“Golden Potlatch” song in Chinuk Wawa

edward clayson.jpg

Edward Clayson, Jr. (Image credit: OHSU Digital Commons)

You know sparks will fly. A Jargon song, and lots of other Olympic Peninsula Chinook Jargon recollections, from an early settler who styled himself “The Patriarch”.

Edward Clayson Sr., that is. Hm, “senior”…”patriarch”. “The Patriarch” sounds like the handle of a newspaper columnist. Mental note to check on that…

…Aha! Clayson published a curmudgeonly little anti-feminist Seattle newspaper titled The Patriarch.

The fella must’ve been quite a quantity, as I also gather he was the rare and stubborn pro-Confederate voice in his Washington Territory community. (Matter of fact, I suspicion I’m detecting a Southern accent in his Chinook Jargon.) In the book I’ll be discussing today, he keeps referring to his neighbors as “slaves”. :/

He also authored a 1908 book whose title we here will appreciate, “The Muck Rake…Cumtux?(kə́mtəks ‘to understand’) That volume appears to be addressed directly to President Theodore Roosevelt, making an addition to our unexpected genre of Chinuk Wawa messages to US commanders-in-chief (we’ve seen Taft, Grant, etc.):

muckrake cumtux

Children of savages love their parents, too, but they know nothing about “honoring” them. The only “reverence” of a savage is for the “bow and ar[r]ow” or the “fish spear,” and the Indian who can use them the most dexterously; so he is a good materialistic American. “Delate hi-hu. Cumtux?” (page 61)

Today’s book by him is titled titillatingly:

Historical Narratives of Puget Sound: Hoods Canal, 1865-1885. The Experience of an Only Free Man in a Penal Colony” (Hood Canal, Wash.: R.L. Davis Printing Company, 1911).

It’s a rare find, for the precision of Clayson’s memory. He provides copious names, biographical data, dates, locations, and quotes — far more details than almost any other eyewitness account we’ve ever seen. And the locale is (as the author notes) really a backwater of the Washington coast, so here we’re treated as seldom to early-days eyewitness encounters from there.

Now, the day has gotten away from me with a single dad’s busy agenda, but because I publish daily, let me knock this out & still make it quite interesting.

The “Golden Potlatch” song from the Chinookomaniac booster festival of that name — previously unknown to us, and entirely in Chinuk Wawa — is inside the front cover, making for an attractive orange image:

golden potlatch song


(Copyrighted, 1911, by E. Clayson, Sr.)

Klosh Mika Nanitsh.
Klahowya Tillikums! Nesikas Klosh tum tum
Kopa Konoway. Cumt

Delate kla-how-ya tillikums, kah mika I’l’-a-he?
Mika cumtux konnaway, spose mika halo chee,
Tyhees skookum wa-wa kopa o-koke sun,
Cloochman mamok tin tin pee charco klosh tum-tum. 


Seattle hi-hu cumtux kopa konaway sun,
Mamook hyas Potlatch wake kil-a-pie tum tum.

Mika charco mitlite kopa “piah chick-chick,”
Yaka hyack cooley kopa tenas stick.
O’coke halo kah-kwa, kopa ahnkutie,
Copet “canim” pee lolo o’coke il’l’-a-he.

Hi-yu moos-moos mitllte, delate klosh muck-a-muck,
Pee cultus Boston wa-wa, “halo skookum chuck,”
Yaka hyas pelton, halo cumtux klosh,
Spose halo tickey “skookum chuck,” hyack memaloose. 

Spose mika “iscum pottle,” o-coke delate wake klosh,
Sol-leks tum-tum charco, klatawa skookum house,
Klosh nanech tyee wa-wa, tomah-la, tenas, sun,
Mika potlatch chickerman pe keel-a-pie tum-tum. 


Good You Look.

Salute Friendsl We Good Heart for All. Understand?

These Verses are full of meaning. They are descriptive and somewhat satirical. They are descriptive of “an event,” a gathering of old friends.

Seattle understands much, all the time;
Makes a Big Potlatch; does not alter her mind.

The first verse describes “The Hyas Golden Potlatch Tyee” addressing the throng as they approach his threshold, and he asks them where their home is. He says they know every one, if they are not newcomers, and says further that the chiefs will strong talk today; women make music to cheer the heart. 

The second verse says: “You come here in a fire wagon that came quick into the woods, a little way. This was not the way or the same in old days. You had the canoe only to bring you to this place or this land.”

The third verse: Lots of beef here, truly good to eat, but the useless American talks “no strong drink.” He is a big fool, no understand good. If he wants no “strong drink,” soon die.

The fourth verse: “If you get drunk, this truly no good, bad heart come, go to jail; look out, Chief; strong talk tomorrow morning, you give money to alter your mind.

There’s some excellent Jargon in those lyrics, and as you’re accustomed to me saying, it’s good news that it’s spelled weird — that suggests it’s Clayson’s own lingo, learned from experience and not copied out of books.

The oddest thing is that Clayson did the hard work to fit Chinuk Wawa into a meter and rhyme scheme, which is awful difficult with this language, and tougher to accomplish while preserving good grammar and staying understandable. Hats off. Really, few have matched that achievement of his.

Who is going to track down the tune of this song?? We need to add this to our impending Chinuk Wawa music festival / album / YouTube channel. (Along with this English-language ragtime song from the Golden Potlatch: see “The Potlatch Bug” sheet music.) (And this “Golden Potlatch March“.)

I leave you with the advice to visit a Pinterest page that collects an unbelievable amount of fun kitschy Golden Potlatch souvenirs, many emblazoned with Chinuk Wawa words.

Okay, I need to hit the hay. More tomorrow.