Another Indian winter weather forecast

“Long and cold winter predicted by daughter of famous Indian’, warned another headline in the Native Weather Forecaster genre…

Portlanders were so advised by the Sunday Oregonian of October 27, 1912, page 11, with a good deal of Maggie Sohappy’s Chinuk Wawa and her photo to back up the authenticity of the prediction.

As is common, the punctuation, capitalization, and spelling of the quoted Jargon is kind of chaotic. I’ll add in some interpretive guidance as we go.

Long and cold winter predicted by daughter of famous indian

[photo caption:] Maggie So Happy, Famous Washington Indian, in Pose Showing Some of Her Own Handiwork.


Old Maggie So-Happy, of Yakima Tribe, Warns White People of Early Approach of Severest Season Since 1880-81 and Points Out Nature’s Warnings on Every Side.

ELLENSBURG, Wash., Oct. 26. — (Special.) — That the Winter of 1912-13 will be even more severe than that of 1880-81, when over 60 per cent of the cattle in the valleys of the Yakima were killed, was the statement made here yesterday by old Maggie So-Happay, eldest daughter of Chief So-Hap-pay. who, at the time of his death in the 90’s, was said to be the greatest medicine man in the state, not excepting even the Great Snow-T-Jacks, of the North Yakima tribe. Old Maggie, who was born and raised just north of Ellensburg, now lives near Icycle [Leavenworth, Washington], and she will spend several days in Ellensburg to procure castoff clothing from her white friends. She is credited by the old-timers here as being the ablest of the few remaining Kittitas Indians in the art of forecasting weather conditions, as her father seldom, if ever, made a mistake in his predictions, and Maggie is said to possess much of the knowledge guarded by the old chief. 

“Oo-cook-re late cold. Nika tum tum hiyu tillicum mam loose copa o-ook snow.
Úkuk dlét kʰul. Náyka tə́mtəm háyú tílixam mímlus kʰapa úkuk snú.
‘This will be quite a winter. I think a lot of people will die during the snow.’

Nika-pe-nika, tillicum de late cum tux hiyu Moose moose. Pe hiyu mowitch
Náyka pi nayka tílixam dlét kə́mtəks háyú músmus pi háyú máwich
‘I and my people well know that a lot of cows and a lot of deer’

mam loose all same pe nika papa wawa copa nika, nike pe nika hyas tenas,”
mímlus all same pi nayka pápá wáwa kʰapa náyka, náyka pi náyka tənás,
‘will die just like my father told me, (when) I was a child.’

said old Maggie to her friend, T. W. Farrell, a pioneer of the valley. Translated her speech meant “It’s going to be awful cold this Winter. I think a great many of my friends will die of the cold. All signs point to a big snow, worse than the big snow when I was a young girl.”

Old-Timers Recall 1880-81.

Old-timers here have remarked on the fact that the foothills are already covered with snow and many recall the disastrous Winter of 1880-81, when the first snow came early, and by January the ground was covered with 20 inches of ice and snow. One band of 3500 cattle perished on the Umtanum hills to the south of the city, as they were unable to break through the icy covering to obtain feed. 

“Old Maggie,” although old, carries herself in a queenly manner and delights in telling of the work of her illustrous [sic] father, whose predictions were listened to with equal interest by red men and white. 

When asked how she knew that the Winter promised to be a severe one, Maggie drew herself up to her full height and raising her arms toward the sky said,

“Nika cum tux, Nika Tenas klootchman copa Chief So-Hap-pay Pe Ookook
Náyka kə́mtəks, náyka tənəs-ɬúchmən kʰapa chief Sohappy pi úkuk
‘I know, I’m the daughter to chief Sohappy and that’

So-Hap-pay cum tux de late, nika cum tux.”

Sohappy kə́mtəks dlét náyka kə́mtəks.
‘Sohappy knew(,) I well know.’

(“I know, I am the daughter of Chief So-Hap-pay, he knew, I know”). Then seeing the incredulous look on the face of her listeners, Maggie set forth the various reasons for her belief. Translated from the Chinook, the squaw’s speech would be: “When we started to dig the Camas roots up in the park this Fall, we found them long, like the alfalfa root. We could hardly pull them up, they wanted to stay in the ground, for the Camas knows when the snow will be deep and the frost heavy. 

Signs Forecast Early Winter.

Olally [úlali, generically ‘berries’!] berries, they were ripe six weeks earlier than usual this Summer. They, too, know that the frost comes earlier this year: The deer, now hiding in the forests back of the big peaks yonder, they are coming down from the black trees, and are browsing on the foothills. They know that the snow will be deep and the coyotes hungry. The cattle and quetin [kʰíyutən] (horses) are coming down from the headwaters of the river and are neighing to be let into the corral for their hay. Their coats are thick and heavy, the hyas tyee [háyásh táyí, ‘great chief’] covers his children with heavy fur for he knows that the cold will be long. 

“Peter, too, [1] the holo pish [úlu písh, ‘hungry fish(es)’] (salmon) are biting eagerly at the bait there on the bank of the big river. Hear the moose-moose [músmus] (cow) bellowing, bellowing, raising her voice in protest against the long cold that will settle down, and perhaps deprive her of her calf. The cow smells the big cold, she knows that the feed will be scarce, and her companions will be less when the Chinook [wind] comes in the Spring. The leaves have hurried from the trees to cover up the grasses. Even now, they are piling themselves into heaps about the tree trunks. The icy winds from Stuart mountain, fluttering the yellow grasses, and causing bare limbs of the willows to bend and sway. Oh, the frost is coming, it is in the ground. See the yellow blades of grass bent and twisted.

Indian Woman Fears Cold.

“There In the Nanum hills, the squirrels have retreated far into their nests, taking with them a bounteous supply of pine cone hearts. See how fat the hawk and crow is as he floats through the air, looking for the unlucky field mouse. Pretty soon the crow will fly away and leave us here to face the big cold. Ducks and geese fly over our heads every night, honking in a fright and fearing to stay here. They are headed for the Southland,  where the big cold does not come. They hyack klat-i-way [(h)áyáq ɬátwa ‘quickly go’] (don’t stop here long). I want my kinne kenick [kʰinikʰinik] roots to make up baskets for this Winter, but when I go to the river, what do I find? Roots dried and brittle, like in mid Winter, for they, too, are prepared for the big cold. See the white mantle there on the hills. Can you remember when it has come so early? Yes, I do. When I was a young girl the snow came like this, and all the signs said bad Winter. Now we have it again. I am afraid many of us will not be here when the Chinook blows, my tillicum [tílixam ‘friends’], unless we prepare now, store the camas tillicum [(la)kamas tílixam ‘camas people’], get many clothes and plenty firewood, for we suffer this time.”

Maggie has gathered a big bundle of clothing of all sorts, which she will strap to her horse and take with her to her Winter camp at Icycle.


[1] “Peter, too” is unclear to me so far. Nobody named Peter is referenced elsewhere in the article 🙂 I figure this could represent Chinuk Wawa pi ‘and’ plus some word in Maggie’s Ichishkíin (Sahaptin) language for ‘salmon’, ‘trout’, or ‘fish’, but I’ve found no matching word in the big Beavert and Hargus dictionary. Maybe what we have here is just pi translated literarily as ‘too’, and copied out by a non-Chinuk Wawa speaker as clumsily as the rest of Maggie’s words are. What are your ideas?

PS: I have found very little background information on Maggie Sohappy, bizarrely including a 1928 Ellensburg rodeo photo of a bucking bronco captioned “Breezy Cox on Maggie Sohappy“. I wonder if she might have also been known as Margaret Watson.