New Year’s Chinuk Wawa letter from Tillamook, 1916


John Leland Henderson is a young lumberjack who taught himself how to write Jargon! A special New Year’s gift from the real McCoy…

The typesetters misspelled a number of words in Henderson’s letter, so I’ll throw in some suggested corrections between brackets.

As I’ve often pointed out to you readers of mine (so now you’re experts in this stuff), any English words printed in special punctuation like quotation marks and parentheses here are likely to have been actually used in Chinook Jargon.

  • They’re the usual street way of expressing the ideas that they refer to, and pidgins borrow almost nothing but casual language.
  • A lot of the exact same English words are used here as we see up around Kamloops, BC: time, help. 
  • Plus check out how my man John uses an English verb like “cut brush” in an uninflected form — uses it just like any Chinuk Wawa verb, I mean, instead of using it in a proper English way.
  • Similarly he says tenas mans with a plural “s” that’s improper in English, but it’d work all right if his Jargon & English were in a real-time spoken interplay.
  • He certainly pluralizes tillacum ‘friend’ and tyee ‘Mr.’ in the same way.

They’re newly discovered words of Chinuk Wawa. QED.

Discovered in the Tillamook (OR) Herald of January 4, 1915, on page 2:

New Years Chinuk Wawa letter from Tillamook- beginning.jpg


Tillamook, Oregon: Jan. 1st, 1916.


Tyhee Trombley
Chief (editor) Trombley 

pe nica tilicuma [tilicums], chee pe
and my friends, new and 

ancotti, Tillamook, Oregon.
previous, Tillamook, Oregon. 


Nika tike tenas wawa kopa mesika kopa paper, pe nika wawa skookum wawa 
I want to chat with you folks by letter, and I’m going to say strong words 

kopa okok ouacut nesika wawa “Tetart’s [Netarts] Trail.” Mesika kumtux ka 
about this path we call “Netarts Trail.” You know where

okok ouacut. Icht “week,” klonas tukum sun marsh, kopa Sunday, nika klattawa
this trail is. One week (or) maybe six days ago, on Sunday, I went

delait siyah kopa mountain, pe nika hihu mammook kopa okok “trail.” Nika 
really far into the mountains, and I did a lot of work on this trail. I

tum-tum kopa okok Sunday, hihu Tillamook Tillacums klattawa kopa 
figure on that Sunday, lots of Tillamook folks went to

Mammook wawa kopa Sakerlah Tyhee kopa Church, pe klonas tenas hihu
pray to God at church, and maybe some

iskum klaska muskets pe klattawa kopa hias stick, ka klaska nikee [tikee] poo
took their rifles and went to the woods, where they intended to shoot

mowitch. Nika klattawa, kopet icht, enitai kopa trail, pe nika iskum nika 
deer. I went, alone, over on the trail, and I took my

la hache, nika “peevie,” pe nika “brush-hook,” klonas hihu stick mit-light kopa 
axe, my “peavey“, and my “brush-hook;” a lot of trees might be (fallen) in the

trail. Nika klattawa siah enitai koper trail, pe mitlight kopet icht stick, ich hias 
trail. I went a long way over on the trail, and there was just one tree, a big

stick. Nika hihu mammook yaka kopa nika la hache, pe nika tike marsh yaka, 
tree. I worked on it a lot with my axe, and I tried getting it out of the way,

pe nika hihu hihu mammook, pe nika wake siah cokchit nika sacarlucks, pe 
and I worked and worked, and I just about busted my britches, and then

yaka klattawa enitai. Nika Hihu mammook “cut brush” kopa “brush-hooks,” 
it got to the side. I worked hard “cutting brush” with the “brush-hooks,”

kopa Netarts trail, pe nika Klahowya, nika delait tull carter nika mammook,
on the Netarts trail, and I was miserable, I was really tired how I was working

konamux nika, halo tillacum help nika. Wake klosh kakwa. Mitlight hihu 
with (no one but) myself, no people helping me. That ain’t good. There are lots of

tyhees kopa Tillamook pe Netarts, skookum tenas mans, pe carter klaska halo 
gentlemen in Tillamook and Netarts, strong young men, but how is it they don’t

help nika kopa mammook klosh okok trail? Hihu klaska he-he, pe klaska 
help me in improving this trail? They goof around plenty, and they

soopena, kopa Base-ball, pe Foot-ball, pe Basket-
jump up for baseball, and football, and basket- 

New Years Chinuk Wawa letter from Tillamook-ad plus end

ball. Carter klaska halo tike Mammook? Klaska hihu skookum! Klonas tenas
ball. How is it they don’t like working? They’re plenty strong! Maybe some

ancotti, Sakerlah Tyhee potlatch kopa klaska Pa-pa pe Klaska Ma-ma hias tenas
time ago, God gave their fathers and mothers tiny baby

man, pe klonas klaska chee chaco kopa okok illihe tull, be alta klaska hias tull, 
boys, and maybe they were born into this life tired, and now they’re (too) worn-out,

kopa mammook. Wake klosh kakwa. Hias klosh tenas kloochman closh wawa 
for work. That’s no good. It’d be swell if the girls talk nice

kopa klaska, pe mammook (sweet eyes) kopa klaska, be alki nika tum-tum 
to them, and make sweet eyes at them, and then I bet

klaska help nika kopa okok mammook. Klonas nika Tillacums Bill Smith pe 
they’d help me with this work. Maybe my friends Bill Smith and

Tyee s Stillwell pe Quick, pe hallooma tyhees, hihu he-he kopa nika kopa okok
Masters Stillwell and Quick, and other gentlemen, will make fun of me for this

Chinook, pe nika kwanesum wawa Ø kopa la bouche, halo mammook write Ø 
Chinook, but I always speak (it) out loud, not write (it)

kopa paper. Okok elep time nika Mamook Ø koper paper.
on paper. This is the first time I’ve written (it) on paper.


Mesika Tillacum,
Your friend,

John Leland Henderson.