Millicoma, or, fictional Chinuk Wawa noble savage humor

I’m mostly just transcribing the Chinuk Wawa sections from this folksy parody…

Read the entire newspaper clipping to get a sense (if you’ve got none) of a genuine, smart-alecky, kind of offensive genre of folk literature in USA frontier culture.

This specimen sports authentic earmarks of a local legend, in that “Millicoma” could be modeled after the local tribal/language name “Milluk”, and in that Chinook Jargon plays a prominent role — untranslated, because everyone understood it even this late on the Oregon coast. (Such translations as are tendered by the scribe* are purely jocular.)

It also builds on the firmly established tropes in our national psyche of the Mayflower’s landing, of Capt. John Smith & Pocahontas, of “dusky maidens” irresistible to lonesome white pioneer guys, and so forth.

From the Coos Bay (OR) Times of November 8, 1911, page 6, columns 4 and 5:


The Romantic Romance of the Ravishingly Beautiful Indian Maiden With a Name That Lilts Like Laughing Waters.

Editor Times:

What! Don’t know who Millicoma was? Well, as I was there I’ll tell you. Millicoma was a “beautiful Indian maiden,” daughter of a hyas tyee [háyás(h) táyí ‘big chief’], bosom friend of Pocahontas and a first cousin of He He Chuck [híhi tsə́qw ‘Laughing Water’, punning on the English nickname Chuck]. Her friends called her “Milly”…

…After a few preliminary bouts a potlatch [pá(t)lach ‘a giveaway ceremony] was arranged in honor of the tender feet. What! Don’t know what a potlatch is? Well now, if your wife takes in washing and you blow in the proceeds for booze that’s a potlatch — a cultus potlatch [kʰə́ltəs pá(t)lach ‘free gift’, punning on the literal meaning in Jargon ‘a gift for nothing, a useless/worthless gift’]…

…”Milly,” drawing herself to her full height and extending heavenward her shapely arms and hands, somewhat begrimed with clam juice, cried in agony, “Nika clatawa copa initi chuck [náyka ɬátwa kʰapa ínatay tsə́qw ‘I’m going to/over across the water’],” which being interpreted means, here goes nothin’…


millicoma column 1


millicoma column 2

* The author, George Watkins, is probably the Marshfield lawyer who we know of from his role in Annie Miner Peterson’s 1918 divorce; see page 151 of Lionel Youst’s good biography of her, “She’s Tricky Like Coyote: Annie Miner Peterson, an Oregon Coast Indian Woman” (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997 [Civilization of the American Indian Series, Volume 224]).