My problem with church

I couldn’t say it better myself! Some fluent Chinuk Wawa addressing the attractions of Christian worship:

My problem with church

“ONLY A FEW OF US LEFT.” — “Wake mika tickey.” The beautiful lingo known as Chinook jargon, which was formerly the principal means of communication between the pioneers and the Indians of this region, and among settlers in sections where Indians were numerous, was in almost as common use as English, is now very seldom heard, and those who can understand it, let alone speak it, can truly say “there is only a few of us left.” The following anecdote brought from Hood River by Mr. Will Langille is therefore given for the benefit of the few old-timers who can understand and appreciate it: Mr. Langille meeting an old Indian going fishing on Sunday, said to him. “Jim, you old sinner, why don’t you go to church?” To which Jim replied, “Wake nika tickey clatawa copa church house. Okok man halo cumtux sahalie tyee. Ict man mitwit, hallo, hallo, hallo. Tenas cluchman hyu sing, sing, sing. Siwash potlatch chickamin, chickamin, chickamin. Wake nika tickey.

— from the St. Helens (OR) Oregon Mist of February 14, 1896, page 3, column 2

This is good Oregon Chinuk Wawa.

I’ll go straight to translating it, since the newspaper editor left its controversial comments for those in the know.

Wake mika tickey [Ø].
wík máyka tíki [Ø]
NEG 2.SG to.want [3.OBJ]
‘you don’t like (it)’

[Sic; this pull quote has the original nika ‘I’ garbled, which is a typical typographical error.]

Main quote:

Wake nika tickey clatawa copa church house. Okok man halo
Wík náyka tíki ɬátwa kʰapa (chərch)-háws. Úkuk mán hílu 
NEG 1.SG to.want to.go PREP church house. DEM man NEG
‘I don’t like going to the church. That man doesn’t’

cumtux sahalie tyee. Ict man mitwit, hallo, hallo, hallo. Tenas
kə́mtəks sáx̣ali-táyí. Íxt mán mítxwit, hála, hála, hála. Tənəs-
to.know sky chief. One man to.stand, to.shout, to.shout, to.shout. Diminutive-
‘know a thing about God. One man stands up and shouts, shouts, shouts. The’

cluchman hyu sing, sing, sing. Siwash potlatch
ɬúchmən hayu-síng, síng, síng. S(h)áwásh pá(t)lach 
woman Imperfective-to.sing, to.sing, to.sing. Indian to.give
‘girls keep singing, singing, singing. The Indians give’

chickamin, chickamin, chickamin. Wake nika tickey [Ø].
chikʰəmin, chíkʰəmin, chíkʰəmin. Wík náyka tíki [Ø].
money, money, money. 1.SG NEG to.want [3.OBJ].
‘money, money, money. I don’t like it.’

That hallo that I interpret as ‘to shout’ might just be the English verb ‘to halloo’, but in this context shouting sounds more like the intended sense. The verb sing is a good Chinook Jargon synonym for shanti, as we know from the Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary as well as from the Kamloops, BC, area. The [Ø] is “null” (not pronounced) third-person object ‘it’, which we virtually always find used by the most fluent speakers of Jargon.

All in all, today we have a pithy, memorable example of genuine Chinuk Wawa.

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