Emic views of Chinuk Wawa

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George Bundy Wasson, Jr. (image credit: The World)

Growing Up Indian: An Emic Perspective” by Coquille Tribe elder George Bundy Wasson, Jr. is a PhD dissertation that he wrote at the University of Oregon, 2001.

Wasson’s unconventional “insider view” dissertation has lots to recommend it, and of course I’m not going to do it full justice here because my focus is limited to language history. Read the whole thing at the link above.

I’m here mainly to point you to his discussions of Chinuk Wawa, on page 57 (in passing) and pages 80-96 in more depth. From the latter section, I want to highlight a couple of ideas that are new contributions by Wasson.

On pages 93-94, he quotes his father’s “personal unpublished papers on Oregon Indians’ land claims” (1916-1947) for the notion that the name of the Molalla Indians is actually Jargon (compare my recent post):

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There was no such language as the Molalla language, there were no Molel Indians. Molallas in the Chinook language means ‘berries’ — Huckle berries or Sabbath berries. … [Some writers use “Olallie” as a generic term for berries.] … These Indians were known as Molallas or Huckle Berry Indians by the tribe of Indians who spoke the Chinook Jargon language. These same bands of Indians were known among their own people, the Klamath, as Chuck-Sum-Kanay, or Sabbath Berry bands, the people who lived where the Sabbath Berries grew.

[Wasson Jr. goes on:] It seems that in 1856, when General Joel Palmer rounded up Indians in the Willamette Valley, the “Huckle Berry” band of Klamaths were camping in the valley picking berries, nad were taken away with the Calapooias to Grand Ronde, where they were just called “Mollalas,” (or Huckle Berries) as usual.

And on page 95, Wasson credits the inspiration of his half-Aleut aunt for the idea that Chinuk Wawa’s word for ‘fence’ is originally Russian:

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As I scanned the word list I noticed a word definition of, “a fence; a corral; enclosure.” To my surprise, I saw the Jargon word was Kul-lagh’ (Long 1909:33). It sounded so very familiar, but, not as an English or French word. By reversing ‘k’ to ‘g’ it became startlingly clear that the origin must have been the Russian word gulag, which means camp, prison, or enclosure (see also “corral,” Long 1909:10; “fence,” Long 1909:13).

What are your thoughts?
qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm?

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