“In racy Chinook”: Grand Ronde, hops, & squaredancing

Lewis and Clark Journal

The official publication commemorating the Lewis and Clark Centennial festivities in Portland, Oregon strenuously boosts the industries of the new land…

…including hops. Here we go again!

We already know that where there were hops in frontier and post-frontier Oregon, there was Chinuk Wawa. But also we make some unexpected, quite fun, discoveries…

lewis and clark hops



The first crop [in 1868] was picked by Indians from the Siletz Reservation, for which labor they were paid at the rate of 33 1/3 cents per box of seven bushels, Mr. Wells boarding his help. The boxes were made in four sections of seven bushels each, and forked stakes were nailed to the ends to hold the center poles while the boxes were being filled. Many were the complaints and severe the denunciations handed out in racy chinook when the pole puller would drop a heavily loaded pole on the fork, thereby settling the contents of the box an inch or two, or more.




From 1868 until 1891 Mr. Wells’ yard was annually picked by Indians from the Grande Ronde Reservation, then located in the west end of Polk County. Many were the “dances” and “hops,” “feather,” “scalp” and “medicine,” given by the “bucks” and their “kloochmen” for their own amusement and for the edification of the “Bostons,” as the whites were called at that time. At these “parties,” the Indians numbered from 100 to 150, and with an equal number of palefaces hilarity ran rampant, and the surrounding forests echoed and re-echoed with the shouts and joyous songs of the happy throng. The “standing room only” sign might have been employed on these occasions — had the broad acres not been so broad. After a few hours of this wild amusement a violin would be brought out, and then there was “high jinks” indeed. Country lads selected partners from the dusky belles awaiting their turn to sling their moccasins into the air, and to the rhythmic time of the ancient “Buffalo Gals,” “Zip Coon,” “Scotch Reel,” and “French Fours,” dust, noise and “Injun” permeated the aromatic hop hills as cologne the fascinating garb of the city swell. The calling in the chinook jargon was well understood by the farmer boy, and from start to “conway lo-lo,” (meaning promenade all) there was joy enough in camp to serve each a meal and sauce to spare.

— from “Nine Acres in the Richest Hop State in the Union” by Frank J. Smith, in the Lewis and Clark Journal Volume 1 Number 1 (January 1904), pages 26-28

Chinuk Wawa squaredancing! Here’s some folk music I want to see come back!

Who wants to take the first crack at (re-)translating those tunes into Grand Ronde Jargon?

Historical details that we’re given along with this in the article are that the picking was at first led by two early reservation leaders: chief Wapato Dave Yats-kow (a Tualatin Kalapuyan), and then by another Grand Ronde chief (Moses Allen, circa 1821-1905), before being taken over by Whites.