“A Tale of the Shining Tide” from Shoalwater Bay


Warning: fictional Chinuk Wawa, set on Shoalwater Bay but starring Plains Indians?

I puzzle over the characters’ identities here…are these photos of Coast people, despite their hairstyles and tipis? They’re said to be Clatsops living on Shoalwater Bay near Oysterville and Nahcotta. For some reason that I take to be narrative effect, they speak Chinook Jargon, and grunt, within the family.

The story is “A Tale of the Shining Tide” by prolific freelance nature and science writer J. Mayne Baltimore, appearing in a short-lived Northwest magazine (Alaskan Magazine and Canadian Yukoner volume 1, number 1 (March 1900), pages 373-377).


I don’t recognize their names, though the kid is called by the Jargon-sounding Tipso-lillah:

For some years had these Indians lived in the cabin. And their names? Commonplace Siwash cognomens — doubtless odd-sounding enough to the ears of Eastern people. The father and husband was known as “Kit-Neius;” his wife or clootchman was called “Sin-Collat.” The pappoose belonged to the feminine gender and answered to the euphonious appellation of “Tipso-Lillah.” She was about six years old. (page 374)


Samples of the characters’ fictional Chinuk Wawa:

It was mid-summer. Kit was toiling in the oyster beds near the town. Work was a little slack in the mat and basket business with Sin. One morning she said to Kit, in the Chinook jargon,

Nika hiyu momook okoke Sun” (I must work today).

Nawitka six, okoke skukoom, clootchman skukoom tum-tum. Nawitka. Umph!” said the old buck, smiling. In his answer Kit warmly commended the resolution of his faithful squaw. (page 374)

Sin-Collat’s line there really means ‘I have a lot of work today.’ Kit-Neius is actually saying ‘Indeed, friend, that is a monster, the woman is monster-hearted. True. Umph!’

These characters even talk grunty Chinook Jargon to themselves:

“Me go out to end; get hiyu clabs, ugh!” said Sin to herself. (page 375)


I feel the Jargon and the story itself are insufficient for full quoting here. Follow the links if you’d like to read in full.

Mr. Baltimore, pictured below, may have been out of his element writing this fiction. Most of his stuff dealt with inventions and with the Pacific Northwest’s natural environment; he may even have been a Northwesterner, although I haven’t found out much about his life. It was published in many local, regional, and national outlets, so I take it his nonfiction writing was considered solid.

j mayne baltimore

What do you think?