"Okki Tokki Unga" is sung across the English-speaking world by Girl Scouts, at camps and in schools.

Most people think this is an Inuit canoeing song. However, I contacted the Ottawa Inuit Children's Centre and no one there recognizes any of the words in this song. -Mama Lisa

Okki Tokki Unga - American Children's Songs - The USA - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

I asked Lynda Brown from the Ottawa Inuit Children's Centre about this song and she wrote, "I have asked around and no one seems to recognize it, nor do they recognize any of the words- most commenters seemed to think it may be a First Nations song, especially if it's a song about canoes."

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I emailed Wendy Camber at Alaska Native Language Archive about this song and here's what she wrote:

"I talked to Dr. Larry Kaplan, Linguist, Inupiaq Language and he could not identify any Eskimo words in the song. He said: 'This is one of those garbled things that doesn't look like any language, even though it is reportedly this or that. It sure doesn't look like any Eskimo language. There's always the chance that it's some language badly written, but how to tell?'

I'm sorry we could not be any more helpful.

Wendy

PS. I remember that song well from Girl Scouts!"

*****

Mikaela wrote, "I don't know what language this is in but I sang it in music class when I was in grade three. My music teacher said that the first part was about looking for a seal to hunt and the second part was about riding back to shore with the seal. This might not be accurate but this is what I was told, hope this helps!"

*****

J.F. wrote: "I found this explanation on another link, perhaps it's from the west coast of Alaska, as it says here and Northwest Territories or even Nunavut.

'Inuit (Inuktitut syllabics, singular Inuk) is a general term for a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic coasts of Siberia, Alaska, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec, Labrador, and Greenland. Until fairly recent times, there has been a remarkable homogeneity in the culture throughout this area, which traditionally relied on fish, sea mammals, and land animals for food, heat, light, clothing, tools, and shelter. Their language, sometimes incorrectly called Inuktitut, is grouped under Inuit language or Eskimo-Aleut languages.'

Hope this helps your search for the true meaning of the song."

Game Instructions

1. Children sit on the floor and pretend to paddle a canoe.
2. Children "stop" rowing, put hand up at forehead and mime looking around.

Repeat the song and actions.

Comments

You can learn other versions of Okki Tokki Onga and share your version on Mama Lisa's World Blog.

If anyone can help identify the origin of this song and/or its language, please email me. Thanks! Mama Lisa

Listen

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Many thanks to Nicki Bowden and Class 2 Balshaw Lane Primary School for the wonderful recording!

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Sheet Music

Sheet Music - Okki Tokki Unga

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Chrystal Woodard for contributing this song and the score.

Many thanks to Lynda Brown, Wendy Camber, Dr. Larry Kaplan and J.F. for trying to help us learn about the origin of this song. Thanks to Mikaela for writing in too!

Thank you!