Jargon was current in eastern Oregon by 1845

Eyewitness testimonial specifying that Chinuk Wawa was already being spoken by Eastern Oregon Native people early in the settlement era.

In other words, well outside the lower Columbia River territory where the “Jargon” was first and most known.

eastern oregon cj early

A correspondent of the Roseburg Plain-dealer says: “W. P. Gray, in the Oregonian of July 23d, in speaking with reference to the Chinook Jargon, says: ‘Prior to the mining excitements of the early 60’s it was unknown east of the Cascade mountains.[‘] We think he is in error in making this statement, for in passing down the Columbia river in 1845 we were frequently accosted by the Indians, who desired to trade with us, making use of the Chinook Jargon in their ‘wa-wa‘ [‘talking’] with us, and on arriving at the Dalles one Sunday we attended a meeting of the Indians who were addressed by Rev. Shin F. Waller in Chinook jargon, and we well remember one expression he frequently made use of, which was ‘close mica tumtum, closa nica tumtum,” which, rendered in our language signifies, ‘your heart good, my heart good.’ We had a half-breed guide with us, who in our trading for salmon with the Indians, conversed with them in that Jargon which we afterwards became familiar with.”

— from the Astoria (OR) Daily Morning Astorian of August 2, 1895, page 1, column 4

This is really neat to find.

The enormous majority of non-Native people arriving in Oregon by 1845 headed to the fertile Willamette Valley and other regions close to the lower-Columbia “cradle” of Chinuk Wawa. Therefore, the majority of our documentation about where the Jargon was used relates to that region.

Off and on in this space, I’ve been developing the point that one of the earliest regions where CW was spoken outside that “homeland” was along the Oregon Trail, at least as far east as the Hudsons Bay Company (“Old”) Fort Boise, Idaho, area. Take note: although Old Fort Boise was founded in 1834, there were fur-trading establishments in the same well-traveled area by 1813. This was a hub of Native-Newcomer intercultural contact quite early on. Numerous memoirs of Oregon Trail migration indicate that it was a major resupply point on the transcontinental slog, and it’s from this point westward that the Jargon makes its appearance.

In the Dalles, Oregon, area mentioned above, the Daniel Lee & Henry Perkins’s Wascopam Mission was already established at Celilo Falls in 1838, running until 1847. Robert Boyd’s excellent, excellent book “People of the Dalles: The Indians of Wascopam Mission” confirms that Chinook Jargon was the primary language of communication between the Indians and the missionaries.

Hearing an old-timer confirm this nicely backs up this whole picture.

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