Kittitas Frontiersmen

Spoiler alert: What is a tea-tea?  (Scroll to bottom.)

Glauert, Earl T. and Merle H. Kunz (eds.)  1976.  Kittitas frontiersmen.  Ellensburg, WA: Ellensburg Public Library.


FYI about ‘Kittitas’: the pronunciation [KITTittass] is usual locally.  Thanks to my blog’s visitors for asking!


Page 62ff (reproduced from Clarence E. Bagley, ed., Early Catholic missions in old Oregon.  Seattle: Lowman & Hanford Company, 1932, pages 47-52):  the missionary Modeste Demers makes his first report to this superiors:

‘Vancouver, Oregon, March 1st, 1839…For the last three months this fort has with the Canadians and Indians here, occupied all my time.  I have found here some consolation, God has given me the grace to learn the Chinook language [sic] in a short time.  It is in this jargon that I instruct the women and children of the white settlers, and the savages who come to see me from far and near…[Interesting because it’s sometimes claimed that few women knew Jargon.  But kids were already speaking it from birth at Fort Vancouver before this date.–DDR]

A great many of the Indians [Cayuse, Dalles and Des Chutes] speak the Chinook jargon of which there will be mention later…

The real language of the Chinook is almost unlearnable; it [actually Jargon] is all borrowed from different languages which make it easy to acquire.  It differs entirely from that of all the neighboring tribes; but they speak the jargon also, which is used as the medium between the Canadians and the whites in general, and the Indians who are settled near the fort.  The jargon is composed of words taken from different languages, disfigured in their orthography [sic] and pronunciation.  It possesses only from four to five hundred words.  It has no participle; one and the same word has several meanings.  For instance: Wawa, means to speak, to learn [sic], to tell, to answer, to ask: Komtux means to know, to learn, to comprehend, to hear, to think and to believe; thus by adding Nawitka, certainly; we have, Nawitka naika komtux Sahalle Tayee, I believe in God; hence it follows that it is not easy to translate French expressions into it, we have to use paraphrases.  For the last month I know this jargon sufficiently well to give instructions and to teach the catechism without being obliged to write them down.  I have translated the Sign of the Cross, and the way to give one’s heart to God.  I cannot send the translation of the other prayers, as they are not quite finished.  A good many of the Cascade Indians who understand this jargon, and some of the Klickatats, attend the catechism and evening prayers.  In order to impress deeper upon their memory the truths contained in the apostles’ Creed, I have tried to arrange it to a certain air.  The Indians love music very much; they know nearly by heart the canticles that were sung at Mass last Sunday.  I expect to learn the Klickatat language, which will be of great use in instructing this tribe, and those of Des Chutes and of the Cascades, who understand it [Jargon?] well.  The greatest difficulty in learning the language spoken on this side of the mountains consists in the pronunciation which is such that we are many times at loss to find characters to represent it, as in Sahalee Tayee, God (Chief above)[,] hikht, one…

The Cowlitz Indians…said to the settlers of Cowlitz: “The priests are going to stay with us; we are poor, and have nothing to give them: Tlahowiam nesaika, wake ikta nesaika: we want to do something for them, we will work, make fences, and whatever else they wish us to do.”…

Moreover, the Chinook jargon is spoken among the Kalapooias.’

Page 99: Lt. George B. McClellan letters, from The Journal of George B. McClellan, May 20, 1853-December 15, 1853, George B. McClellan Papers, Library of Congress: ‘Saturday, Sept. 10, Camp 35, Lake Kle-al-lum…A family of Indians (Shum-waw-patems) here–they have no salmon; only a couple of suckers.  They were at first unwilling to receive a small present I offered them, until they understood it to be a “cultus pot latch“…

Sunday, Sept. 11, Camp No. 36…Our guides camp a short distance above us.  A couple of his [sic] friends are now in camp, making a friendly potlash of about a quart of huckleberries, for which they only expect a moderate “cultus potlash” of a handkerchief apiece in return.  There is a good deal of similarity & fancy between the “cultus potlashes” of these savages & some of our “presents” in civilization…’

Page 157:  A letter from M. Robertson, “Major Yakima Expedition”, published in the Weekly Oregonian of August 7, 1858:  ‘…they [Owhi and his people] refused to let Pearson go and took a vote upon it, but after a little tea-tea, Qualchin pleading for him and his liberty, he was allowed to go with his rifle, (they kept his revolver)…’  [What is tea-tea?–DDR]