Howdy from tax-free Skookum, Oregon

The local news leads off with a reference to the local Lake Wobegon of its day, Skookum, Oregon:

(By the date of publication, “skookum” was already established in English dialect and slang, so the town’s name is intended as the boosteristic “Wonderful”.)


I am much interested in reading the items from “Skookum.” They are unique. I don’t know where the place is located, but I know the writer. “Hyas cumtux mamook sum. Clonas yaka close tillicum pe nika hyas ticka nanitch yahka copa yahka ilahee. Wakelala nika chahco copa, pe nanitch mika klosh kahkwa.

— from the Toledo (OR) Lincoln County Leader of December 10, 1915, page 1, column 1

A look at some issues of the same paper just preceding this one shows that there was a recurring feature of outrageous news, usually political tussles over taxation, from this fictional Podunk burg.

Equipped with that background information, I’ll venture a go at this post-frontier, more-or-less fictional, Chinuk Wawa note (from the editor?):

Hyas cumtux mamook sum [1]. Clonas [2] yaka close tillicum [3] pe nika hyas
Hayas-kə́mtəks mamuk-t’sə́m. T’ɬúnas yáka ɬúsh tílixam pi náyka hayas-
Intensifer-know Cause-writing. Perhaps he good friend and I Intensifer-
‘[He]’s skilled at writing. I reckon he’s a good friend of mine and I’d love’

ticka nanitch yahka copa yahka ilahee. Wakelala nika chahco copa [4], pe
tíki nánich yáka kʰapa yaka ílihi. Wík-líli náyka cháku kʰapá, pi
want see him at his place. Negative-long.time I come there, and
‘to visit him at his place. Soon I’ll come over there, and’

nanitch mika klosh kahkwa [5].
nánich máyka ɬúsh kákwa.
see you good thus.
‘see that you’re all right by doing so.’


[1] mamook sum pretty certainly means ‘writing’; I’ve seen this spelling in other periodicals of the era. Otherwise, it could mean ‘do sums, do math’, in reference to the abovementioned taxation and budgeting arguments. I doubt that.

[2] clonas can mean ‘I don’t know’, or ‘maybe’. Here it’s an evidential marker indicating a surmise.

[3] tillicum could mean ‘person’, but the more usual sense from White people of the time was ‘friend’. The context supports this idea that the editor has a certain person in mind.

[4] The second occurrence of copa seems to be that good Oregon-dialect adverb kʰapá ‘(over) there’, in contrast with the first occurrence, which is just a preposition.

[5] klosh kahkwa is pretty straightforward, but I feel duty-bound to mention that this is also the expression for ‘amen’ in Christian prayers such as JK Gill’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, which had been published a number of times in Oregon newspapers over the preceding decades. Could it be a clue to the friend’s identity (as a preacher maybe)?

Summarizing, today’s text strikes me as reasonably skillful Chinuk Wawa that’s true to local ways of talking.