Worship in the ancient form at Grand Ronde


Chief George (?) Quinaby (image via David Lewis’s ndnhistoryresearch.com)

John Minto IV (1822-1915), English-born Oregon immigrant of 1844 who went on to an illustrious political career, claimed only a rusty grasp of “the Chinook wa-wa” — and that’s why he’s a reliable observer of Grand Ronde in today’s selection.

To read his 1874 newspaper article (here illuminatingly commented on by Native researcher David Lewis) is to experience the rare treat of a self-aware Settler who asks Native people whether his presence is welcome, and whether he’s understood their actions and words right.

Titled “Worship in the Ancient Form” (Salem (OR) Willamette Farmer of November 6, 1874, page 1, columns 1-2), this account tells how Minto noticed numerous Indians silently heading toward some gathering near Salem, Oregon. He asked specific Natives who he personally knew to tell him what was going on, and repeatedly was told “I’m not sure” but some Indian strangers had arrived and were going to conduct something like a campmeeting (religious revival). Minto asked if it was all right for him to observe, and was told there were no objections.

Minto recognized several Grand Ronde people, such as

  • chief George the “last man of the Chemeketas”, the local Kalapuyan tribe — as David Lewis and Oregon Encyclopedia note, likely this is Quinaby who has appeared in my website previously)
  • Jo/Joe Hutchins (Hudson) of the North Santiams
  • Mrs. Jo Hutchins of the Molalla tribe

These last two played a central role in the ensuing solemn ceremony conducted by the Klamath visitors, which appeared to Minto to be a traditional observance.

Notably, the ritual was conducted both in the Klamath language and Chinuk Wawa, he says, though the subject matter seems to have been the local people’s grief over the loss of most of their tribal population and lands within living memory.

Apparently seven such meetings were held by the Klamath missionaries. (Is there a significance to that number?)

Minto again impresses me by concluding openmindedly that the visitors no doubt communicated some of “God’s revelations” and that when Native people speak of “Tamanamas” (Chinuk Wawa t’əmánəwas) they are talking about “spirits or angels”.

The ceremony described by Minto sounds rather like some of the Native religious revitalization movements of the 1800s Pacific Northwest. Certainly, it happened before the Shaker religion got started; it seems to come just before the known introduction of the Smohalla religion among Klamaths.

Perhaps a reader will be able to piece together a better identification.

What do you think?