Kittitas Indian woman moves heaven and earth to visit Seattle festival

Kittitas woman

A Yakama lady’s Chinuk Wawa is quoted, and for those with ears to hear, it teaches about Chinuk Wawa dialects.

The Portland Sunday Oregonian, July 21, 1912, page 3, column 3

Squaw, Aged 75, Visits
Potlatch at Seattle

Full-Blood Indian Woman Travels
Twenty Miles on Foot to See White

ELLENSBURG, Wash., July 20. (Spe-
cial.) Christina Virginia, 75 years
old, a niece of old chief Te-I-as, who
was given the entire Kittitas Valley by
his father, Chief We-ow-Wich, hobbled
into town today from her camp on the
Columbia River, intending to take the
train from Ellensburg to Seattle to at-
tend the big Potlatch celebration there.
The Indian woman, according to her
story, left her camp nearly two weeks
ago for Ellensburg, with a supply of
dried fish which she intended to sell
here. While camping in the Saddle
Mountains, about 20 miles east of the
city, her horse broke its hobbles and
wandered off, so that she was forced
to make the rest of her trip on foot.

Although hampered by her bruised
feet, she was determined to go to the
“saltchuck,” or ocean, and late this
afternoon a purse was made up for
her, and enough money raised to buy
the coveted ticket to Seattle. She said
she had planned all Winter to attend
the big Potlatch in Seattle, and when
told that the celebration was nearing
its close was visibly affected. She
stated that the big tyee of the Potlatch.
Allen, was a good friend of hers, and
that she desired to see him in all his
“Ty-kee close wa-wa copa tyee
Allen pe-ni-ka cum tux, more copa Pot-
latch bymeby. ockook close tillicum
copa nika. Quanisum nika klatiwah
copa saltchuck penan itch tyee Allen
yawa,” [see endnote] said the squaw, her wrinkled
face beaming, as she clutched the sil-
ver. Translated, her speech meant: “I
always like to go to the salt water to
see the big chief, Allen. He is a very
close friend of mine. I want to see
him and talked with him about the next
big potlatch, which I will surely at-

Christina Virginia is a full-blooded
Kittitas Indian. Her only son, Charley,
died of consumption two years ago, and
since that time she has been living
alone, taking care of her small plot of
ground, and obtaining the major por-
tion of her food supply out of the river.
She stated that after she comes back
from Seattle she will go up into the
Cascades to pick olally berries. Tyee
Allen’s address was given to the squaw,
and she will search for him in the Arc-
tic Club in Seattle upon her arrival.

First, let me point out that “close friend” in the English translation rings true as a typical local Whitefolks rendering of Chinuk Wawa’s phrase ɬúsh tílixam ‘good friend’. That expression was used even in local English, and pronounced by Whites just as you’d imagine from their frequent spelling of it as < close tillicum >. Whites also had a bit of a parallel folk etymology for the set phrase ɬúsh-nánich ‘inspect, evaluate’, writing it as < close nanage > (among other spellings) and using it in English as “have a close nanage”.

Then, a little more about this lady’s words, with a more faithful translation of them:

“Ty-kee close wa-wa copa tyee Allen pe-ni-ka cum tux, more copa Potlatch
náyka(?) ɬúsh wáwa kʰapa táyí Allen pi [1] náyka kə́mtəks [mór](?) [2] kʰapa Pálach
I(?) well say to chief Allen and I remember more(?) at Potlatch 
‘I(?) promised chief Allen that I’d still remember about Potlach’

bymeby. ockook close tillicum copa nika. Quanisum nika klatiwah copa saltchuck
[báymbay] [3]. Úkuk ɬúsh tílixam kʰapa náyka. Kwánsəm náyka ɬátwa kʰapa sáltsəqw [4]
in.the.future. good friend to me. Always I go to ocean
‘in the future. That man is a good friend to me. I always go to the coast’

penan itch tyee Allen yawa.”
pi nánich táyí Allen yawá.
and see chief Allen there.
‘and visit chief Allen there.’

[1] pi to introduce a subordinate clause is typical of what I’ll call inland Washington Chinuk Wawa, that is, farther up the Columbia River in Salish country.

[2] < more > is solidly documented in inland Washington and BC usage, for example by Rena V. Grant in her 1945 paper, in U.E. Fries’s book, and in the “Chinook Writing” of Indigenous BC people that my dissertation studies.

[3] < bymeby>, that is, “by-and-by”, instead of the universally known áɬqi, is fairly typical of inland Washington-state Jargon usage.

[4] It appears a way of referring to a large port city in Chinook Jargon was to call it sáltsəqw ‘the saltwater, ocean’. We’ve seen this for Vancouver, BC in a recent article on my site. I feel a connection can be drawn with this lady’s words too.