1954 Seattle refrigerating engineer’s speech in Chinuk Wawa


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Of all the odd places to find a Chinuk Wawa text!

A convention of refrigerating engineers, long past frontier times.

To be fair, this took place in Seattle.

And it was addressed to Canadians.

The following text is a Northwest tourist curio for those attending a national meeting, as you’ll see from the palpable kitsch. They’re addressed as squaws and braves, for instance.

And it’s bookish.

Meaning — predictably for the date — it’s a Rube Goldberg machine made from the stock parts in a Chinook Jargon dictionary right off the shelf of Shorey’s Bookstore. (Or the equivalent.)

It makes about as much sense as a self-operating napkin, as you might imagine. Between maintaining a self-conscious campiness and struggling through an unfamiliarity with Jargon’s, er, conventions, it’d be a challenge to make sense of the following message without the provided English translation.

I’m not giving a literal translation. That would only make things even more confusing, trust me.

ALTHOUGH the Seattle Meeting is a thing of the past, its reverberations persist and comments on its features, technical and social, are still being made by those who were fortunate enough to attend.

One of the most unique events that, it is felt, should be recorded for posterity is the speech of thanks in the Chinook language to our good Canadian friends who provided the Indian Potlach for our enjoyment at the Sunday night reception.

This was delivered by none other than our erudite friend and Director, “Dutch” Diehl, and is, without doubt, the only speech ever made before an ASREgathering in an Indian dialect. The Chinook jargon was as follows:

Klahowya, sikhs tillicum. Okoke nika lalang delate wawa kopa mesika. Yaka milite hyas kloshe kunamokst tillicum, man pe klootchman. Youtl tumtum pe mamook hee pe muckamuck chuck kahkwa winapie nesika klatawah siah enati hiju illahee kopa ka nesika mitlite. 

Nesika potlach mahsie kopa tillicum kopa Canada illahee kahkwa mesika klosha kopa cultus potlach.

Saghalie tyee, wawa kloshe wawa mesika. 

Nika delate wawa!

Which, freely translated, says:

“Greetings, my friends! This truth my tongue speaks to you. It is very good to be among our friends, braves and squaws. Have a good time, be happy, eat and drink because soon again we will travel far across the vast country to the places where are our homes. We thank our good friends from the Canada country because they have made a generous potlach. May the Great Spirit bless you. I have spoken the truth!”

— from Refrigerating Engineering, volume 62 (1954), page 70