The words of old Eliza Quinaby of Grand Ronde reservation

Eliza Quinaby.jpg

For its respectful and/or restrained treatment of an elder, and for its antiquity, I’m pleased with the following find of early rez-period Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa.

(Explanation: the S-word is used here, but it’s in Eliza’s quoted speech, which strikes me as a careful recording of her words.)

For its interest to linguistics, I’m excited to be sharing today’s text.  My linguist readers will be interested to know that this represents the variety of Chinook Jargon that creolized soon after the G.R. Indian Reservation was formed in 1855. They will be fascinated, too, to learn that Eliza here provides us a sample of how that lect was spoken by people who had already been adults in the pre-Reservation times, and went on to participate in the creolizing speech economy.

As I typically do, I’ll supply an interlinear translation, then make a few comments at the end.


To Her Native lllahee.

On Tuesday evening, Old Eliza,
relict of the old Indian chief Quin-
aby, who departed this life about five
years ago, the result of a too liberal
patronage of the holidays, returned
to this city, the home of her fathers,
after a two years’ absence at the res-
ervation at Grand Ronde.

Mrs. Quinaby is now upwards of
80 years of age, it is said, and she
tells a very pitiful tale of her condi-
tion. She says she arrived late
Tuesday night, “clatawa camp, halo
… “went to make camp, without 

fire, halo muckmuck, nika hias ticke
a fire, without any food, I really wished for 

muckmuck, halo; chako sleep; next
food, [but] there was none; fell asleep; the next 

day sun, halo muckmuck chaco,
morning, no food to be found, 

nika clatawa, nanege Boston tilli-

I left, and saw white peo-

cums, potlach hiyu yaqua sun

ple, who gave [me] plenty of 

muckmuck,” pointing to the east.
food for today” …

“Nika hias ancoty, nika halo tilli-

“I’m an old-old-timer, I have no 

cums middlite. Spose nika sick,
people [left].  When I’m sick, 

halo tillicum chaco, potlach muck-
no relatives come, to give [me]

muck, halo chako fire, halo chako
food, there’s no fire to be had, no 

chuck; nika hias wake close squaw.
water to be had; I’m a miserable woman. 

Copa reservation, halo flour, halo
On the Reservation, there’s no flour, no 

muckmuck, chako [NULL] Salem, nanege
food, [if I] come [to] Salem, to visit 

Boston tillicum, spose maybe pot-
the white people, so that [they] might 

lach muckmuck copa nika.” All of
give some food to me.”

which means that old Eliza has a
hard time of it. Nobody to help
her — nothing to eat, and that she is
hard up generally.

Eliza is very bright, even yet, and
could weave a very interesting tale
of early days in Oregon. To the
younger population who never had
the honor of Quinaby‘s acquaint-
ance, it is proper to say that he was
a chief of one of the tribes of this
part of the valley — probably the
Chemeketes. Eliza does not like to
be called Mrs. Quinaby. She says
its [SIC] bad luck for a squaw to keep her
man’s name after he dies. There-
fore she is now simply Eliza — Old
Eliza generally.

— Salem (OR) Evening Capital Journal, June 7, 1888, page 3, column 3

I’d point out that the are none of the creolized features of Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa here.  You don’t find (productive, whole-word) reduplication.  There’s no phonological reduction of auxiliary verbs. I could get nerdier.

Yet Eliza’s Chinuk Wawa is quite fluent, for example in using a NULL preposition, a feature that many less fluent speakers mastered.  Nika halo tillicums middlite (náyka hílu tílxam(s) míłayt) uses beautiful CW verb-final word order.

The recent English loans in Eliza’s CW sometimes replace more-established CW lexemes, like when she says flour instead of saplíl, and squaw rather than łúchmən.  Surely this material faithfully reflects both her close acquaintance with anglophone whites and her membership in a generation older than the babies who creolized Chinook Jargon into a more elaborate local dialect.  (Her birth and death dates are apparently not known, but her husband lived ca. 1815-1883, and she was old in 1888.)