Tulalip, from My Heart

tulalip from my heart

Here’s a post-frontier Native person from north of Seattle, telling about a stereotype of Indians that didn’t fit her…

Harriette Shelton Dover (1904-1991) of Tulalip, Washington encountered Chinuk Wawa in a fairly unpleasant way. She says a number of illuminating things about this:


There were problems, and in all of this, the Indians were trying to find their way. Most of the Indians did not speak English. As I said, they had a jargon or a trade language called Chinook Jargon, which the Indians from different tribes developed so that they could speak to one another if they didn’t know each other’s language, and some of the white people learned to speak it when they came here. It was what linguists would call a pidgin language. Some of the pioneers in Seattle used to talk to me in Chinook. I was just out of high school, and they were always quite sarcastic that I didn’t understand the Indian language because I didn’t understand Chinook [Jargon]. In Chinook, tillicum is friend. Klahowya is a greeting, “hello,” and so sometimes they would say to me, “Isn’t it funny you’re an Indian and you don’t know your own language.” I said, “That’s not an Indian language. It is pidgin English.” “[sic] What do you think tumtum means? Several of them thought that it meant “stomach” or if you are hungry. I said, “No, it means ‘your heart’ or ‘your thoughts: Mikə tumtum is ‘my thoughts,’ or how I feel. But we, the women, did not learn Chinook Jargon, although I understood some of the words. We went to school. I speak the Snohomish Indian language [northern Lushootseed Salish], and my parents spoke several other Indian languages.

— from page 58 of “Tulalip, from My Heart: An Autobiographical Account of a Reservation Community” by Harriette Shelton Dover (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2013)

What do you think?
qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm?