He expected Chinook Jargon, he got pidgin Spanish?!

This anecdote from south of the known region that Chinook Jargon was used in (Sacramento, CA) unexpectedly yielded what looks like pidgin Spanish being used by Native people there.  The gentleman in question tries to tell the Native “bucks, squaws and pappooses” that he doesn’t know any languages that he thinks they might understand: “Chinook”  or “Digger Jargon” (their tribal language).  Read on for their response.

Chinook or Digger jargon

Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 15, Number 2260, 24 June 1858

CITY INTELLIGENCE.

Pursuit of Blackberries under Difficulties.

A gentleman of this city, doing business on street, and whom we will call “F.,” bethought himself, a day or two since, that he would recreate somewhat by a little trip into the country. Not being exactly prepared to go to Frazer [the usual way of referring to the Fraser River gold-rush region], he concluded that he would avoid the perils of starvation and of Indians by going on a blackberry excursion. Following up this intent, he crossed the Sacramento one fine morning and wended his way down the river — now pushing through dense vegetation, and anon waging a fierce fight with mosquitoes, until at last he reached a spot where the nutritious berry abounded in rather gratifying quantities. He pitched in promiscuously, and after laboring some two or three hours in the sun, and in the midst of hosts of enraged and hungry insects, he had the satisfaction of perceiving that he had gathered several quarts of berries. Having been absorbed in his occupation, and being withal quite near-sighted, be had not noticed that a band of Indians — bucks, squaws and pappooses— had been gradually surrounding him. He soon became conscious of that fact, however, on looking up and hearing the clamors of the party — and especially the shrill notes of the female Diggers, mingled with an occasional threat. He ascertained that they wanted his blackberries, for they pointed very significantly at his basket; but he affected ignorance of their wishes, and endeavored to impress them with the fact that he was no [sic] proficient in either the Chinook or Digger jargon. But they were not to be put off in this way, and made a circuitous sign about his head to indicate that, if they didn’t get blackberries, they would at least get that. Hereupon our adventurer weakened, and surrendered the blackberries. Sitting down upon the grass, they feasted luxuriously, and to their heart’s content. Not being able to eat the whole, they generously returned to him the balance — which, perhaps, might be about one pint and a half exclaiming at the same time : “Vamos, hombre; Americanos no bueno!” Our friend needed no urging, and made tracks with high-pressure steam power; but he was soon called back by the chief, who had just appeared on the the scene, and wanted his share. The Capitan was not to be put off”, and he took a full pint. Again was heard the ominous sounds of “Vamos, vamos.” and our “rural cuss,” with his half-pint of berries, broke for home like a quarter-horse. Since his return, he has been beard to say that he has no desire to go blackberrying again, or to Frazer — or to any other place where Indians circulate.

Here, “Capitan” is conventional Californian terminology of the time for a Native chief.  Other California newspapers of the era overtly attribute “broken Spanish” to Native people.

Interesting to see possible traces of yet another (North)Western pidgin!

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