Tillicums, nanage

This oddball item would be an eyecatcher, in your local newspaper in 1898.

An announcement in the Dalles (OR) Daily Chronicle of April 4, 1898 (page 4) sports a headline and first paragraph in Chinuk Wawa.

Look below for some thoughts on this…

Tillicums nanage

Tillicums, Nanage.

Ich polackle, 5th sun, warm moon, G.S.D. 407, 8th run, 30th breath, owes pe tillicums Wasco Tribe, No. 16, I.O.R.M., mommuck hiyu hee-hee copa wigwam. Tickie conaway tenas man, pe lamel man, pe kluctchman choco copa wigwam iskum hiyu muckamuck pe momuck hiyu war dance. 

This translated into English means that Wasco Tribe, No. 16, I.O.R.M., will give an entertainment to its brothers and many friends on tomorrow evening at 8:30 o’clock, and they desire all those invited to be present and help make the evening a round of merriment. A good time is promised to all who attend, and the fact that the Red Men are the entertainers assures everyone who comes a good time. For further information see small Bills, or any of the other brothers.

Thoughts on this:

First off, this is White guys “playing Indian“. Buyer beware. This I.O.R.M. stands for the Improved Order of Red Men, a typically American middle-class fraternal organization. A friend sent me a photo a couple years back, of their lodge in Ketchikan, Alaska. The organization still exists.

The IORM had nothing in particular to do with Native people, but they certainly borrowed Hiawatha-esque stereotyped images of Indian life, which accounts for their hokey English rendition “8th run, 30th breath” for 8:30pm. Similarly, notice their use of “Wigwam”, which is a word all Americans knew (it was the formal term for any IORM clubhouse). It wasn’t part of the Jargon, but both it and the Jargon suited these folks’ symbolism.

For the same reason, local IORM chapters or “Tribes”, like Oregon Boy and Girl Scout troops, took “Indian” names that ranged from using a Native geographical term to a historical chief’s name to a flowery expression in Chinook Jargon. As I’ve warned my readers many times, purple prose is the sign of bad Chinuk Wawa.

And in fact this advertisement’s text is at best passable Jargon. It’s more concerned with having a comic effect for those regional readers who could recognize most of the individual words — and who likely had Chinook Jargon dictionaries in a cabinet at home as curios. The target demographic, in other words, is literate White folks. Liberties are taken with the Jargon, and they’re all oriented toward helping anglophone readers get the gist of the message. (Take note, the translation provided by the editors of the newspaper fails, as was so common in these cases, to bother being very precise.)

In sum, I present today’s text less as an example of fluent use, and more as evidence that the Jargon held on for many decades in White communities as a beloved token of Pacific Northwest life.

Now here’s a more detailed guide to the text [purely English stuff is put in brackets]:

Tillicums [1], Nanage.
tílixam-s, nánich.
friend-PLURAL look
‘Friends, look.’

Ich polackle, 5th sun, warm moon, G.S.D. [2] 407, 8th run, 30th breath,
Íxt púlakʰli, [fifth] sán, wám mún, [G.S.D. 407], [8th run], [30th breath],
one evening, fifth day, springtime moon, G.S.D. 407, 8th run, 30th breath,
‘(For) one evening, the fifth day of the Springtime Moon, G.S.D. 407, 8th run, 30th breath,’ 

owes pe tillicums Wasco Tribe, No. 16, I.O.R.M., mommuck hiyu hee-hee copa
áw-s pi tílixam-s [Wasco Tribe, No. 16, I.O.R.M.], mámuk háyú híhi kʰapa
brother-PLURAL Wasco Tribe, No. 16, I.O.R.M., make much fun at
‘brothers and friends (of) Wasco Tribe, No. 16, I.O.R.M., will have a big party at’

wigwam. Tickie [3] conaway tenas man [4], pe lamel man [5], pe kluctchman [6]
[wigwam]. Tíki kánawi tənəs-mán, pi lamél-mán, pi ɬúchmən
wigwam. Want all young-man, and mule-man, and woman
‘the Wigwam. (We) want all braves and bachelors, and women,’

choco copa wigwam iskum hiyu muckamuck pe momuck hiyu war dance.
cháku kʰapa [wigwam] ískam háyú mə́kʰmək pi mámuk háyú [war] tánis.
come to wigwam receive much food and make much war dance.
‘to come to the Wigwam to get lots of food and do lots of war dances.’


[1] tillicums (tílixam-s) ‘friends’ is a plural form found widely among Chinook Jargon dialects, but the subsequent owes (áw-s) ‘brothers’ is novel.

[2] G.S.D., “Great Sun of Discovery”, was the IORM’s system of dating from 1492 AD, the year when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas. As the Wikipedia article on the organization amplifies, “In this system, years were known as “great suns” and months were called “moons”, each with their own epithet, e.g. “Cold Moon” for January…” This is why I go on to translate warm moon with capitalization as “Springtime Moon”. Not pointed out in Wikipedia is the IORM clock terminology seen here, where hours were “runs” and minutes were “breaths”.

[3] Tickie: this verb has no expressed subject, so it ought to be an imperative — an analysis I’m doubtful of. Alternatively, the typesetters may have mistaken a comma for a period in the handwritten copy submitted to them. In that case, it’s less ungrammatical since we can analyze it as a legitimate Chinuk Wawa usage as a gerund (“wanting”), albeit with confusing subject reference. Yes, I’m splitting hairs here, because I feel annoyed with these guys 🙂

[4] tenas man: It’s my duty to translate this as ‘braves’ in the present context. This is the normal expression in Chinuk Wawa for ‘boy, young man’. ‘Braves‘ was the common way of talking about IORM members.

[5] The good news is that lamel man, literally ‘mule man’, is a new discovery in Chinook Jargon research! The bad news is that we’re finding it in a not-so-fluent text. I don’t see it as authentic Jargon, so much as I see it as a joke. This phrase stands in contrast with tenas man ‘braves’, which is why I take it as meaning possibly ‘bachelors’ (men without mates), or those impotent enough to remain nonmembers (no pun intended), or else men who are symbolically neutered by marriage. See, maybe there’s sexism here, too! What do you think?

[6] Dollars to donuts, the IORM was thinking the S-word when they wrote kluctchman, and the Improved Daughters of the Forest, who employed that word as rank, were a sister society of the IORM. We’ll get by with our literal translation.