Marching to a new beat: Team B.C. brings new anthem, custom drums for Indigenous Games

New theme song written in Chinook, an early common language of trade in the area

By Ash Kelly, CBC News Posted: Jul 15, 2017 9:00 AM ET

Team B.C. will be arriving at the North American Indigenous Games in style with a brand new theme song to drum up enthusiasm and energy.

After a provincewide competition, the team’s new anthem, composed by William Wasden Jr. from the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw Nation, was revealed just days before 2017 games, which begin Sunday and run through July 23.

“The song is steady and upbeat and is meant to be used for celebrating and uplifting spirit,” said Wasden.

“In our Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw tradition, these social songs are beautiful, simple tunes that can easily be taught, so everyone is able to participate and fully enjoy the spirit of the song.”

Wasden calls his traditional tune Yehalilayha, from the Chinook language.

Chinook was used as an early, common language to facilitate trade and negotiations among many Indigenous communities.

British Columbia has the most diverse Indigenous population in Canada, with 198 distinct recognized cultures and some still seeking recognition from the Canadian government.

According to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, of the country’s 11 unique Indigenous language families, seven exist exclusively in B.C.

“I composed the song in the spirit of inclusion and bringing as many Indigenous cultures from B.C. together,” said Wasden.

The lyrics of the song describe the beautiful rivers and land.

“[It] represents the spirit and passion of our athletes and coaches,” said Lara Mussell, Team B.C.’s chef de mission.

“Our new theme song will further unify us as a team.”

Custom skins

Yehalilayha will be beat out on custom traditional drums, complete with the Team B.C. logo of a soaring raven and sun.

The drums were built and designed by North Vancouver’s David Fierro.

The entire team of 545 athletes and coaches will learn the song at a pep rally led by Wasden before Yehalilayha has its live premiere in Toronto at Sunday’s opening ceremonies and athletes’ parade.

Team officials said it will be used at all future Team B.C. events.

Lyrics to Yehalilayha
  • Hyas = beautiful.
  • Chuck = rivers.
  • Ilahee = land.
  • Hyas tilicum = Nations.

Yehali-laya-a-a-yeha yehali-laya-heya
Halilayha-a-a-a-ha ha-lilayha-a-a-a
Yehali-laya-a-yeha yehali-laya-a-yeha

Yehyes-saya-a-a-chu-huk (Our beautiful rivers)
Yehali-lahi-i-i-yeha ni-sa-ai-kaya-heya (This land is ours)
Hyas ti-li-i-i-cum ni-sa-ai ka-a-a-a (Our beautiful nations)