Spokane Indians baseball used to be associated with this language

My numerous foreign readers might find the following hard to translate!

It’s all in English — even the Chinuk Wawa is loan words being used the way non-Jargon speakers used them — but it’s also in Baseball.

spokane indians baseball

Joe Cohn. president and general hi yu tillicum of the Spokane Indians, is hitting the trail eastward in search of ball plyers for next season. Joe says he wants a couple of pitchers and an tnflelder. Yes, Joseph, and you want a few more players, also. If the Siwashes are to keep their champ stride next season, they’ve got to have a whole bunch of new blood to take the place of the six cracker jacks lost this season.

— from the Spokane (WA) Press of November 9, 1910, page 3, column 1

This is an example of three classic bits of Pacific Northwest dialect.

#1: the often overlooked loan word hi yu is put to work meaning ‘excellent, wonderful’ — our modern ‘awesome’ — (from Chinook Jargon háyú ‘much, many, a lot’).

#2: perhaps the most widely used of all borrowings from the Jargon, tillicum here amounts to ‘pal, mensch, a reliably good person’ (from Chinook Jargon tílixam ‘(Indian) person/people, relative, tribesman’).

#3: capitalization is the telltale clue that Siwashes is the name of our local baseball team here, still known as the Spokane Indians (from Chinook Jargon s(h)áwásh ‘Indian, Native’).

I’m finding it remarkable that a newspaper in my town was able to use this much untranslated Chinuk Wawa, at such a late date as my grandma’s birth year!


(Image cʷedit: Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane Indians, it’s pleasant to report to you, are now strongly associated with the local Spokane Salish tribal language. I proudly wear a “sp̓q̓ni suxʷč̓łsep̓cin̓m” baseball cap, and you can buy a Salish jersey like the one you see here. Someone got really inspired and put a humorous touch on the Indians ballpark — the women’s bathrooms are labeled as pul̓yehal̓ ‘Mole’ and the men’s as spilye ‘Coyote’. As in the legendary myth characters, who were married to each other!