Same-sex marriage in Chinuk Wawa, 1876

I’m reposting this because, in the course of my work, I’ve revisited it and come up with what I think is the intended translation. Enjoy this lovely, elusive unicorn of a Chinuk Wawa sentence!

(And if any of you happened to download the image of the original letter, which Sue posted on a website back then, please share. Wayback Machine can’t find it.)

Schafer, Anna 1876
[Sue Schafer’s great-grandmother, settled in Satsop Valley, WA]
A letter in German (n.d.), shared on the CHINOOK listserv 10/11/2002:,

In the following interlinearization, the second line is my inference of the intended written form, a step I justify by noting that Sue Schafer specified that her great-grandmother’s handwriting was very hard to read. The context is that Anna Schafer has just told her stepdaughter Margarethe, age 26, that the local Lower Chehalis Indian people were surprised to learn the latter had recently gotten married. Anna quotes Hyasman‘s wife’s mildly risqué response to the news, which could be taken as implying lesbianism, polygamy, or both. I think this is why she suddenly switches from German to Jargon:

  • Heiesmäns Klutsch… (1)
    Heies män-s                          Klutsch…
    big     man+GERMAN.POSS woman
    “Hyasman’s wife [said]…
  • kawaneike dum Dum, bos mammak ekkuk Shie kod neke wauman. Komber Deneds
    kakwa neike dumDum, bos mammuk okkuk Shakoo  neke wouman. Koobet Deness
    thus    1SG    think          IRR make         DEM    become 1SG  woman    only       DIM
    “Here’s what I was thinking — to make that one become my woman. Just a young”
  • Klumschemän, be kanisem wouwaure heller Iskum Män nike.
    Klutschemän, be      kwanisem wouwoure heller Iskum Män nike.
    woman            CONJ always       say              NEG    get      man 1SG+FOC
    “girl she was, and always saying ‘Never getting married, not me!’ “
How’s that for a rare glimpse into women’s lives in 1870s Washington Territory?!

1“Die ^Heiesmäns^ Klutsch sagte…” [The /Hyasman’s/ wife said…] the following sentence.