Son of Lingít chief dies

son of chief dies

Untranslated Chinuk Wawa in an Alaska newspaper, frontier-era.

I analyze 1905 as still being in the thick of the frontier era for Alaska, while Chinook Jargon found in the lower 48 at that time would strike me as optional, post-frontier usage.

Do you suppose the telegram was sent in Chinuk Wawa?

Son of Chief Dies

Chilkoot Jack received a telegram yesterday from his friend, Yah-kwan, one of the four big chiefs of the Sitka Indians, saying that his 10-year-old son had died. Chilkoot Jack iskum hi-yu sick tum-tum.

— from the Skagway (AK) Daily Alaskan of February 11, 1905, page 1, column 4

For myself, I strongly doubt the telegram was in Jargon, but in 1905 it’s likely that Chilkoot Jack, a Native man of the greater Skagway (southeast Alaska) area, told a settler reporter about it in that language.

So this may be a pretty accurate quotation of him.

Iskum hi-yu sick tum-tum = ískam háyú sík tə́mtəm = get/catch much hurt(ing) heart = ‘to be(come) sorrowful’.

One linguistic point favoring the authenticity of this perhaps local-dialect Chinuk Wawa is this: iskum. I have often found the Jargon words for ‘catch’ (the other is klap/tlap) being used by Native people, at least in BC an Alaska, as auxiliary verbs in expressions of mental states that “happen” to you without your control.

Whites seem to have been less aware of that usage, a claim that I’ll eventually have to back up…against my claim stands the fact that George Shaw’s 1909 dictionary mentions how iskum is sometimes used to make “passive” verbs, instead of the generic chako which derives from the verb ‘to come’.

Today’s iskum fits the pattern I’m suggesting. What do you think?

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