Crowdsourcing challenge (Swinomish edition): The finale
My readers succeeded when I challenged them. Now savor the rewards we’ve reeled in.
In October I asked you for help getting a copy of some Chinuk Wawa letters in the Washington State Senate journal. Thanks to you guys, the goods have been gotten.
These are precious items, because they’re sustained “speech” in an endangered language from a time when folks still carried on spontaneous conversations in it. This was 1929, pretty late days for the Jargon in most regions, but the Senate record tells us the detail that the letter writers had known each other and conversed in “Chinook” since their boyhood in the early (18)60’s.
In November I reciprocated with a detailed presentation of the first letter, from Willie McCluskey, Swinomish Reservation, Washington.
Now to tie things up with an examination of the second letter.
Two broad observations:
The White letter writer below always writes the Jargon word for ‘good’ as < close > (implying a pronunciation /(k)łós/) — whereas his Native friend who wrote the first letter always has < kloshe > (implying a pronunciation /(k)łósh ~ (k)łúsh ~ (t)łósh ~ (t)łúsh/).
And the Native writer has < klahowyum > for ‘poor’ versus < klahowya > ‘goodbye’ — whereas the White correspondent has just < cla(w)howya > (and a miswritten version of it as < clahoway >) for both meanings.
Differences like these are fairly evocative of details of real-life communication in the heyday of Chinuk Wawa.
Just a reminder about how the following letter will be formatted:
- First, in bold, you’ll see a line of the original letter, as printed in the Senate journals.
- Second, in bold italics, a standardized Chinuk Wawa line. Here I’ll silently correct any obvious word-spacing errors. Where the punctuation and spellings in the published version seem to reflect a copyist’s errors, I’ll suggest corrections [in square brackets], which is also how I’ll spotlight inferred pronunciations when we don’t know them from the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary. Optional stuff will be (in parentheses). [Bracketed colored numbers] are footnotes I’ve added at the end; read them, and you will learn a lot about the differences among Chinuk Wawa dialects.
- Third, English glosses of each “word” of Jargon.
- Fourth, in italics, the English translation as printed in the Senate journals.
- Fifth, ‘in single quotation marks’, my best translation into English.
BELLINGHAM, WASH., January 4, 1929.
La Conner, Wash.
Nah Willie tenas ancuty. Nikaiscum mika tsum papa pe laleynika
[ná] Willie[,] tənəs-ánqati[,] náyka ískam máyka t’sə́m-pípa pi líli náyka
hey Willie little-previously I get your write-paper and long.time I
Say, Willie, a little while ago I got your letter and I put in some time
‘Hey, Willie, I recently got your letter and for a long time I’
mamouk tsum pe alta nika delate iscum mika turn tum pe nika cumtux
mámuk t’sə́m  pi álta náyka drét ískam máyka tə́mtəm pi náyka kə́mtəks
work write and now I really get your heart and I know
reading it over and now I get your ideas and
‘worked on the writing and now I really get your thoughts and I understand’
delate mika waw waw. Nowitea Willie alta chacko delate clawhowya canaway drét máyka wáwa. Nawítka[,] Willie[,] álta cháku drét ɬax̣áwya(m) kánawi
really your words. Indeed, Willie, now become really poor all
you certainly talk straight. Yes Willie, this country has got very poor—
‘your words right. You bet, Willie, now’
okok illihe halo stick kulakula wake siah halo chuck kulakula copet tenas
úkuk íliʔi[,] hílu stík-kə́ləkələ[,] wik-sayá hílu tsə́qw-kə́ləkələ[,]  kʰə́pít tənəs-
this land, no forest-bird, not-far no water-bird, only little-
no native pheasants, very few ducks and only a few salmon, very
‘this whole country has gotten pitiful, no pheasants, almost no ducks, just a’
hiyu mowich pe ancutty spose nika tenas man OH hiyu canoway icta.
háyú máwich[,] pi ánqati (s)pus náyka tənəs-mán[,] ó[,] háyú kánawi-íkta.
much deer, and previously when I little-man, oh, much every-thing.
few deer and when I was a boy oh there was lots of everything.
‘few deer, but back when I was a boy, oh, there was lots of everything.’
Mika cumtux ancuty spose ocok Boston illihe chacko let tahamonic
Máyka kə́mtəks ánqati (s)pus úkuk bástən-íliʔi cháku [íxt] ták’umunaq [,]
You know previously when this American land become one hundred,
You remember the year this country was a hundred years old (Centennial)
‘You remember back when this American country turned a hundred,’
nika kilipy copa stejace canamoxt Captain Roeder pe moxt
náyka k’ílapay kʰapa [st’ach’ás]  kʰánumákwst Captain Roeder pi mákwst
I return from Olympia with Captain Roeder and two
I came back from Olympia with Captain Roeder and two
‘I came back from Olympia with Captain Roeder and two’
yaca tenas copa tenas bias boat pe canoway ict polakly nesika midlite copa yaka tənás kʰapa tənəs-háyásh pót pi kánawi-íxt púlakli nsáyka míɬayt kʰapa
his child in little-big boat and all-one night we be.located in
of his boys in a good sized boat. We stayed all night in
‘of his kids in a good-sized boat and every night we were in’
Swinomish Slough pe wake gada nesika sleep ocok tyee chuck
Swinomish Slough pi wík-qʰáta  nsáyka [slíp] [;] úkuk táyí tsə́qw-
Swinomish Slough and not-how we sleep; that chief water-
the Swinomish Slough but we couldn’t sleep. The Mallard
‘Swinomish Slough but we couldn’t sleep; those big’
kulakula hiyu wa wa quack quack quack pe ocok geese wa wa honk honk pe kə́ləkələ hayu-wáwa quack quack quack pi úkuk [gís] wáwa honk honk pi
bird much-talk quack quack quack and that geese say honk honk and
ducks would quack quack quack ; the geese honk honk ; then
‘ducks kept saying quack quack quack and those geese said honk honk and’
tenas alta clonasicta mamuk quass ocok Kulakula pe yaka clataway
tunús  álta t’ɬúnas íkta mamuk-k’wás úkuk kə́ləkələ pi yáka ɬátawa [,]
little.bit now maybe thing make-afraid that bird and it go,
in a little while something would scare them and they would fly up
‘(in) a little bit then something scared those birds and they went off,’
Oh delate cocka spose hiyas musket poo clonas consischuyas
ó drét kákwa (s)pus háyásh mə́skit p’ú[,] t’ɬúnas qʰánchi háyásh-
oh really like if big gun shoot, maybe how.many big-
with a noise like a cannon going off. There were
‘oh, really as if a cannon had shot off, who knows how many’
tohomonic Kulakula midlite pe spose chacko wake siah cold illihe
ták’umunaq kə́ləkələ míɬayt[,] pi (s)pus cháku wik-sayá kʰúl-íliʔi
hundred bird exist, and when become not-far cold-land
thousands of them Then in the fall of the year
‘thousands of birds there were, and when it got to be nearly winter’
hiyu qualla hiyu coho hiyu tyee salmon hiyu
háyú [k’wál’əxw]  háyú [kóho] [,]  háyú táyí-sámən hayu-
much dog.salmon much coho, much chief-salmon much-
lots of dog salmon lots of silver salmon and lots of spring salmon were
‘lots of dog salmon, lots of coho, lots of spring salmon kept’
jump copa salt chuck spose yaka clap ocok tenas chuck pe ocok River
[djə́mp]  kʰapa sáltsəqw (s)pus yáka t’ɬáp úkuk tənəs-tsə́qw pi úkuk [rívər]
jump in saltwater for it reach that little-water and that river
jumping in the salt water on their way to the creeks and rivers
‘jumping in the saltwater to reach those creeks and those rivers’
Yaka Clataway. Sahalie copa mash eggs pe ocok
yaka ɬátwa sáx̣ali kʰapa  másh [égs] pi úkuk
it go up toward leave eggs and that
they go up to spawn and the
‘that they go up in spawning and those’
stick kulakula coolie canoway kah coka chicken clonaas cah yaka (Clataway
stík-kə́ləkələ kúri kánawi-qʰá kákwa [chíkən][.] T’ɬunás-qʰá yáka ɬátwa
tree-bird run all-where like chicken. Maybe-where it go
native pheasants ran around like chickens. I wonder where they have gone
‘pheasants ran everywhere like chickens. Who knows where they’ve gone’
alta nika turn turn yaka clataway clap ocok heloyamin stick kulakula
álta[;] náyka tə́mtəm yáka ɬátwa t’ɬáp úkuk x̣lúyma(n)  stík-kə́ləkələ
now; I think it go find that other tree-bird
now? I think they have gone to hunt for the wild
‘now; I think they went to find those other forest birds,’
passenger pigein) pe ocok hias moose moose ancuty cooley copa cah halo stick
passenger pigeon pi úkuk háyásh músmus ánqati kúri kʰapa qʰá hílu stík
passenger pigeon and that big cow previously run in where no tree
‘the passenger pigeons, and those big cattle that used to run where there’re no trees’
midlite (Buffalo). Nowitca seaham spose ancuty
míɬayt (buffalo). Nawítka[,] [siy’ém’] [,] (s)pus ánqati
exist (buffalo). Yes, dear.one, if oldtime
the buffalos. Yes Friend if
‘(the buffalo). Yes sir, if old’
Schul Okset killipy copa ocok illihe nika turn turn yaka delate soliks pe nika Schul Okset k’ílapay kʰapa úkuk íliʔi náyka tə́mtəm yáka drét sáliks pi náyka
Schul Okset return to this land I think he really angry and I
Schul Okset was to come back here he would be mad, and I
‘Schul Okset came back to this place I think he’d be really mad and I’
tuna turn yaka alup clataway copa stejace pe yoka waw waw copya conaway tə́mtəm yáka íləp ɬátwa kʰapa [st’ach’ás] pi yáka wáwa kʰapa kánawi
think he first go to Olympia and he say to all
think he would first go to Olympia and see the
‘think he’d go first to Olympia he’d tell all’
tyee “Icta mamauk halo mika close nanich conoway ocok close muka muck
táyí[,] “Íkta mámuk hílu máyka ɬúsh-nánich kánawi úkuk ɬúsh mə́kʰmək
leader, “What make not you well-watch all that good food
officers there and say to them “Why haven’t you protected all the good food
‘the officials, Why aren’t you taking care of all that good food’
ancuty midlite copa ocok illihe chacko delate cla howya conaway delate
ánqati míɬayt kʰapa úkuk íliʔi[?] Cháku drét ɬax̣áwya(m) kánawi[,] drét
previously exist in this land? Become really poor all, real
that used to be here? The Indians are very poor now
‘that used to be in this country? Everyone’s gotten really poor, the real’
Boston pe hiyu tecope tillicum. Hias close spose
bástən  pi háyú tk’úp-tílixam. Hayash- ɬúsh (s)pus
American and many white-people. Much-good if
and can’t get food and lots of the white people are just as badly off. It will be well for
‘Americans [sic!!] and a lot of the white people. It’d behoove’
mika mamouk turn turn pe mamouk tsum copa hias book delate
máyka mamuk-tə́mtəm pi mámuk-t’sə́m kʰapa háyásh búk drét
you make-thought and make-write in big book really
you to think this over and write a law in your book
‘you to do some thinking and write in the big book straight-out’
wa wa close canaway claxta copet mamouk ocok bias whalum copa
wáwa ɬúsh kánawi-ɬáksta kəpit-mámuk úkuk háyásh [x̣wíl’əm’]  kʰapa
say good all-who stop-do that big thread in
so everyone will understand they cannot use
‘telling everyone to stop using those big ropes in’
salt chuck (purse seine) pe mamouk halo ocok salmon wake slose spose (Cliska
sáltsəqw (purse seine) pi mamuk-hílu úkuk sámən[;] wík ɬúsh (s)pus ɬaska
saltwater (purse seine) and make-none that salmon; not good if their
purse seines to catch all the salmon and the
‘the saltwater (purse seine) and annihilating those salmon; it’s not good if their’
gun club pottlatch hiyu lawin (oats) pe lwbby (wheat) copa chuck kula kula
gun club pálach háyú lawén (oats) pi [ləbléy] (wheat) kʰapa tsə́qw-kə́ləkələ
gun club give much oats (oats) and wheat (wheat) to water-bird
gun clubs cannot feed the ducks oats and wheat
‘gun club gives a lot of oats and wheat to the ducks’
pe mamouk mamalouse wake siah kanoway. Spose halo cockway alta tenas
pi mamuk-mímlust wik-sayá kánawi. (S)pus hílu kákwa[,] álta tənəs-
and make-dead not-far all. If not so, now little-
and then kill them all off. If they could not do this the
‘and kills almost all of them. If it wasn’t like this, then some’
hiyu kula kula copa conaway kah ancuty yoka iscum muka muk pe canoway
háyú kə́ləkələ Ø  kʰapa kánawi-qʰá ánqati yáka ískam mə́kʰmək pi kánawi
many bird be.located in all-where previously it get food and all
ducks would be in their old feeding grounds and every-
‘birds would be all around where they used to feed and every-‘
tillicum iscum ict ict spose yaka clap copa kah close illihe pe spose
tílixam ískam íxt-ixt (s)pus yáka t’ɬáp kʰapa qʰá ɬúsh-íliʔi[,] pi (s)pus
people get one-one when it reach at where good-land, and if
one could get a few of them that hunted for them in the fields and sloughs.” And if the
‘one would get several if they arrived at the fields”, and if’
Tyee halo mamouk delate clonas hiyack Schul Okset iscum yoka temah anuias
táyí hílu mámuk drét[,] t’ɬúnas áyaq Schul Okset ískam yaka t’əmánəwas
leader not do right, maybe quickly Schul Okset get his spirit
officers did not do this, Schul Okset would get his temahonawis war
‘the officials didn’t do right, maybe Schul Okset would grab his spirit’
club pe delate mamouk halo canaway ocok Tyee pe canaway tecope tillicum
[kləb] pi drét mamuk-hílu kánawi úkuk táyí pi kánawi tk’úp-tílixam
club and really make-none all that leader and all white-people
club and clean out all the officers and all the white people
‘club and really destroy all those officials and all the white people’
mamouk halo ocok pith pe ocok chuck kula kula.
mamuk-hílu úkuk [písh] pi úkuk tsə́qw-kə́ləkələ.
make-none that fish and that water-bird.
that were destroying all the fish and ducks.
‘that are destroying those fish and those ducks.’
Nah Willie close mika wa wa copa canaway Swinomish tillicum nika
Ná Willie[,] ɬúsh máyka wáwa kʰapa kánawi Swinomish tílixam náyka
Hey Willie, good you say to all Swinomish people my
Say Willie, give my regards to all my Swinomish friends
‘Hey Willie, please tell all the Swinomish people I’
turn turn delate close copa kaya pe yulth nika turn turn spose ocok waum
tə́mtəm drét ɬúsh kʰapa yáka pi yútɬiɬ náyka tə́mtəm (s)pus úkuk wám 
heart really good to them and happy my heart if this year
and I will be happy if this year
‘think fondly of them and I’ll be happy if this year’
bias close copa nika pe canaway meka tillicum pe spose mika chacko
hayash-ɬúsh kʰapa [yáka] pi kánawi mayka tílixam pi (s)pus máyka cháku
big-good to them and all your people and when you come
is good to you and all your friends. When you come
‘is excellent for you and all your people and when you come’
copa ocok illihe close mika chacko nanish nika.
kʰapa úkuk íliʔi ɬúsh máyka cháku nánich náyka.
to this land good you come see me.
here come and see me.
‘to this country please visit me.’
 mámuk t’sə́m, literally ‘work (on) writing’ (‘figure out what was written’), contrasts with mamuk-t’sə́m, literally ‘make/cause-writing’ (‘to write’).
 stík-kə́ləkələ…tsə́qw-kə́ləkələ: these are novel noun phrases for ‘native pheasant’ and ‘duck’, apparently characteristic of this northern Chinuk Wawa dialect.
 úkuk bástən-íliʔi cháku [íxt] ták’umunaq ‘this American land became one hundred’: all previous experience with Chinuk Wawa makes me expect a word for ‘years’ at the end of this expression (see note ), so I take this as a somewhat English-influenced phrasing.
 [st’ach’ás]: this appears to be the Upper Chehalis Salish placename for ‘Olympia’, literally ‘rocks’.
 wík-qʰáta, literally ‘not-how’: a typically northern Chinuk Wawa dialect expression for ‘can’t’. It’s rampant up at Kamloops.
 [slíp]: not the usual Chinuk Wawa verb for ‘sleep’ (músum); common in northern Chinuk Wawa dialects, and there’s a good reason for its use, since the M-word quickly became naughty.
 tunús ‘a little bit’: this can refer to quantities of physical objects, or of time.
 yáka, literally ‘she/he/it’, being used without regard to singular/plural distinctions so that it can also mean ‘they’, is a characteristically northern Chinuk Wawa dialect usage, from about Puget Sound on up. ɬátawa being pronounced like ɬátawey is a possibility indicated by the author’s spelling clataway, but I’m not going to overinvest in that idea since Americans who learned to write in the 1800s were mighty variable in realizing their unstressed word-end vowels. (The pronunciation “kimona” for “kimono” comes to mind.) Besides, we have to grapple with the sometime folk-etymology by English-speaking Whites that saw the Jargon verb for ‘go’ as clatter-away, etc.
 [k’wál’əxw] for the spelling qualla ‘dog salmon’: this is the word in the Samish dialect of Straits Salish, i.e. the one that would’ve been used near Bellingham, where I infer the author grew up.
 [kóho]: here I’m inferring an English-influenced pronunciation such as we’ve inherited in our present-day usage. The original Halkomelem (lower Fraser River, BC area) Salish word was ~k’wəxwəth (the final th is as in English ‘mouth‘).
 háyú [k’wál’əxw] háyú [kóho] ‘lots of dog salmon (and) lots of coho’ looks to be yet another example of fluent Chinuk Wawa speakers’ tendency to list pairs of closely related concepts without using pi ‘and’.
 [djə́mp] ‘jump’ instead of the better-known súpna is a typical northern Chinuk Wawa dialect usage, definitely known and common around Kamloops.
 kʰapa ‘to’ is an unusual way to introduce a verbal-purpose clause. In this environment I’d expect (s)pus, but especially from non-Indigenous speakers this alternative is sometimes found.
 T’ɬunás here has the accent mark on the second syllable, a stress pattern I’m not so familiar with, but it’s historically known and the writer’s spelling clonaas suggests it to me.
 x̣lúyma(n) ‘different’: the pronunciation with final n, indicated by the spelling heloyamin, is a typical northern Chinuk Wawa dialect form known also from Vancouver Island, BC.
 [siy’ém’] for ‘respected person’ is found in various Central Coast Salish languages; I found this form in Samish, Straits Salish, spoken near Bellingham, Washington. On reflection I think the writer is making a literal translation of the slangy US English discourse-marking expression “Yes sir” — whose best Jargon equivalent is really nawítka ‘indeed’.
 drét bástən, literally ‘real Americans’, in the context of the author’s remarks about White mismanagement of resources seems to indicate the Indians; his own translation suggests as much.
 hayash- as a prefix is a typical usage in northern Chinuk Wawa dialects; it’s an intensifier of adjectives, essentially meaning ‘very’.
 [x̣wíl’əm’] for ‘twine’ generally is a Coast Salish word of broad distribution from southwest Washington Salish (such as Lower Chehalis) northwards. In Samish I find it meaning ‘rope’ and pronounced x̣wéyləm’ / x̣wéy’ləm’.
 Ø is not pronounced, but indicates the semantic presence of a preposition in my analysis of Chinuk Wawa dialects. My current sense is that it is more characteristic of northern dialects including the one spoken around Kamloops, BC.
 wám, literally ‘warm; summer’, to mean ‘year’ is somewhat novel; we’re more used to kʰúl, literally ‘cold; winter’ or snú ‘snow’ for this sense. Maybe here again we have a northern Chinuk Wawa dialect feature.