LINGUISTIC ARCHAEOLOGY: TREATY LANGUAGE (POINT NO POINT), PART 16: Who were those treaty signers?

Here is a small exercise that to my knowledge I’m the first to try: figuring out which of the Stevens Treaties signers were conversant in Chinook Jargon.

In most of their cases, the evidence is circumstantial at best, on this first sampling run at the historical records.

But it seems to me that if you take it all in a big picture, those present included:

— several highly fluent Chinookers,

— several more people whose frontier livelihoods involved plenty of travel and thus probably demanded some Jargon,

— and then a majority who we can infer had at least casual exposure to that language.

A firmer picture can certainly be put together with some more substantial research. The other Pacific Northwest Indian treaties of the same era routinely include signers who we know fit into the above range of Jargon proficiency. And settler society kept excellent records of itself, so that we can find quite a bit of information about most White attendees. Plus, now that Indian reservations were being established, most or all of the Natives involved can be tracked down on paper.

Let’s look at those whose names are attached to the Treaty of Point No Point that we’ve been examining. I reproduce the list as given in the official treaty text, which explains the incessant “L.S.” (locus sigilli, “place for a signature”) and such.

(Note — other people were certainly present. For example, various Native elders etc. are quoted as speaking up during the negotiations, but did not sign. For another example, Stevens’ appointee James Doty seems to have kept eyewitness notes that include this Point No Point council, but did not sign.)

THE BIG CHIEF

(as some of the assembled Native leaders addressed him)

THE NATIVE CHIEFS

of the three local ethnolinguistic groups

  • Chits-a-mah-han, the Duke of York, Chief of the S’klallams, his x mark. (L.S.): a Chinuk Wawa speaker, quoted by Theodore Winthrop (1863); already considered an ally of the Whites, he pronounced himself happy with the treaty after it was read out
  • Dah-whil-luk, Chief of the Sko-ko-mish, his x mark. (L.S.): an old man, so perhaps not a Jargon speaker; he spoke against selling land to America
  • Kul-kah-han, or General Pierce [as in Franklin Pierce], Chief of the Chem-a-kum, his x mark. (L.S.): he gave a wan endorsement to the treaty, sounding resigned to a White presence in his lands

THE NATIVE tenas tyees

  • Hool-hole-tan, or Jim, Sko-ko-mish sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.): he spoke up objecting to this treaty
  • Sai-a-kade, or Frank, Sko-ko-mish sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Loo-gweh-oos, or George, Sko-ko-mish sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • E-dagh-tan, or Tom, Sko-ko-mish sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Kai-a-han, or Daniel Webster, Chem-a-kum sub-chief, his x mark. (L. S.)
  • Ets-sah-quat, Chem-a-kum sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Kleh-a-kunst, Chem-a-kum sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • He-atl, Duke of Clarence, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Lach-ka-nam, or Lord Nelson [as in Horatio Nelson], S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L. S.): said by George Gibbs in 1854 to be formerly head chief of all of the Klallams, “abdicated in favor of his son, S’Hai-ak, or King George”, who I don’t definitely find in this list
  • Tchotest, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Hoot-ote St, or General Lane [as in Joseph Lane], S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L. S.): a son of “John C. Calhoun”
  • To-totesh, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Hah-kwja-mihl, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Skai-se-ee, or Mr. Newman, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Kahs-sahs-a-matl, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • S’hote-ch-stan, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Lah-st, or Tom, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Tuls-met-tum, Lord Jim, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Yaht-le-min, or General Taylor [as in Zachary Taylor], S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.): brother of “Queen Victoria”
  • Kla-koisht, or Captain, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Sna-talc, or General Scott [as in Winfield Scott], S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.): another brother to “Queen Victoria”
  • Tseh-a-take, or Tom Benton [as in Thomas Hart Benton], S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.): a cousin of “King George”
  • Yah-kwi-e-nook, or General Gaines [as in Edmund P. Gaines], S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Kai-at-lah, or General Lane, Jr. [as in Joseph Lane, see above], S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Captain Jack, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • He-ach-kate, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • T’soh-as-hau, or General Harrison [as in William Henry Harrison], S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Kwah-nalt-sote, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • S’hoke-tan, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Paitl, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Wen-a-hap, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Klew-sum-ah, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Se-att-home-tau, S’klallam sub-chief, his x mark. (L.S.)

OTHER NATIVE MEN

All from the local S’Klallam tribe

  • Tsat-sat-hoot, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Pe-an-ho, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Yi-ah-hum, or John Adams, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Ti-itch-stan, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Soo-yahntch, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Ttseh-a-take, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • He-ats-at-soot, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Tow-oots-hoot, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Tsheh-ham, or General Pierce [as in Franklin Pierce,see above], S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Kwin-nas-sum, or George, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Hai-ahts, John, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Hai-otest, John, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Seh-win-num, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Yai-tst, or George, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • He-pait, or John, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Slimm, or John, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • T’klalt-soot, or Jack, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • S’tai-tan, or Sam, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • Hut-tets-oot, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)
  • How-a-owl, S’klallam tribe, his x mark. (L.S.)

SETTLER GRANDEES

Washington Territory officials, their employees (translators; contracted steamboat operators; quartermasters; etc.), and nearby settlers

Executed in the presence of us:

I’ll conclude by noting a great irony.

Governor Stevens on the one hand insured the best possible Chinuk Wawa translation — I really think a pretty decent one must have been produced by his crew — but on the other was evidently unable to gauge its disparity with the rigidly formal English text he was proposing to the Native people.

In other words, there was no mechanism provided for refining either party’s understanding of the other.

And the rushed schedule that Stevens insisted on, allowing typically a couple of days for a treaty council, then immediately proceeding to the site of the next one, militated against any serious effort by the American government’s representatives to fine-tune or truly negotiate terms.

In point of fact, most of the Stevens Treaties use substantially identical wording, in case you need evidence that they aren’t the result of sincere consultation.

And because they were repeating the same message at each council, Stevens’ interpreters probably fast settled into a favored way of delivering it in Jargon. This sort of “rattling it off” dynamic reinforces for me the sense of less than full conscious engagement by the Settler side.

Add this to the intercultural conceptual mismatches and the stuctural differences between languages that I’ve noted in previous installments of this series, and it would seem that no matter how excellent the Chinuk Wawa translations were, we can’t expect the two sides to have substantially understood one another.

Subsequent events are interesting in this respect, if you read our region’s history.

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