Chief Joseph’s words to me, and what I think they mean
Closing an address to a convention of bankers, Edmund S. Meaney, University of Washington professor of history, reminisced:
Years ago while studying Indians, Chief Joseph, the greatest Indian developed in the Pacific Northwest, looked with his black, beady eyes into mine and rubbing his fingers together said: “Nica tumtum pe mica tumtum quanisum coli yowa; delate tillicums, nica pe mica.” Your and my heart run close together; so, good friends, you and I.
— page 286 of Meaney, “History of the Northwest“, Bulletin of the American Institute of Banking 4(2) (April 1922):279-286.
Breaking that down into a micro-dictionary (with Grand Ronde dictionary spellings parenthesized) for learners to spot the difference between Meany’s translation and the truer meaning:
- coli (kúri) – ‘to run’
- delate (drét) – ‘real’
- mica (máyka) – ‘your; you’ (singular)
- nica (náyka) – ‘my; I’
- pe (pi) – ‘and’
- quanisum (kwansəm) – ‘always’
- tillicums (tílixam(s)) – ‘friends’
- tumtum (tə́mtəm) – ‘heart’
- yowa – ‘there’; I wonder whether the intended word was kakwa ‘the same’
Do you see the difference?