Opening the remaining half of the Colville Reservation to settlement, 1906
The context of the book I’m blogging about today is that in 1906 there was a plan to throw open the remaining, southern, half of the Colville Indian Reservation in north-central Washington state to non-Indian settlement.
The reservation had been created in 1872. Its northern half was unilaterally removed from Indian-land status in 1892 for the convenience of miners and settlers. The 1906 idea was to allot land to individual Indians in the (old) south half, then let other folks move in on the non-allotted lands.
Hitherto, the reservation had remained pretty solidly Indian in its demography. So as far as I can see, knowledge of non-tribal languages seems to have remained fairly limited. Recently intensified contacts with ‘whites’ had however resulted in a smattering of both pidgin English and Chinook Jargon usage, probably more of the latter.
Here’s what I’d like to pass along from the book “Pack Train and Transit: First Survey of South Half Colville Indian Reservation 1906 / Personal Account” by Ernest Moore Foster (Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon). (The book was published at another time as With Pack Train and Transit through Joseph’s Domain.)
Foster, as the Introduction rightly observes, took a pretty balanced and often sympathetic view of the Indians he encountered during this surveying job. His notes on how they acted and spoke gain in reliability from this.
Page 27: “The Indians were very curious about the survey, asking us many questions in the broken English, and more than one old fellow shook his head sadly when we told him that it meant the coming of the white rancher into his domain.”
Pages 33-34: “An old Indian woman was very much aroused by our crossing her land and came to us trembling with excitement and talking vehemently all the while. She had seen the chains dragging along the ground for nearly a thousand feet in our rear and seemed to think that we were going to take her land. Although she could not understand our language, we pacified her as best we could.”
Page 34: “We bought another pony at Troy [apparently at that time a settlement near Gifford, Washington], a little white one, which we named Siwash because we got him from a Siwash Indian, and because he had his ears and tail cut off by the Indians.”
Page 36: A photograph of the horse Siwash together with Raymond W. Hatton (1887-1971), cook, who later starred in early silent Western films as comic sidekick of Wallace Beery, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney, in a couple of John Wayne movies, and in Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957).
Page 37: “I was very glad to have Paul [Moore, an old friend from the East] with me again…He quickly gained the respect and good will of the whole party and proved himself a good comrade and camp mate and was my ‘bunkie’ for the rest of the trip. He was tall and good looking, and on that account, an Indian paid him a neat compliment one evening when he and I entered the post office at Nespelem by exclaiming ‘Huh! skookum man’ (‘skookum’ being Chinook for ‘fine’).”
Page 50: About 1.5 miles north of the San Poil River’s confluence with the Columbia, “A few hundred yards below our camp was the tepee of a Siwash family which Paul, Thompson, and I visited while waiting for supper to be made ready…We stayed about twenty minutes and took our leave after playing with the baby, and having answered the universal questions of ‘Where you from?’, ‘Where you go?‘, and ‘What you do?’.”
Page 72: “Most of the Indians in Nespelem and vicinity are Nez Perce. There are some Umatillas on the Reservation, and a group called Siwash [clearly a confusion with ‘Salish’–DDR], embracing the San Poil, Nespelem, Omache (Omak), Colville, Methow, Chelan, and Pend Oreille…
The Indians are as eager for money as anybody; as one of them expressed it ‘me catchem money.’…
We learned a few words of the Indian language, Chinook as it is called. ‘Hiu‘ means ‘many’ or ‘great,’ ‘skookum‘ means ‘good’ or ‘fine.’ ‘Hiu skookum,’ therefore, is ‘very fine.’ ‘Haylo kumtucks?‘ was an expression they used a great deal and means ‘Do you understand?’ ‘Tillicum‘ means ‘friend’ and ‘tillicum tum tum‘ ‘very dear friend.’ In addressing them we usually said ‘How!‘ or ‘Hello six!’ ”
[This last bit is unexpected but I think it’s accurate for CJ at this place and time. I’d analyze it as showing more ‘white’ influence than earlier, coastal Jargon. For example, the broadening of meaning of skookum from an original ‘strong’ etc. to mean ‘good’ is reflected in regional English.
What Foster reports is quite in line with the CJ we know from other parts of the interior around the turn of the century. In the Okanagan area as recorded by U.E. Fries, and in the Kamloops region as known from Indian-written letters, you’d find English elements including ‘hello‘.
The stereotyping ‘how!‘ from the Great Plains (Lakota in origin?) is a new one for me in CJ, but white folks were constantly throwing in similarly ‘foreign Indian’ words like ‘papoose’, ‘squaw’, and ‘wigwam’…
The expression tillicum tum tum is also new to me, but it looks Indian. It matches in form numerous expressions I’ve found Native people wrote in their letters, expressing a wide range of emotions by preposing a descriptor to tum tum, ‘heart’. — DDR]
Enjoyed your post, as always. The history of Fur Trade contact on the Columbia Plateau began in Spokane and the Okanogan in 1811 and actually introduced usage of Chinook Jargon quite a few decades prior to the opening of the Colville Reservation in 1906. I think that CJ was pretty widespread by 1906, albeit fast being supplanted by English. In the very early days some Hawaiians had also been sent to Spokane to work (Old Cox being one, in 1811-1812) so he would have added his variation of language to the mix as well. With the Fur Trade being a big part of life on the Columbia Pateau from 1811 through the 1850’s, it stands to reason that CJ would have had a strong presence and influence.
Chief Spokane Garry had been sent back East to be educated in the 1820’s, and for a time he tried to teach his tribesmen English in addition to setting up a church. Chief Moses had been sent to the Protestant Mission in the 1830’s, and also learned English. Columbia Plateau families traveled to the fur trade forts on the coast as well, where they made trades to acquire cattle and other commodities. From my reading I have also discovered that many Indians on the plateau were accustomed to traveling as far south as Portland to trade and work on the docks, where I assume they also would have conversed in CJ.
There were scores of mixed race Catholic families living in the Colville valley and in the Okanogan spanning multiple generations, leftovers from the Fur Trade who decided to stay.There were also miners who swarmed into the area from the late 1850’s onward and took native wives. CJ would have been their common language for trade and barter at first, but the children of these mixed race families grew up speaking English and many were educated locally by the Catholics or sent to the Indian boarding schools. Most of these mixed race families then ended up on the Colville and Spokane reservations. According to census I have accessed, a surprising number of the natives on the Columbia Plateau could speak English by the early 1900’s..