grandfather, Qadanalchen, made this song sometime between 1811 and 1821, at Fort Ross. The Russians took — in several senses – a number of Kenai and Kodiak hunters south with them, as hostages as much as foragers. These men lived in the Indian village on the shore below the gates of the fortress.

Peter tells us:

And this is my great-great-grandfather’s ‘homesick’ song, that he made this song when he was taken out to Fort Ross during the Russians’ time. When he get homesick, he would sing this song. They claim that’s the story about him, by the old people.

Qadanalchen K’elik’a* “Another Dark Night Come Over Me.”

           Ki q’u ke sha nuntalghatl’.

           Q’iłdu ki, qint’a hk’u.

           Shesh t’qełani.

           Shi k’u ki.

There’s a translation:

          Another dark night come over me

          Over back home looks impossible to return.

          But do your best for living.

          That, I am, too.

That was his homesick song.

The Dena’ina is from K’tl’egh’i Sukdu, A Dena’ina Legacy, The Collected Writings of Peter Kalifornsky, published in 1991 by the Alaska Native Language Center, in which they promised to preserve his spelling. But PK sings the second line in reversed phrases, so I’ve matched the writing to his singing. (The ANLC version is below.) Curiously, I have found no text for this song in the manuscript he gave me, though it should have appeared with the other songs and words in the recording that contains it, which match their placement in his ms.

ANLC version:

           Ki q’u ke sha nuntalghatl’.

           Qint’a hk’u, q’iłdu ki.

           Shesh t’qełani.

           Shi k’u ki.

Note to the ANLC text: “Peter Kalifornsky’s great-great-grandfather, Qadanalchen, composed this song while he was at Fort Ross, California, sometime between 1811 and 1821. It is said that he was not sure he would ever get back to Cook Inlet, and to ease his loneliness he would sing his song. As he sang, he would take from a small bag a bit of soil he had brought from his home village, and he would rub the soil on the soles of his feet. This was a customary Dena’ina practice to ease the pain of homesickness. (K’tl’egh’i Sukdu, p. 253)

         *Qadanalchen’s Song, as translated by ANLC.