The “Columbian” line: the ultimate in SW Washington Chinuk Wawa

(Edited to place more emphasis on James G. Swan…)

Henry R Schoolcraft 1855

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft in 1855 (image credit: Wikipedia)

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864), preceding almost all of the published Chinuk Wawa documentation you know of, made one hell of a long footnote in his wonderful book* “Historical and Statistical Information, Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Coll. and Prepared Under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Per Act of Congress of March 3rd 1847, Volume 5” (Philadelphia, PA: J.A. Lippincott & Co. 1855).

How long?

Starting on page 548 and rambling on through page 551, Schoolcraft reproduces an anonymous “list of words transmitted to us, giving us singular examples of the growth of a jargon of Indian words in Oregon and Washington, mixed with English, French and Spanish [sic].”

Rena V. Grant succeeded in 1944 in identifying the proximate source of Schoolcraft’s lexicon: The Columbian newspaper in Washington Territory, January 15, 1853, page 1, columns 1-3. (Click that link to read the newspaper page.)

columbian

This is a journalistic piece that Samuel V. Johnson’s 1978 dissertation discovered much more about. Johnson found (only partly by reference to R.V. Grant) that it’s the source of a whole slew of succeeding Jargon publications, mainly Canadian. He portrays this “Columbian Line” (1978:13; 87-96) as running onward through:

  • Schoolcraft’s copy back East,
  • settler James Gilchrist Swan (1857) of Shoalwater/Willapa Bay (copy “but…changed”),
  • the San Francisco Evening Bulletin (1858) newspaper copy,
  • the Daily Alta California (June 12, 1858, page 4) newspaper copy with French translations added,
  • the Steamer Bulletin (1858) newspaper copy,
  • Alexander Caulfield Anderson (1858), long of the Hudsons Bay Company and then a settler at Cathlamet, Washington (copy “but…changed”),
  • William Carew Hazlitt (1858) — an upperclass Englishman who I think never visited the Pacific Northwest (thus a copy),
  • the anonymous Hudson Bay Employee (n.d.) (copy “but…changed”),
  • publishers Hutchings & Rosenfield (1860) in San Francisco (copy),
  • prospector/settler Jo Lindley (1862) in the Cariboo, BC (copy),
  • Duncan MacDonald (1862) in BC (copy),
  • the publishers Hibben & Carswell (1862 & 1865) in Victoria, BC (copy),
  • Matthew MacFie (1865) in Vancouver Island, BC (source of the spellings used in a text),
  • James Croker’s vocabulary in the BC Provincial Archives (n.d.) (copy),
  • and Harry Guillod (n.d.; circa 1900?) in BC (copy “but…changed”)

To that listing we can add Edward Jay Allen’s manuscript dictionary (circa 1900-1913), which seems to be a copy of the Columbian one.

But who wrote this vocabulary that so many people found authoritative enough to plagiarize it?

S.V. Johnson (1978:89) quotes from the Columbian of January 15, 1853 as saying,

We are indebted for the manuscript dictionary of the “jargon,” to a gentleman connected with the army, at Fort Steilacoom — an accomplished linguist and scholar…

A week earlier, I can add, the same paper anticipated quite some demand for its Chinuk Wawa lexicon, advising readers to thus to preorder their copies:

A gentleman connected with the army at Fort Steilacoom, has compiled, and kindly furnished us the jargon language, in general use for facilitating transactions with the Indians. 

— from the Columbian of January 8, 1853, page 2, column 2

Who could this refer to? I’ll rule out “founder of Steilacoom” (the town), Lafayette Balch, who had been around for two or three years already but was not known for accomplishments other than commercial ones. Instead, I think of:

Incidentally, it hasn’t been noted in the previous research literature on Chinook Jargon that the Columbian was even more successful with this word list’s publication than it had expected. The paper rapidly saw it as necessary to reissue its vocabulary as a flood of settlers came in. Read this:

columbian feb 1853

The “Jargon.” — In consequence of the numerous and unexpected calls for the number of the “Columbian” containing the “Jargon,” and that edition having long since been exhausted, we are induced to again run that “wau-wau” through our next issue, (if convenient,) perhaps revised and corrected.

— from the Columbian of February 26, 1853, page 2, column 4

That last sentence tends to confirm my observations about various mistakes in the January 15 list; see below.

Sure enough, the March 5, 1853 issue saw a second publication. This too has been unnoted in the scholarly literature. Kind of disappointingly, I haven’t spotted any changes from the original publication, which could have supplied useful information to us.

(Another side comment: it’s headlined “CHINOOK JARGON / Used by all the different Indian Tribes West of the Mountains, as the means of conversation with the Whites”. Knowing the huge influence that this word list had, that description may have been a big reason for the later linguistic folklore that Jargon was spoken everywhere west of the Rockies, when surely the editor meant the Cascade range!)

Let me begin to get into the various questions about this document by reproducing the actual 1853 Columbian vocabulary here. (Unfortunately minus the nice column formatting — the HTML my website uses is terrible that way. I’ve tried to correct the most egregious OCR mistakes here, though.) I’ll make some comments after it.

Aalloyma …………….. Another or different. Hachr or House……… A house.
Abba………………….. | Well, then, or if that is Halluck Laport………. Open the door
the case. Hee-hee lema………… Gamble.
Aekik………………… A fish-hook. Hee-hee………………. Laugh.
Aetshoot …….. …….. Bear. Henkerchim………….. Handkerchief.
Ahyak………………… Quick. Hoey-hoey……………. Exchange.
Akaepooit ……………. Needle. How …………………. Listen, attend.
Alke ……………….. . Afterwards. Hrowlkult……………. Stubborn, determined.
Alta ………………….. At present. Hyass Sunday……….. Christmas and 4th of July.
Ats…………………… Sister. Hyass………………… Large or very.
Annah………………… Exclamation of astonishment. Hy-you………………. , Plenty.
Ankuty. …………….. Long ago. Innunde……………… Across.
Appola ………………. A roast of anything. Ikt stick…………….. A yard.
Boston ……………….. American. Ikta…………………… What.
Chaco ………………… Come. Ikpooy Laport……….. Shut the door.
Chee………………….. New. Illihe………………….. Land.
Chickaman ………….. Metals of all kinds. Ipsoot………………… Secret.
Chickaman shoes…….. Horse shoes. Iscum ………………… Take.
Chick chick…………… A wagon or cart. Itka mika tikke ……… What do you want.
Chitch………………… Grandmother. Kabbage……………… Cabbage.
Chuck………………… Water. Kakwa……………….. The same.
Coat ………………….. A woman’s gown. Kalidon…………..0….. Lead or shot.
Clayl stone…………… Coal. Kamox ……………….. A dog.
Cockshut …………….. Fight, break, injure, &c Kamoosack…………… I3eads.
Cold olally……………. Cranberries. Kanim………………… Canoe or boat.
Cold Illihe …………… Winter. Kapo…………………. A relation.
Cold ………………….. A year. Kapswalla……………. Steal.
Comb…………………. Comb. Kapo…………………. Coat.
Delate………………… Straight. Kapitt………………… Finish, Stop.
Dly…………………… Dry. Kapitt wawa………….. Hold your tongue.
Tly tupso…………….. Hay. Kar…………………… Where. –
Elp…………………… First. Kata………………….. Why, or what is the matter
Elitee ……………… … Slave. Katsuck ……………… Midway, between.
Ena…………………… Beaver. Kettle………………… A pot.
Enpooy………………. Lice. Ke-whaap…………….. A hole.
Etlinwill………… . . . . . . Ribs. Keekwully coat………. A petticoat.
Glass…………………. A looking-glass or window Keekwully Sickilox….. T)rawers.
Gleece pire…………… Candle. Keekwully……………. Deep, beneath.
Halo… ……………….. None. Killapie …… – – – – – – – – – – – – Return or capsize.

Kimta………………… Behind.
Kinoose………………. Tobacco.
King George…………. English, Scotch, or Irish.
Kla-howya……………. How are you, or poor, pitiful.
Klack ………………… Untie.
Klackan ……………… A fence, field.
Klemenwhit………….. False.
Klemen saplel………… Flour.
Klip ………….. – – – – – – – – – Deep.
Klakeece …………….. Stars.
Klakany……………… Out of doors.
Klakster……………… Who.
Klapp………………… To find.
Klapite…….. ……….. Thread.
Klasker ………………. They.
Klatawa ……………… Go.
Klayl…………………. Black.
Klawa………………… Slow.
Kloch-kloch………….. Oysters.
Klootchman ………….. Woman.
Klosh ………… …….. Good.
Klonass………………. Don’t know.
Kolan………………… Ear.
Konaway……………… All.
Konsick ……………… IIow much.
Koory kuitan………… A race horse.
Koory………………… Run.
Koppa……………….. From, towards, &c.
Kooy-kooy……………. Finger rings.
Kow………………….. Tie.
Kquttilt ……………… To collapse.
Kuisan ……………….. A horse.
Kultis………………… Nothing, or gratis.
Kulla-kulla…………… Birds.
Kull………………….. Tough, hard.
Kull-kull stick……….. Oak.
Kumtux……………… Understand.
Kushaw………………. A hog.
Labiscuit……………… Biscuit.
Labreed………………. Bridle.
Lachaise ……………… Chair.
Lacassett……………… A trunk.
Lake………………….. Lake.
Lakutchee……………. Clams.
Laleem……………….. File.
Lalopa………………… Ribbons.
Lamuto……………….. Sheep.
Lapell………………… Spade.
Lapiosge……………… IIoe.
Laport………………… Door.
Lapushmo…………….. Saddie blanket.

Laplash stick…………. Cedar.

Laplash ……………… A shingle or plank.
Lapeep ………………. Pipe.
Laposh ……………….. Mouth.
Lapooelle …………….. Frying pan.
Lapiaege……………… A trap or snare.
Laqueen……………… A saw.
Larch ………………… Barley.
Lesack………………… A bag.
Laselle……………….. Saddle.
Latable……………….. A table.
Lawoolitch …………… A bottle.
Laween……………….. Oats.
Lay-lay……………….. A long time.
Lazy………………….. Slow or lazy.
Lecreme ……………… Cream color.
Lecock ……………….. Rooster.
Leeda ………………… Teeth.
Ledowo………………. Turnips.
Leglow……………….. Nail.
Legum stick………….. Pine.
Lehash……………….. An ax.
Lice…………………… Rice.
Lejob ………………… Devil.
Lekarrot……………… Carrots.
Leklee………………… Keys.
Leky………………….. Spotted or picbald.
Lelo…………………… Wolf.

[blocks in formation]

Lemule or Hyas kolon. Mule.
Lema…………………. The hand.
Lemoro……………….. Wild.
Leprate ………………. Priest.
Lepied………………… Foot.
Lepole………………… Hen.
Lepla…………………. A plate.
Lupulla………………. The back.
Lepooah ……………… Peas.
Lesap ………………… Egg.
Lesonion……… …….. Onions.
Lesibro……………….. Spurs.
Lesway……………….. Silk.
Leshawl……….. … A shawl.
Letete………………… Head.
Lolo ………………….. To carry.
Lope………………….. Rope.
Lum ………………….. Rüm.
Luckwulla…………….. A nut.
Machlany …………….. Towards the land.
Makook house………… A store.
Makook………………. Buy or sell.
Mamook Chaco ………. Bring.

Malaequa……………… Musquito.
Mamook ipsoot ………. To conceal.
Man moos-moos………. An ox.
Man ………………….. Man.
Mauk………………….. Duck.
Mesiker……. ……….. You. plural.
Mercie………………… Thanks.
Memoloose…………… Kill.
Mika …………………. You.
Miami ………………… Down the stream, below.
Midlight……………… | Sit down, put down, or
stay.
Midwhit ……… …….. Stand up, get up or move.
Moon…………………. Moon.
Moola………………… Saw mill.
Moos-moos…………… A cow.
Molass………………… Molasses.
Mowitch……………… Decr.
Moosum ……………… Sleep.
Moolack or Moos…….. Elk.
Momook ……………… Work.
Musatchy…………….. Bad.
Musket……………….. A gun.
Muck-muck…………… Anything good to eat.
Nanitch………………. Look, to see
Nesika………………… Wo.
Newha ……………….. How is it.
Nika…….. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – I.
Ninamox……………… Otter.
Nowitka……………… Yes.
Oihe………………….. Sandwich Islander.
Okoak ………………… This or that.
Oloman ………………. An old man, or worn out.
Olally………………… Berries.
Olo……………………. Hungry or thirsty.
Olikhiyou…………….. Seal.
Oluck ………………… Snake.
Opootch ……………… Tail.
Opkan………………… A basket.
Opsu…………………. A knife.
Oskan………………. . A cup.
Ou …………………… Brother.
Owaykeet…………….. A road.
P……………………… And.
Paper ………………… Paper, books, &c.
Patle…….. * * * – – – – – – – – – – – – Full.
Patlamb ……………… Drunk.
Patlatch………………. Give.
Pechuck……………… Green.
Pekope……………….. White.
Percece……………….. Blanket.
Pesioux………………. French.
Pisheck ………………. Bad, exhausted.

Pill……………………* Red.
Pilton ………………… Fool.
Pithick……………….. Thick.
Pilpil…………………. Blood.
Pillom………………… A broom.
Pill olally…………….. Strawberries.
Pire-chuck …….. …… {* spirits of any
kind.
Pire olally …………… Ripe berries.
Pire saplel……………. Bread.
Pish-pish……………… Cat.
Poolatly………………. Powder.
Poolakly……………… Night.
Pooh …………………. Shoot.
Quass……. ………… , Fear, afraid.
Quanice………………. Whale.
Quitehaddy…………… Rabbit.
Quiceo………………… Porpoise.
Quis-quis …………….. A straw mat,
Quonisum…………….. Always.
Sale…………………… Cotton or calico.
Salmon or Sallo-wack… Salmon.
Saplel ………………… Wheat.
Seeah-hoose…………… Face.
Seeapoose…………….. Cap.
Seepy……. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Crooked.
Sharty………………… Sing.
Shetsham…………….. Swim.
Shirt………………….. Shirt.
Sick…………………… Unwell, ill, sick, &c.
Sickilox………………. Pantaloons.
Sick tum tum………… Regret, sorrow.
Sitkum ………………. Middle or half.
Sitlii …………………. Stirrup.
Sitkum sun…………… Noon.
Six …………………… Friend.
Siya…………………… Distance.
Skad………………….. Mole.
Skakairk……………… Hawk.
Skin shoes……………. Moccasins.
Skokum………………. Strong.
Skullapeen…………… A rifle.
Skubby you…… …….. Skunk.
Skudzo……………….. A squirrel.
Sil-sil…………………. Buttons.
Silux …………………. Angry.
Smockmock…………… Grouse.
Snass………………….. Rain.
Snow…………………. Snow.
Soap………………….. Soap.
Sockally Tyhee………. The Almighty.
Sockally……………… High.

. Soolee………………… Mouse.
Sow wash…………….. Indian. (Savage.) Tumolitch……………. A barrel. 

Spose…………………. If. Tum-tum……………… Heart.
Staetejay……………… An island. Tumalla ……………… To-morrow.
Stick shoes…………… Shoes. Tupsu………………… Grass or straw.
Sunday……………….. Sunday. Tyhee………………… Chief.
Sun…………………… Day. Tzae ………………….. Sweet.
Sugwa………………… Sugar. Wagh. ……………… To spill.
Swaawa ………………. Panther. Wake ikta nika tikke… I do not want anything.
Tanass Salmon………. Trout. Wake ………………… No.
Tanass Moos-moos…… A calf. Wakeskokum ………… Weak.
Tanass man…………… A boy. Wakekonscick……….. Never.
Tanass Lakutchee……. Mussels. Wake nika kumtux….. I do not understand.
Tanass Musket……….. A pistol. Warm Illihe………….. Summer.
Tance………………… Dance. Wapito……………….. Potatoes.
Tanass Klootchman….. A girl. Waugh-waugh………… Owl.

A child, and anything Wawa………………… Language, to speak. Tanass………………… { small. – Exclamation of astonish

– Whaah………………… { i. Tamanawus…………… Witchcraft. ment. Tee-owitt……………… Leg. Wicht………………… Also. Tenas sun……………. Morning. Yachoot………………. Belly. Tenas Poolakly………. Sunset or dusk. Yakwa………………… Here. Tickaerchy…………… Altho’. Yaksoot………………. Hair. Till……………. ……. Heavy or tired. Yakolla………………. Eagle. Tin-tin ……………….. Music. Yaka …………………. He. Tikke…………………. Want, desire, &c. Yawa………….. ……. There. Tootosh………………. Milk. Yoolkut………………. Long. Tootosh Glece………… Butter. Zum zeeahhoose……… Paint the face. Tolo…………………… Wine. Zum………………….. Write. Ikt ……………………………………….. 1. Sotkin ……………………………….. 8. Mox ……………………………………… 2. Quies…………………………………. 9. Klone ………………………… * – – – – – – – – – – – – 3. Tatilum………………………………. 10. Lockot……………………………………. 4. Tatilum piikt ……………………….. 11. Quinum ………………. ………………… 5. Tatilum pi mox……………………… 12. Tahum …………………………………… 6. Tatilum-tatilum or Ikt-Takamonak….. 100. Sinimox………. …………………………. 7.

Ikt hyass Takamonak………………… 1000.

There are numerous features of the Columbian lexicon that suggest where it came from, at least in terms of geography and chronology, if not directly revealing the precise person(s) who might have written it. I reach this conclusion by adding my patented Linguistic Archaeology approach to Johnson’s comparison-of-texts philology. For example:

  • hachr for ‘house’ is a rare word, best known to us from James G. Swan’s 1857 memoir; it’s a Lower Chehalis Salish word from the Shoalwater Bay area. So are, it seems, quiceo ‘porpoise’, smockmock ‘grouse’, mauk ‘duck’, et al. Sallo-wack ‘salmon’ likely is; it’s certainly SW WA Salish, as we find sálwaxʷ for ‘Chinook salmon’ in the Cowlitz language (perhaps related to, but distinct from, a Puget Sound word: Lushootseed sʔuládxʷ ‘generic term for salmon and sea-going trout’). 
  • akaepooit for ‘needle’ is extremely rare, preserving the old Chinookan-language prefixed form of this word, if < a > stands for ‘Masculine’ i- (thus presumably a large needle, by conventional Chinookan gender/size symbolism). 
  • hrowlkult for ‘stubborn, determined’ must be x̣áwqał ‘cannot; impossible’, hitherto said to be Chinookan but I feel arguably SW WA Salish. (That will take up a separate post here.) Neither Gibbs nor Swan was a user of the French-speaking documentors’ trick of using the letter “R” to indicate back-of-the-mouth sounds in Jargon. Gibbs seems to give it a different gloss from the Columbian, ‘an expression of inability’.
  • Speaking of “R”, this sound’s maintenance in French-origin words such as leprate ‘priest’, lemoro ‘wild’, koory ‘run’, lesibro ‘spurs’, etc., suggests ongoing contact with French speakers, such as the ex-Hudsons Bay Co. workers who were a big and significant part of the population from Nisqually to Cowlitz to Fort Vancouver in Washington to French Prairie, Oregon. (“R” became “L” in these words in other regions.)
  • skudzo ‘squirrel’, skubby-you ‘skunk’, skad ‘mole, etc., with their voiced-stop sounds, suggest words from Lushootseed and most probably southern Lushootseed as spoken around (fur-trade Fort) Nisqually.
  • moos as a synonym for ‘elk’ is novel. It might suggest the influence of fur traders’ or settlers’ English-language “moose”…an animal not native to western Washington. (Speaking of fur traders, is “moose” used in any Canadian French?)
  • Tickaerchy for ‘altho’ ‘ (‘although’) is a rarity; non-Columbian sources have it without the “T” at the start of this Chinookan-sourced word, which may be an otherwise dropped Chinookan prefix. (More research is needed on this specific point. I will write a separate article about ‘although’.)
  • kull-kull stick for ‘oak’ also indicates lower Columbia Jargon, with its creole-style “reduplication” of an otherwise freestanding word (thus literally ‘hard-hard wood’).

Putting together all of these kinds of details about the Columbian lexicon, it looks like a snapshot of genuine Chinook Jargon as spoken in the frontier-to-early-settlement transition period, pretty early in its published documentation.

The locale that it stems from strikes me less as Puget Sound (Steilacoom or Olympia, the only two American towns on that body of water, had neither of them much of a settler population yet) than the lower Columbia River zone associated with Fort Vancouver (thus the heavy Chinookan and SW WA Salish stamp, with a smattering of lingo from the closely associated Fort Nisqually).

As for singling out a precise individual author of this list, that’s something I haven’t settled on. I will say this: I think the creator was a relative oldtimer (in local terms; in September 1852 the Columbian speaks of locals being “so long on terms of friendly intimacy” with the personnel of the fort–established 1849!), having substantial experience of this young American region. (Thus not Kautz or Wirtz.) I have real doubts that it’s either a British subject like Alexander Anderson or William Fraser Tolmie (whom no one would characterize as associated with the American army) or the American, George Gibbs (due to the divergence from that authority’s known styles of spelling).

James Swan seems plausible (for example, because in his 1857 book, he too often spelled Indian words with <ae> and with syllables ending in <r>, such as his Lower Chehalis <kaerhutch> ‘crab’). But it’s frustrating to not be able to prove his authorship. My preferred next step of research would be to cross-reference personnel lists of Fort Steilacoom…anyone care to point me toward them?

It’s too bad there are so few multi-word phrases in the Columbian list, because if we could see how the speaker put words together grammatically, we might see even clearer signs of the early creole Jargon of Fort Van.

It’s interesting how widely disseminated this wordlist was in Canada and beyond. A story that hasn’t been previously told in the research literature on Chinuk Wawa is just how the language spread from its earliest known region of use, the lower Columbia. to other places. Nor has it been pointed out how strongly lower Columbia River Jargon influenced Jargon as spoken elsewhere, especially in British Columbia. There are actually very close connections and influences between the two. I have much more to share about that — again, in separate articles on this site.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?


Jane_Johnston_Schoolcraft

Bamewawagezhikaquay Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (image credit: Wikipedia)

* Schoolcraft on page 543, for example, gives an excellent lesson for any modern linguistics classroom, about why we parse words in his wife Jane Johnston‘s (1800-1842) language, Ojibwa, differently from English. I’m thankful to her for cultivating a sensitive understanding and curiosity about Native languages in her husband. The remarkable Bamewawagezhikaquay also deserves accolades as (per Wikipedia) “the first Native American literary writer, the first known Indian woman writer, the first known Indian poet, the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language and the first known American Indian to write out traditional Indian stories.”

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