Molalla-area pioneers

Our Proud Past

I have readers who will take exception to the title “Our Proud Past” of the book where I found the following nuggets of Chinook Jargon.  (It’s subtitled “A Compiled History of the Families that Settled at the End of the Oregon Trail: Volume One”; author Gail J. McCormick, published by Gail J. McCormick Publishing Company, Mulino, OR, 1993.)  To you I say, at least these pioneers documented something useful of those times.  We can learn from this.

For example, James W. Nesmith’s “Diary of the Emigration of 1843” shows him:

  • On Saturday, October 7, learning the word kamash (camas) at Walla Walla.
  • On Wednesday, October 18, swapping his horse for a Chinook canoe (presumably here meaning any style of Native canoe) at the Methodist Mission of the Dalles.
  • On Monday, October 23, discovering someone’s fire burning a bit downriver on the north bank, termed by his Native guides a ” ‘Boston fire,’ meaning white men[‘s fire].”

And Gail McCormick’s essay “The Molalla Indians” reproduces Agnes Crawford (granddaughter of Harrison Wright) telling her father’s (Reuben Wright Sr.) unusual way “to count in Indian jargon” on page 25:

  1. ix     (compare Chinuk Wawa íxt ‘one’ and/or íxsti ‘once’)
  2. mox     (compare Chinuk Wawa mákwst)
  3. clone     (compare Chinuk Wawa łún)
  4. lockrt     (compare Chinuk Wawa lakit)
  5. quinum     (compare Chinuk Wawa qwínəm)
  6. toofin     (compare Chinuk Wawa táx̣am ‘six’, but with a Molalla accent?)
  7. cinamox     (compare Chinuk Wawa sínmakwst)
  8. taha     (compare Chinuk Wawa táx̣am ‘six’??)
  9. toe tahu     (native Molalla-language word?  I don’t have Nick Pharris’ dissertation.)
  10. tosslum     (compare Chinuk Wawa táłlam)
  11. toss a pix     (compare Chinuk Wawa táłlam pi íxt, literally ‘ten and one’)
  12. toss a mox     (compare Chinuk Wawa táłlam, mákwst)
  13. toss a clone     (compare Chinuk Wawa táłlam, łún)
  14. toss a lockrt     (compare Chinuk Wawa táłlam, lákit)
  15. toss a quinum     (compare Chinuk Wawa táłlam, qwínəm)
  16. toss a toofin     (compare Chinuk Wawa táłlam, táx̣əm)

I’ve seen other rememberers of long-unused Chinook Jargon confuse the numerals from 6 to 9, which also tended to get replaced with English numbers.  The teens here are somethin’ else, take a close look; they’re as weird as Joel Palmer’s 1845-46 dilo-pe-iht, etc.

On the same page she mentions the Molalla leader Crooked Finger, who survived the Battle of Abiqua (which began as an attempt to drive out settlers but ended with the latter killing many Indians including women, leading to the conflict being “kept secret for nearly twenty years” by the shamed whites) only to be done in by our recent Jargon discovery, “blue ruin, a cheap rum from the Sandwich Islands.”

And John Warnock‘s firsthand narrative of those events of 1848, “War on the Abiqua”, tells:

I got to know the Chinook language [Jargon] and because I dealt with them Klamaths who came up the trail near my place, both the Molallas and their cousins, the Klamaths and the Cayuses, came to hold pow-wows with me.

Warnock was in fact pressed into service by the Molallas as an interpreter when hostilities commenced.

That’s about it for the discoveries I noticed in this book, but scant as they are, they’re pretty interesting information about early Oregon language contact.

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