Blazing the way, by Emily Denny

Blazing the Way:
Or, true stories, songs and sketches of Puget Sound and other pioneers.
By Emily Inez Denny.
Seattle: Rainier Printing Company, Inc.

I enjoyed noticing on page 33 of this readable book that Emily Denny specifies Oregon Trail pioneers brought some rice, but not much, as it wasn’t in in common use yet.  As I recall, Dr. Keith Thor Carlson has pointed out to me that you can spot the enduring influence of Chinese laborers and miners in BC Native communities, because that’s where folks tend to have rice with their salmon–elsewhere they have potatoes.

Hiyu ictas“, a lot of clothes:

The local white people’s pronunciation of “Alki” is identical to my parents’ generational slang for “an alcoholic”–in school I was taught that “Alki” is to rhyme with “pal high”:

Chief Sealth’s tillicum, not tillicums:

Coast Salish people’s “language was almost unintelligible”–barring some Chinook Jargon that they and the whites had recently learned:

The very earliest wave of pioneers of Seattle included a few who, like their pilot Captain Fay, knew to learn some Chinook Jargon before arriving–probably from hearing lower Columbia and Willamette Valley settlers’ accounts.  The captain refers to Indians when they “poo mowich”:

A bit more about ‘New York’ / Alki:

Old Dupwampsh Curley, a.k.a. Suwhalth, later recalled, “He! He! Boston man halo tikke Siwash muck-a-muck“:

An illustration, “Bargaining with Indians at Alki, 1851”:

Here is a concise anecdote showing how Chinook Jargon “mowich” prototypically means deer, but generically means “animal; meat”. Thus the Native man referred to here was not the liar or trickster he’s made out to be. “Itlwillie”–flesh/body–wasn’t known in all places at all times; around newborn New York/Alki/Seattle there seems to have been restricted knowledge of Jargon yet. The communication depicted here revolves around an honest misunderstanding:

Wapatoes and a tyee a-wa-wa‘ing:

Wake, cultus potlatch”–is this mistranslated by Mrs Denny?–“hyas mokoke”–“slanna” (woman, in Lushootseed)–“salt chuck”.  Here’s one of the indicators that this book is relating language as actually used in the brand-new contact situation at Seattle: we can see the Lushootseed noun-marking prefix “s-” on borrowed words as on “Sking George” from CJ:

Into the bargain we get some Chinese Pidgin English, quite early for the West Coast if it’s someone’s authentic recollection: “To littlee boat for too muchee big waters”.  Also CJ “ictas” and “nannitch”:

“Old Alki John” kind of counts among the Chinook Jargon personal names I collect:


Deciding to “wa-wa” before fighting…

“Wa-wa” as a noun…chatting with the “Bostons“…

Patkanim’s/Patkanem’s Lushootseed name got reanalyzed as Pat Kanem (Kanem=CJ for “canoe”), so that his brother became John Kanem…a “haluimi klootchman“…a government “potlatch”…

We could kill all you Bostons…”Klosh mika potlatch wapatoes”…Governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens’ treaties with the Indians naturally generated resentment…

First time I’ve seen the word “rancheree” used to mean Coast Indians’ long houses rather than a village…

Ictas” are legal tender…

klootchman says what?

I won’t reproduce in full a “sketch” of the murder of a white man at Lake Union (pages 96-99), with its smattering of reconstructed Chinook Jargon dialog. I’ll just note that Mrs Denny throws in the Lushootseed word “stobsh”, “man”–probably one of the few that white people knew and used. There’s also a bit of CJ thrown in for color in the opening lines of Denny’s reminiscences about childhood on the frontier (pages 113-115).

More suggestive to me of actual Jargon use is this regarding Native people’s beliefs: the “stick siwash“–Stick Indians–or (Lushootseed) statalth:

You might also note there that “Stickeens” (the name of a Tlingit group) was a generic for feared raiding northern Coast Indians; others would say Haidas or Yucultas (Lekwiltoks, a ‘Kwakiutl’ group).

The “salt-chuck” is again mentioned on page 120.

An Aboriginal woman trades for a little “pish-pish“, a kitten who turns out to be a “mesachie pish-pish“…some “supalel“, bread, comes into the deal:

Tsetseguis is “the Oleman“:

We asked the neighboring Indian girls, “Ka mika klatawa?” “O, kopa yawa” they answered:

Illustration: “A Visit from Our Tillicum”:

Mrs Denny reprints the  experiences of mid-1840s emigrant Esther Chambers:

I know what “la camas” is but “crickette cakes” are new to me.  Surely this refers to edible insects?  Grasshopper pie and cricket pie seem to have become fashionable decades later, with no bugs in ’em.

“Iskum mika tenas and klatawa kopa stick”…she didn’t understand the guy so this is reconstructed as being in Jargon, for dramatic effect on readers who at the time could understand the words:

Never to be forgotten: this is an often repeated refrain from the settlers and it secondarily says a lot about the importance of Chinook Jargon —

had it not been for the kindness of the Indians we would have suffered more than we did.

(From Mrs CJ Crosby of Olympia, whose narrative of emigrating in 1851 is reproduced.)


Captain Henry Roeder’s reminiscences form the short Chapter X (pages 177-181). Roeder is mentioned in a Chinook Jargon letter that was read into the record of the Washington State senate in 1909, and printed in a Bellingham newspaper…

By the way, “clam-digger” was evidently the term in use for locally raised kids. “Mossback” referred to an early settler and longtime resident.

Mock Indians and Chinook Jargon were incorporated into the 42nd wedding anniversary celebration of David Denny and wife, January 23, 1895:

In that excerpt we see that Denny spoke CJ; compare the following, which almost certainly refers more to CJ than to Lushootseed or other tribal languages:

A genre popular in the second half of the 19th century among whites in Washington was the invitation in Chinook Jargon, “1851, Ankuti. 1895, Okoke Sun“:

Hyas tyee” Arthur Denny’s life life is saved, in an exchange probably later translated into Chinook Jargon by a Native man for his benefit:

Thomas Mercer is eulogized with a reminiscence of Native people’s CJ words about him–he was “klosh tum-tum” and “wawa-ed Sahale Tyee”:

On the vast differences between Lushootseed and Chinook Jargon, and by implication between their communicative capabilities:

My tillicum Chief Seattle:

Kluskie mem-a-loose nika ow”, recalls John Kanem:

Pat Kanem invested in “Boston ictas” or “citizen’s garb”:

Indians being taken to one of the new reservations are told to gather their “ictas“, but wish to remain in the “stick“:

Chief Sealth’s (Seattle’s) daughter Angeline conveys her knowledge of Christianity via CJ, paraphrased here:

Another of Mrs Denny’s illustrations titled with a Chinook word, “Last Voyage of the Lumei” (Old Woman):

At Oleman House, recollections of how the bad Indians “mamoked pooh“:

The Black Tamanuse (see a previous post in this blog on the black and red versions):

“If I could speak better English or you better Chinook…”: comments on the inadequacy of CJ…

A “lum-e-i” again, crying “Mame-loose Lachuse!” (a Native person’s name) “Achada!” (Oh my god, in Lushootseed!)

They klatawaw-ed with all the hyak possible:

An early pioneer’s Chehalis letter, 1852, speaking of “tennes (white [sic]) Jack, who momicked (worked) it [a homestead, but] had clatawawed (traveled or went) to California in quest of chicamun (metal) and had never chacooed (come back)”:

A desirable commodity, sappalille…the Indians won’t soon start to momick the illahe…we are getting to waw-waw Chinook pretty well:

Pioneer reminiscences, 1902: “My Dear Ankutty Tillikum“…”delate mika siam” (a Lushootseed word, si’ab, ‘chief, noble person, dear one’):

The tyee Lord Jim’s skookum paper (the narrator infers his white-people clothing was a cultus potlatch):