Trophy hunter meets Klootchman, a story of initiative

The excellent little North Columbia Monthly newspaper has a column “North of the Border” by Eileen Delehanty Pearkes.

North Columbia Monthly

Each month, she explores Sinixt (Lakes) Salish people’s relationship with their environment.

For July 2013, Pearkes focuses on an incident in British hunter W.A. Baillie-Grohman’s 1882 safari out of Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho guided by a Kootenai Indian.

I’ve blogged this same “klootchman” anecdote before, but here’s how the magazine column relates it (page 9):

A steep climb was in order for Baillie-Grohman and his guide before they could enter the [mountain] goat’s terrain.  First, they would need to paddle several dozen miles up the Kootenay River to the international boundary, then 70 more miles up Kootenay Lake, where they would access a trail leading high into the mountains.  Baillie-Grohman agreed to pay $1/day each to the guide and his “klootchman,” whom the British hunter assumed would be a male friend or relation.

The next morning, much to Baillie-Grohman’s surprise, a woman stepped into the canoe with the trophy hunter and his guide.  Klootchman, he soon learned, is a Chinook trade language word for woman or wife.  Noticing the trophy hunter’s alarmed look, Fry stepped up and reassured him that he would soon find out that “as far as willingness to work and general handiness went, the klootchman would prove the better ‘man’ of the two.”  

This Fry is Bonners Ferry’s only non-Native inhabitant at the time, the American merchant Richard Fry, who was married to Justine_Susteel_Fry_t2 Justine Susteel Irie Fry, daughter of a Sinixt chief from just across the border.  Fry’s point was that Aboriginal women could be relied on to work steadily and hard.

This klootchman story has not just cultural but linguistic interest.  While Baillie-Grohman couldn’t necessarily be expected to have known any Indian-related languages, Chinook Jargon would’ve been helpful to a Native guide working in the frontier cash economy.  Knowledge of any foreign languages among Kootenais was said to have been rare still in the 1880s. This hunting guide’s ability to use CJ implies that he was  resourceful and enterprising guy.