The Grand Tyhee!

In honor and memory of my dad, Bob Robertson, who died a few days ago:

While an Alaska State Trooper in the 1960s, Dad wrote a history of law enforcement from territorial days onward.

Its tie-in with Chinook Jargon was when he quoted a famous example of what I’ve heard called a “skookum board” from the house of the Tlingit constable Saginaw Jake (Kitch-een-alt), which I remember seeing in the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka:

saginaw jake

By the government’s commission
And the company’s permission,
I am made the Grand Tyhee
Of this entire Illahee.

Prominent in song and story,
I’ve attained the top of glory.
As Saginaw I am known to fame,
Jake is but my common name.

For a full and fascinating travelogue from the period that includes a visit to Jake’s home, see “A Trip to Alaska” by Dr. A. Victoria Scott and Emily J. Bryant in The American Magazine, pages 130-143.  That article conveys other interesting Chinookiana: the Native section of Sitka is named “Siwash” or “Siwash Town”; an Indian woman is represented as concerned for her “papoose”; a Southeast Alaska salmon cannery has Native and Chinese people working side-by-side; and at “Fort” Wrangell,

The Chinook language is spoken by these Indians.  When an Indian wishes to say he is humble, he says “he has a high down heart.”  (page 135)

This presumably represents a newcomer’s interpretation of a straight Chinook expression, aias kikuli tomtom in the Kamloops spelling.

I know one fella who would’ve loved reading it–my dad, to whom I owe my interest in Chinook Jargon!