A deer drive with Spokane Indians

deer drive 1

I found a reminiscence of 1882 Camp Spokane (later Fort Spokane) that has local Indians talking Chinuk Wawa with soldiers.

It’s “A Deer Drive with Spokane Indians” by Lieut. W.R. Abercrombie (1857-1943), US Army. Recreation III(4):153-157, October 1895. Abercrombie later (1898) led an expedition seeking an “all-American” route to the Klondike, where his Chinook Jargon might have come into further use.

The scene portrayed here by Abercrombie fits what we already know of the common, if not universal, knowledge of the Jargon among local Native people. It’s also a testimony to the efficacy of CJ in crucially important activities such as food gathering.

The chief “Or-ah-pah-eu” is a known historical person, whose last name actually ends in an N — once again, handwritten manuscripts with unfamiliar words suffered in the 19th-century publication process.

Some excerpts:

deer drive 2

“JACK! JACK! nika nanich-mica-hiac-hyos cold.” [náyka nánich máyka (h)áyáq; hayas-kʰúl] (Jack I want to see you, and hurry, it’s cold.) It was about two o clock one bitter January morning in 1882, while in cantonement [sic] at what is now known as Fort Spokane, Washington, that my friend, the sub-chief of the Spokane Indians, Or-ah-pah-eu, came to my cabin to notify me that a bunch of black tail deer, were corralled in a creek bottom near his lodge about 12 miles from our station, and that the Indians were out for their annual hunt.

— page 153

deer drive 3

After they had struck a light, started fire, and put on a pot for “muck-a-muck” [mə́kʰmək] (something to eat), I sat up in my buffalo robes and listened to their plans for the hunt.

— page 153

deer drive 4

At grey dawn I was awakened by having the blankets and buffalo robes pulled off me. This was an intimation that it was time to clat-a-wah [łátwa] (go)…

— page 153

The following passage is a rare example of skookum [skúkum]claimed as being used in Jargon to mean ‘excellent; all right’. That word is far better documented in English-language use, so I wonder just a bit…

deer drive 5

After plodding along for about an hour, in the the most oppressive silence you can imagine, broken only by an occasional “lost” from the trailers, as they silently filed past each other, a black mass ahead of us turned into the traders store, and from out of the storm came the cabalistic word “skookum” [skúkum] (all’s well).

— page 154

The following bit holds value because it shows the pidgin being used in addressing Native women, which implies knowledge of it had diffused fairly well into the population. (As opposed to, say, only men using it when dealing with traders, a situation we see more in older documents from our region.) There’s also what I think may be a previously undocumented, perhaps slangy, Spokane Salish word:

deer drive 6

I called out to the squaw: “Close nanich” [łush-nánich] (look out); tried to ward off the blow, but was too late. The mare hit the side of the canoe and half filled it with water. One of the squaws went overboard with me. Cold! Great Scott! how cold the water was, as I sat in it holding Bess [a horse] by the head. “Musa quash!” (paddle hard) I yelled, and the “lady” in the bow of the canoe made the water boil with her paddle, while the one in the water, swimming as only a squaw can swim, pushed the canoe to the farther shore, a distance of 20 yards.

— page 154

This musa quash isn’t in Carlson & Flett’s 1989 “Spokane Dictionary” (I need to get the latest edition), but it looks Spokane. It’s got the Imperative suffix , the lexical suffix for ‘water’ -e(t)kʷ, and plausibly the root mús ‘to feel (with the hand)’. So it has the look of a metaphor or slang word ‘feel the water!’ (I say slang partly because the related root from southwest Washington Salish languages gave us the Chinuk Wawa musum ‘to sleep (with)’.)

deer drive 7

A soldier named Sherwood plays a part; as we’ve previously learned about “Poet of the Sierras” Joaquin Miller, he too has previously been part of Walker’s mercenary army that invaded Nicaragua.

deer drive 8

Lot took up his pipe and filling it from a pouch hung from his neck, began the “wa-wa” [wáwa] (talk).

— page 155

Here’s a passage where I believe the magazine editor misunderstood a Chinook Jargon word (cultus) as some kind of frontier English slang for “trailblazing”:

deer drive 9

…we prepared to break trail down to Or-ah-pah-eu’s lodge. Giving our guns to the cutters [kʰə́ltəs] (ordinary) bucks, we tied our stirrups over our horse’s backs and took off their bridles so they would not get tangled up when floundering and wallowing in the snow.

— page 156

deer drive 10

Starting out next morning at e-lip-sun [íləp-sán] (grey dawn), we made a bee-line for the confluence of the two creeks, which we reached about two hours after sunrise.

— page 156

deer drive 11

Or-ah-pah-eu posted us along the creek, one to each of these clearings, with the warning “close nanich” [łush-nánich] (look out).

— page 156

What do you think?