Weirdly good Chinuk Wawa in 1904 Spokane paper

Weirdly good Chinook Jargon for a Spokane, WA, newspaper so late in frontier times…

…And that should be the tipoff that something is going on.

See my explanation, after you read this interesting article about a major figure in Pacific Northwest history.


MARSH KAPA ILLIHIE 01 The_Spokane_Press_Thu__Nov_3__1904_.jpg

MARSH KAPA ILLIHIE 02 The_Spokane_Press_Thu__Nov_3__1904_.jpg

— from the Spokane (WA) Press of November 3, 1904, page 3, columns 1-2 (plus an extra-with headline)

The reason for all this vivid Jargon at such a late date and in such a relative backwater of Jargon use is this: the lingo was cribbed, for dramatic effect, by “Willia Mfrancis” (William Francis) Guion, from a popular 1891 novel set among the Kootenai Indians of northwest Montana:

Told in the Hills” by Pennsylvania author Marah Ellis Ryan.

It’s not clear how Ryan came by her knowledge of Jargon, with idiosyncratic spellings and all.

Tracking down who this Guion was hasn’t been very easy. Several other 1904-1905 economics and human-interest articles by him appeared in this Spokane paper, including the Jargon-tinged “Wa-win-te-pe-koet Laments the Mamaloose of the Great Indian General, Joseph“. (Which also relies on Ms. Ryan’s book.)

Aside from those, I’ve located someone with the same first, middle, and last name in the 1940 census of Rochester, NY, who was born in Canada. And back in 1902 there had been a William Guion listed as an owner of Guion Bros. Furniture across the state in Troy, NY.

It’s not clear whether these should be connected with the author of the Chief Joseph article. But in any case, today’s piece of journalism was embellished by someone who shows no indication of knowing the language himself, with Jargon from a work of fiction.