“Foreign Indians” from China


The Thlackamas Indians” is the headline on a pretty substantial unsigned article about the local Clackamas Chinookan tribe in the Oregon City (OR) Enterprise of Thursday, June 24, 1886 (page 1, all of columns 2 and 3).

There is a good deal of ethnographic detail told by local Native people here, for example that the pre-contact town of Tsulhigh was really a city larger than Portland.  There’s also overt and implicit mention of the Wacheno family, who came up in my post about Nose-in-the-Soup.

A number of the words used are recognizable to the student of Chinuk Wawa, though in the context they may be purely Clackamas: e-li-te ‘slaves’, tal-a-pas ‘coyote’.  A number of straight Clackamas personal and place names show up as well.

But other words here are plainly from Chinook Jargon: hi-u’-quah, ‘a small and beautiful shell shaped somewhat like an elephant’s tusk’ and used as money, comes under this category.

So does the expression that prompted me to write today’s post:


It is a curious coincidence that the Thlackamas (to us the Chinook Jargon) call the Chinamen “Hul-oo’-yah-mah siwash,” which means  “foreign Indians,” which they most firmly believe them to be, while they most cordially hate them.

The writer goes on to reiterate the common theory of the time that Pacific Northwest Native languages are closely related to Chinese!  That’s a variant of the theory Charles Hill-Tout was operating under when he published his “Oceanic Origin of the Kwakiutl-Nootka and Salish Stocks“, perfectly sensible in the dawning days of linguistic research.  (But now discredited.)

At any rate, this “Hul-oo’-yah-mah siwash” expression (x̣lúyma sháwásh in the modern Grand Ronde spelling) is a new discovery among the synonyms for ‘Chinese’.  The ones we previously knew tend to be recent direct borrowings from spoken English and even from Chinese Pidgin English: cháyni and, in the Kamloops area, cháyna man.

The Grand Chinook Jargon Dictionary that’s still a plan in my mind keeps expanding…