rickreall pioneer nathaniel ford

Rickreall pioneers Nathaniel and Lucinda Ford (image credit: Statesman Journal)

The northwest Oregon community of Rickreall is believed to take its name from some of its earliest settlers having been of Canadian French Métis background. It’s agreed that “Rickreall[don’t click that link if you don’t want to get Rickrealled] derives from le/la/les créole(s) in French.

There appears to be decent documentation for that; I’ve found the place called “La Creole” in a book as early as 1853 (referring to 1846) and in a newspaper by 1867, and different sections of the same stream are called the Rickreall and the La Creole River.

But I don’t think this has been suggested before: I imagine Rickreall or some other version of la créole was a word in Chinuk Wawa.

Mind you, there were synonymous conventional ways to speak of “half-breeds”, such as sitkum sawash (‘half-Indian’).

But a short argument in favor of my idea would point out that this section of Oregon was first settled by ex-fur trade French speakers, who intermarried with Native families and spoke creolized (yes, that’s the linguistic term) Chinuk Wawa at home.

And the foreignization of la créole, turning the first consonant into “R” and generally resulting in a word that’s unrecognizable as French, strikes a chord with the fate of many canadien words that the Jargon introduced to the Pacific Northwest.

  • I think of lisitaluy ‘squash’ in Quinault Salish, originally French and near-certainly transmitted via Chinuk Wawa. Source? The rather different-looking la citrouille.
  • I also think of tapahote ‘shame!’ in early Chinuk Wawa, known to us from “Manuscript 195” in George Lang’s good book “Making Wawa”. Source? It’s a mutation of t(u) (n’)as pas honte.
  • To make the general principle of all this more clear, let me throw an English-sourced example your way: stim kar ‘railroad train’ in Kamloops Chinuk Wawa of 1890s BC. That comes from steam car, which was an otherwise little-known local English expression of that era — previously unknown to us either in Chinook Jargon or in English.

The local linguistic evidence, which I suggest includes “Rickreall”, often leads us to new linguistic-archaeology discoveries about Chinook Jargon’s role in our region’s history.

What do you think?