Indian Billy’s weather forecast

Six more weeks of winter? Magical Native American trope?

These little Chinuk Wawa finds make for nice teaching lessons!

A neat quotation in odd spellings (a good sign of authenticity) from The Daily Morning Astorian (Astoria, OR), February 8, 1890, page 3:

Indian Billys forecast 1

A reporter of the Pasco [WA] Pilot, in a spirit of recklessness, recently interviewed Indian “Billy” [1] and became the possessor of. the following horrible facts:

“Nika tumtum alka highyou snow charko. Spose nika cuitan wake [2]
náyka tə́mtəm áɬqi háyú snú cháku. pus nayka kʰíyutən wík
I think FUTURE much snow come. If my horse not 

‘I think a lot of snow is going to come. If my horse doesn’t’

mimmaloose nika klatawa copa Moses
mímlus náyka ɬátwa kʰapa Moses
die I go to Moses 

‘die, I’m heading for the Moses…’

Indian Billys forecast 2
illahee copa caw [3] hiyou tipso [4]. Clonas nika halo kelipi. Nica tumtum
íliʔi kʰapa qʰá háyú típsu. t’ɬúnas náyka hílu k’ílapay. náyka tə́mtəm
country at where much grass. Maybe I not return. I think
‘…country, (someplace) where there’s plenty of grass. I might not come back. I think’

tenas laly [5] halo tipso yakwa copa [6] nika cuitan.”
tənəs-líli hílu típsu yakwá kʰapa nayka kʰíyutən.
little-timespan no grass here for my horse.
‘pretty soon there’ll be no grass left here for my horse.’


[1] Could Indian Billy be the Warm Springs Wasco leader Billy Chinook (1827-December 9, 1890)?

[2] wake to negate the verb mimmaloose, versus halo below to negate kelipi: I don’t see enough evidence to tell why one or the other word is used. In many dialects, they’re in pretty free variation; in some including around Kamloops, there are strong restrictions.

[3] The relativized copa caw (kʰapa qʰá in Grand Ronde spelling), literally ‘at where’, is a frequent turn of phrase in Plateau dialects of Chinuk Wawa. I see it a heck of a lot around Kamloops, where there’s also kopa iakwa (kʰapa yakwá) ‘over here; around here’.

[4] In hiyou tipso (háyú típsu) ‘there’s plenty of grass’, as well as in the next line’s halo tipso (hílu típsu) ‘there’ll be no grass left’, no verb (“copula”) is spoken to express ‘be’. In usual Grand Ronde creole Chinuk Wawa speech, I’d expect both expressions to end in míɬayt ‘exist, be’. The verbless formulation is another trait that’s typical of pidgin inland (Plateau) Jargon dialects; we saw it yesterday from Heppner, Oregon.

[5] tenas laly (tənəs-líli) ‘pretty soon’: also typically expressed as tənəs-líli pi, literally ‘little-timespan and’.

[6] One more dialect feature is the use of the generic preposition copa to mean ‘for (a noun)’, as opposed to ‘for (a purpose)’, where I’d expect the conjunction spose that Indian Billy has already used above. Grand Ronde creole has pus for the latter, and gives it a broader range of senses including ‘for (a noun)’, as in this example from their dictionary: x̣áwqaɬ na x̣ə́ləl pus ‘náyka ‘I can’t move on my own (literally, for MYSELF)’.