Opening the remaining half of the Colville Reservation to settlement, 1906

colville indian reservation

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.

Pack Train and Transit

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.”

Raymond Hatton

Raymond Hatton from a 1921 newspaper

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]