Crowdsourcing challenge: find the original of this Chinook Jargon letter

EDITED 10/25/2017: thanks to several goodhearted readers, I can now add the entire Chinuk Wawa text, at the end of this post. Bonus: it’s actually 2 letters! Look below.

Tillicum Wawa Hiyu WA state senate

I’ve had the heck of a time trying to get full-text access to this fascinating letter read into the record of the Senate Journal of the Legislature of the State of Washington!

So I’ll try and transcribe it from the small snippet view above. But there’s an English translation provided, which I’m not finding access to. (I must need more coffee yet…)

It involves a Captain Roeder and a Mr. Eldridge, and I’d like to track down more details about those two people. Can you find out more?

The Chinuk Wawa here is extremely interesting. Everything about it suggests it is genuine “old-time pioneer” Jargon, learned early in life from talking with Native people. The unique spellings (like clawhowya), certain word choices (like stick kulakula ‘forest birds’ vs. chuck kalakala ‘waterfowl), pronunciation clues (like gada ‘how; a way to’ instead of the frequent kahta)…these add up to a really neat document.

I’ve asterisked words I’m unsure of, like the word/name Olf*…I suspect that one may have been elip ‘more’.

Nowitka Willie alta chacko delate clawhowya[,] canaway okok illihe halo stick
Willie has really gotten miserable nowadays, this whole country has no forest

kulakula wake siah halo chuck kalakala[,] copet tenas hiyu mowich[,] pe ancutty 
birds [and] almost no waterfowl, just a few deer, but in the past

spose nika tenas man Olf* hiyu canaway icta. Mika cumtux ancuty spose ocok
when I was a boy there were [more?] of everything. You know, back when the

Boston illihe checko ict takamonic[.] alka kilipy copa stejace canamoxt Captain
USA began, a hundred [years ago]. Now, go back to the islands with Captain

Roeder pe moxt yaca tenas copa tenas aias boat pe canoway ict polakly nesika
Roeder and his two kids in a good-sized boat, and every evening we

midlite copa Swinomish Slough pe wake gada nesika sleep[,] ocok tyee chuck 
are on Swinomish Slough and we can’t sleep, those big water-

kulakula hiyu wa wa quack quack quack pe ocok geese wa wa honk honk pe 
fowl are going quack quack quack and those geese are going honk honk and

tenas alta [….] ocok Kulakula pe yaka clataway[.] Oh delate cocka spose hiyas musket
a little [while?] now […] those birds and he leaves. Oh it’s just as if a big gun

poo[,] clonas […]
had shot, maybe […]

That’s what I’ve got so far.

What will you find to help out?

Both the original document and some biographical info on Eldridge and Roeper will help to solidify this fascinating picture!








OLYMPIA, WASH., Tuesday, January 15, 1929.

The Senate was called to order at 10 o’clock a. m., by President Johnson, pursuant to adjournment.

Rev. Samuel Everton of the Central Baptist Church of Olympia offered prayer.

The secretary called the roll, all members being present except Senators Barnes and Condon, who were excused…

On motion of Senator Conner, the following letters in Chinook, contain­ing practically the entire Chinook language, with translations thereof, as published in the Bellingham American, were ordered spread upon the journal:

Postmaster Hugh Eldridge, the first male white child born in Bellingham, got a letter the other day from one of the Indian boys with whom he played before there was a city here. Hugh still likes to hunt so naturally he and his “real” American friends of course choose such subjects for their communications. And quite naturally they write to each other in the language they used when they talked as boys. Here is the letter Hugh received written in Chinook. Below is the transla­tion. Hugh’s reply will be published soon.


LA CONNER, WASH., December 20, 1928.
Mr. Hugh Eldridge,
Bellingham, Wash.
Nika kloshe tilacum SchulOkset :

Nika Delate sheem pe sick tumtum nika wake hyak keelapie tzum papah kopa mika, pe Klonass mika tum tum alta nika mitlite mesahche tumtum kopa mika.
Kopa mika papah mika tikeh kumtux spose mitlite hiue chuck kulakula kopa ocoke illahe, pe spose kahkwa mika hyak chaco yahkwa pe nesika konomoxt poh kulakula.
Nah ; SchulOkset, Alta ocoke illahe delate klahowyum, wake kahkwa ahncutty hyue kloshe muckamuck, alto halo mowich, kulakula, pish pe konaway iktah kloshe kopa konoaway kah ahncutty nesika. illahe.

[page] 31

Chee Chahco T’kopa tilacum klaska delate mamook klahowyum ocoke illahe. Klaska delate kumtux konway iktah mamook spose isskum ahncutty kloshe inucka­muck pe alta delate chahco halo kopa konway kah illahe. Allta hyue T’kope tilacum klaska isskum kah ahncutty kloske illahe pe kah kwonesum hyue kulakula pe klaska potlatch lawin “Oats,” lebley “wheat” spose kulakula chaco pe muchamuch, kahkwa klaska mamook memaloose hiue kulakula, Boston wawa klaska namw “gun Club.” Klakowyum man kahkwa nika wake konse nika mamook memaloose ikt kulakula kopa konway ikt tole, halo nika chickamin spose cooley konomoxt Gun-club.

Nah six, klonass spose ahncutty Tyee SchulOkset mitlite ocoke sun pe yaka nanich konway iktah kloshe muckamuck chahco haloyaka delate sollicks kopa konway chee chahco T’kope tilacum pe klonass yaka mamook halo konway klaska. Ahncutty ocoke hyas Tyee SchulOkset yahka delate hulcima kopa konway tilacum spose yaks, Map sollicks tumtumyaka hyak mamook memaloose delate hyue tilacum. Halo yaka isskum musket “gun” spose memaloose tilacum halo opitkeg pe klietan “bow and arrow,” halo opitsah “knife.” Kopet ocoke hyas mamook stone ahncutty tamahanwis potlatch yaka spose mamook mamaloose tilacum. Nawitke ocoke Tyee SchulOkset ahncutty yaka delate skookum tyee kopa konway tyee, delate kahkwa George Wash­ington tolo hyas Illahe, pe kahkwa alta nesike kwonesum youlth tumtum kopa ocoke illahe.

Nike tumtum elip kloshe spose nika alta kopet hiue wawa kopaocoke papah, nika wake tikeh spose mika klap sicklatate kopa nika hiue wawa.

Nika delate youlth spose nika nanich mika chahco yahkwa pe nesika hiue wawa kopa konway iktah delate ahncutty. Nika tenas kwass spose nika wawa kloshe mika chahco pe poh kulakula pe klonass halo ikt kulakula mika nanich yahkwa.
Klahowya Schul Okset nika tickie spose mika hiyu hehee alup hias Sunday pe delate youelt tumtum copa chee cold Sunday.

LA CONNER, WASH., December 20, 1928.
Mr. Hugh Eldridge,Bellingham, Wash.
My Good Friend Schul Okset :

I am your good friend but I felt bad because I did not answer your letter sooner. I guess you think I was sore at you. In your letter you wanted to know if there was lots of ducks here and if there was you would come down and we would hunt them together.

Say, Schul Okset, now this country is very poor—not like it was when there was plenty of good food. Now there is none—no ducks or deer or fish—everything good that used to be in our country is gone. The white people that have come into the country lately have done everything they can to get all the good places where there are things that are good to eat and there is nothing left for the rest of us. They have all the good duck grounds and they feed the ducks lots of oats and wheat and have gun clubs so when the ducks come to feed on the oats and wheat they kill great quantities of them so if you haven’t any money to join a gun club you can’t kill a single duck in a whole year.

Say friend, if your namesake, Chief Schul Okset, was here now and saw that all the good food that used to be here was gone, he would be very mad at the white people that had killed it off and no doubt would make them all hard to find. Schul Okset was different from all others ; when he got mad he killed everybody he was mad at. He didn’t use a gun or a bow and arrow or a knife ; he had his magic club and he cast a tamahanwis spell on this great war club when he wanted to kill a lot of enemies. Yes, that great Chief Schul Okset was a great man—greater than any other chief. He was like George Washington, who won a great country and now we are always proud that he did so.

I think I had better quit writing so much. I don’t want you to get a headache reading all I have got to say.

I would be very glad to see you and to talk over old times but I am a little afraid if I asked you to come down and shoot ducks with me that we wouldn’t see a single duck down here.

Good bye Schul Okset and I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. WILLIE MCCLUSKEY.

[page] 32

Several days ago the American published a letter received by Postmaster Hugh Eldridge from one of his boyhood Indian friends. The letter was written in Chinook, the language which Eldridge and Victor A. Roeder talked to their aboriginal play­mates when they were the only ones which they possessed when they were boys in the early “60’s.”
Today we publish Mr. Eldridge’s answer, both in the Chinook and the English translation. Better keep a copy as there are only about 300 words in the Chinook language and Hugh uses most of them in his reply. Then you will have a Chinook dictionary. Here is Hugh’s letter in the language he and Roeder employed in their youth.

BELLINGHAM, WASH., January 4, 1929.
William McCluskey,
Swinomish Reservation,
La Conner, Wash.

Nah Willie tenas ancuty. Nikaiscum mika tsum papa pe laleynika mamouk tsum pe alta nika delate iscum mika turn tum pe nika cumtux delate mika waw waw. Nowitea Willie alta chacko delate clawhowya canaway okok illihe halo stick kulakula wake siah halo chuck kulakula copet tenas hiyu mowich pe ancutty spose nika tenas man OH hiyu canoway icta. Mika cumtux ancuty spose ocok Boston illihe chacko let tahamonic nika kilipy copa stejace canamoxt Captain Roeder pe moxt yaca tenas copa tenas bias boat pe canoway ict polakly nesika midlite copa Swinomish Slough pe wake gada nesika sleep ocok tyee chuck kulakula hiyu wa wa quack quack quack pe ocok geese wa wa honk honk pe tenas alta clonasicta mamuk quass ocok Kulakula pe yaka clataway Oh delate cocka spose hiyas musket poo clonas consischuyas tohomonic Kulakula midlite pe spose chacko wake siah cold illihe hiyu qualla hiyu coho hiyu tyee salmon hiyu jump copa salt chuck spose yaka clap ocok tenas chuck pe ocok River Yaka Clataway. Sahalie copa mash eggs pe ocok stick kulakula coolie canoway kah coka chicken clonaas cah yaka (Clataway alta nika turn turn yaka clataway clap ocok heloyamin stick kulakula passenger pigein) pe ocok hias moose moose ancuty cooley copa cah halo stick midlite (Buffalo). Nowitca seaham spose ancuty Schul Okset killipy copa ocok illihe nika turn turn yaka delate soliks pe nika tuna turn yaka alup clataway copa stejace pe yoka waw waw copya conaway tyee “Iota mamauk halo mika close nanich conoway ocok close muka muck ancuty midlite copa ocok illihe chacko delate cla howya conaway delate Boston pe hiyu tecope tillicum. Hias close spose mika mamouk turn turn pe mamouk tsum copa hias book delate wa wa close canaway claxta copet mamouk ocok bias whalum copa salt chuck (purse seine) pe mamouk halo ocok salmon wake slose spose (Cliska gun club pottlatch hiyu lawin (oats) pe lwbby (wheat) copa chuck kula kula pe mamouk mamalouse wake siah kanoway. Spose halo cockway alta tenas hiyu kula kula copa conaway kah ancuty yoka iscum muka muk pe canoway tillicum iscum ict ict spose yaka clap copa kah close illihe pe spose Tyee halo mamouk delate clonas hiyack Schul Okset iscum yoka temah anuias club pe delate mamouk halo canaway ocok Tyee pe canaway tecope tillicum mamouk halo ocok pith pe ocok chuck kula kula.

Nah Willie close mika wa wa copa canaway Swinomish tillicum nika turn turn delate close copa kaya pe yulth nika turn turn spose ocok waum bias close copa nika pe canaway meka tillicum pe spose mika chacko copa ocok illihe close mika chacko nanish nika.

Clahoway Tillicum,

Here is what Hugh says in his letter in the language of those who came to Bellingham after 1885:

BELLINGHAM, WASH., January 4, 1929.
William McCluskey,
Swinomish Reservation,
LaConner, Wash.

Say, Willie, a little while ago I got your letter and I put in some time reading it over and now I get your ideas and you certainly talk straight. Yes Willie, this country has got very poor—no native pheasants, very few ducks and only a few salmon, very few deer and when I was a boy oh there was lots of everything. You remember the year this country was a hundred years old (Centennial) I came back from Olympia with Captain Roeder and two of his boys in a good sized boat. We stayed all night in the Swinomish Slough but we couldn’t sleep. The Mallard ducks

[page] 33

would quack quack quack ; the geese honk honk ; then in a little while something would scare them and they would fly up with a noise like a cannon going off. There were thousands of them. Then in the fall of the year lots of dog salmon lots of silver salmon and lots of spring salmon were jumping in the salt water on their way to the creeks and rivers they go up to spawn and the native pheasants ran around like chickens. I wonder where they have gone now? I think they have gone to hunt for the wild pidgeons and the buffalos. Yes Friend if Schul Okset was to come back here he would be mad, and I think he would first go to Olympia and see the officers there and say to them “Why haven’t you protected all the good food that used to be here? The Indians are very poor now and can’t get food and lots of the white people are just as badly off. It will be well for you to think this over and write a law in your book so everyone will understand they cannot use purse seines to catch all the salmon and the gun clubs cannot feed the ducks oats and wheat and then kill them all off. If they could not do this the ducks would be in their old feeding grounds and everyone could get a few of them that hunted for them in the fields and sloughs.” And if the officers did not do this, Schul Okset would get his tema­honawis war club and clean out all the officers and all the white people that were destroying all the fish and ducks.

Say Willie, give my regards to all my Swinomish friends and I will be happy if this year is good to you and all your friends. When you come here come and see me.

Goodbye friend,

That’s a lot of excellent Jargon! Got questions about it? Yes, you do. Ask.

Soon I’ll do a separate post that goes into detail about these two Chinuk Wawa texts.