1907 letter in Chinook to Edmond Meany

Jim Wood

James “Jim” A. Wood‘s letter in Chinook Jargon to Professor Edmond Meany, June 25, 1907, regarding the upcoming (1909) Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.


Typically for the West, we were in a rush: the expo was planned to commemorate the 10th, can you believe it, anniversary of the Klondike gold rush. (But it was postponed because it turned out another major expo was being held elsewhere in ’07.)

Jim Wood was the city editor of the Seattle Times and — how Western is this — Director of Exploitation for the AYP.

Also uber-Western is the quick repurposing of land once developed; the AYP fairgrounds became the University of Washington campus, where the archive holding this letter now stands.

Now to the letter itself.

Since we’ve established “Western” credentials, we can expect white people to occupy the stage. And true to form, any letter typewritten in 1907 (there’s a recent and expensive invention for you) is likely to be a couple of powerful white men chatting.

So we won’t expect street Chinook here.

That said, I’m impressed with the uniqueness and variability of Jim Wood’s spelling, and his command of certain reduplicated forms. (Look for those.) I think the man learned his Jargon the old-fashioned way, by talking it, although we can see he was familiar with the incipiently standardized spellings used in widely circulated dictionary booklets.

Meany Wood letter page 1

Kla-how-ya Seekhs:-

“Hello friend:- ”

Kahtah mika tum-tum? Delate ahnkottie nika mamook 
tzum kopa Chinook; klonass nika mahsh tum-tum.  Nika nanitch kopa 
Seattle peepah mesika mahmook klosh okook stone kopa Seward. Nika 
tikky potlatch nika klosh tum-tum – mesika skookum tilakums.

“What do you think? It’s a long time ago that I
wrote in Chinook; maybe I’ve forgotten [how]. I see in
the Seattle papers that you folks are preparing a monument for Seward. I
want to send my encouragement – you’re great people.”

Nika hiyu hee-hee alta. Tenass altki – klonass sinimoxt 
sun – nika iskum hyas klosh tenass house pe nika kwanisum mitlite 
yahkwa, skookum mamook kopa okook A-Y-P. 

“I’m enjoying myself nowadays. Shortly – maybe in seven
days – I’m getting a beautiful little house and and I’ll be staying
here [SIC], working hard on this A-Y-P.”

Konaway tilikums nika nanitch yahka hyas klosh tum-tum 
kopa nesika pe kopa Seattle. Nika tum-tum tenass altki hiyu holoyma 
tilakums chako yahkwa. Konaway klaska tikky cumtux Seattle pe A-Y-P. 
Altki klaska hyack klatawa kopa Seattle potlatch hiyu chikamin kopa 
konoway mesika. 

“Everyone I meet is very supportive
of us and of Seattle. I believe that soon many different
people will be coming here. Everyone wants to know [about] Seattle and the A-Y-P.
They’ll be rushing to Seattle, giving plenty of money to
all of you [SIC].”

Delate warm sun chako yahkwa. Okook Mercury kwanisum 
koli koli saghalie pe mitlite copa taghum tatlum pe lahkit. Nika mahsh 
hiyu chuck. Nika mamook hiyu tzum; mamook hiyu skookum wah-wah; kwani-
sum koli kah-kah, nanitch hiyu tilakums. Okook sun nika nanitch hyas 
Pamunkey tyee. Yahka nem Cook, pe yahka ahnkottie papa nem Powhatan. 
Yahka house kopa tenass reservation pe yahka tolo hiyu chikamin. Alta 
yahka nanitch okook exposition. Yahka cumtux Seattle; wake consegh 
yahka klatwa enetai Mississippi.

“Really warm days [by Seattle standards!] have arrived. That mercury keeps
running high[er] and it’s sitting at sixty-four. I’m
sweating a lot. I’m writing a lot; I’m making lots of speeches; al-
ways running here and there, visiting lots of people. Today I met an important
Pamunkey [Viriginia tribe] chief. His name is Cook, and his long-ago [grand]father’s name was Powhatan.
His house is on a little reservation and he makes a lot of money. Now
he’s seeing [about] this exposition. He’s [getting to] know Seattle; he’s never
been across the Mississippi.”

Meany Wood letter page 2

Klonass klosh nika kuppet tzum. Spose mika delate hiyu 
mahmook kopa University, kopa A-Y-P, kopa Seward stone, Washington stone, 
McDonald stone, kopa ahnkottie tzum, kopa stick tzum, kopa hyas wah-
wah hiyu tilakums halo koli kopa Queenaielt, Deeah, King George illahee – spose 
halo ikta mika mahmook, klosh mika iskum okook tzum stick pe 
potlatch tum-tum kopa nika. 

“Maybe I should finish writing. If you [have] quite a lot
to do with the University, with the A-Y-P, with the Seward monument, the [George] Washington monument,
the [Ranald] McDonald monument, with writing about ancient times, with writing about forests, with spee-
ches [to] crowds[,] [if you’re] not traveling to Quinault, Neah [Bay], Canada – if
you have nothing to do, please pick up that pencil and
share [your] thoughts with me.”

Mika klosh tilicum

“Your good friend”

Jim A. Wood

Nika halo tikky Seattle peepah nanitch okook tzum. Kuppet 
mika pe, klonass, mika delate klosh tilikums, spose mika tikky.

“I don’t want the Seattle papers to see this letter. Only
you and, maybe, your very good friends, if you like.”