Released in time for Canada Day on July 1st, Saltwater Hank’s new album is an Indigenous “act of resistance.” Writing and adapting songs entirely in the Ts’msyen Sm’algyax language, Hank aims to show that despite the centuries of attacks on Indigenous culture, the language and music live on today.
The album G̱al’üünx wil lu Holtga Liimi, from Ts’msyen artist Saltwater Hank, comes from the traditions of Kxeen (Prince Rupert, British Columbia) and is written in Sm’algyax, the Ts’msyen language.
Hank is using a language that dates back millennia, thousands of years before Ancient Greece. Living and working on land that’s been occupied by the Ts’msyen since time immemorial, he’s draws from ancestral knowledge and science, “plus a deep understanding of the structure and spirit of Ts’msyen song.”
The goal with the album is, first of all to connect with other Ts’msyen looking to understand their own language, as there are sadly no first generation speakers left under the age of 60. After that, Hank made this album to show the power of creating in Indigenous languages.
The fact that I’m singing in my language is an act of resistance. Over 150 years later and being able to still speak and sing in our language…This really goes to show that they failed. We succeeded in keeping our language and our musical traditions alive.
Though most of the songs on G̱al’üünx wil lu Holtga Liimi are original, Hank does include some traditional songs like “Uks Yaan Ḵ’a̱sḵ’oos,” learned from a songbook from Txałgiiw (Hartley Bay), a Ts’msyen village in British Columbia, or closing song “Goosnł Waals Noon”, also from Txałgiiw. Both songs speak of harvesting food along the beach.
G̱al’üünx wil lu Holtga Liimi is clearly Hank’s love letter to the traditional knowledge of the Ts’msyen, but it’s also a thoroughly modern album inspired by his love of Country and Roots music. He comes by this love from his grandfather, who played country dances from the 1960s to the present day. For this album, Hank also pays homage to his roots by translating the classic Hank Williams song, “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around”, into Sm’algyax as “Akadi K’uł Waal Nsiip’nsgu”.