Roy I. Rochon’s “The Yakama guide who led the first Rainier ascent”

Roy I. Rochon Wilson has a neat historical piece in Centralia, WA’s The Chronicle (“Serving the greater Lewis County , Wash., area since 1889”) Friday, March 8th, 2013.  The biographical note on the author tells us,

Sluiskin Mtn

Roy I. Rochon Wilson was an elected leader of the Cowlitz Tribe for three decades and is the author of more than 30 books, including several histories of the Cowlitz Tribe. He is a retired ordained Methodist minister and current spiritual leader of the tribe. Wilson lives near Winlock.”

Here are highlights from his article, titled “The Yakama guide who led the first Rainier ascent“:

“The historic expedition of Gen. Hazard Stevens [son of the late Washington Territory governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens] and Philemon Beecher Van Trump to climb Mount Rainier in August 1870 has its connections with the Cowlitz country and its people.

They began their expedition on Aug. 8. On Aug. 13, James Longmire, who participated in the early stages of the expedition, and Stevens went down Skate Creek to its junction with the Cowlitz Valley to locate Poniah’s band of Upper Cowlitz Indians from whom he had hoped to obtain a guide…

Sluiskins family

He was a friendly fellow, this Sluiskin, welcoming Longmire and Stevens with dignified hospitality. With much handshaking, they were seated beneath the little shelter of hides to be served cakes of dried huckleberries by his wife; then there was talk through the medium of the Chinook jargon. Longmire soon explained the purpose of their visit, obtaining Sluiskin’s service as a guide, with the understanding that he would present himself at their camp the following day. Late in the evening, Longmire and Stevens returned to the camp on Bear Prairie, weary but with good news…

Sluiskin was quite sharp and knew it would be to his advantage to prolong the trip — more days, more dollars! So he quickly vetoed Steven’s suggestion that they make the approach by the way of the Nisqually River, insisting in his fluent Chinook jargon, reinforced with pantomime, that the only practicable route lay along the summit of the Tatoosh Range, northeasterly from camp. However, he made it plain that he did not believe they could climb the mountain and he obviously considered the venture highly ridiculous.”

Notice the reference to “pantomime” or sign language accompanying use of Chinook Jargon.  If you accept the latter phrase for it, this is an instance of a phenomenon I notice quite a lot in Pacific Northwest language history: the coexistence of multiple pidgin languages.

Mr. Rochon Wilson’s article is accompanied by a sidebar, “Chinook Jargon Phrase for the Week:

Chinook Jargon phrase for the week: ‘Spose maika mamook tenas mamook tenas sun.’ Meaning, ‘Suppose you work small job little sun,’ or, ‘I want you to do a little job in the morning.’ “

(Is this from one of Duane Pasco‘s dialogues?)

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