Istahibs Bill Has a Potlatch

istahibs bill has a potlatch

In the post-frontier era on south Puget Sound, the local news reporter and his readers needed a Chinuk Wawa translator.

It seems Jargon knowledge varied inversely with casual racist sentiments:

istahibs bill has a potlatch 02

Mammok klosh tum tum,” said an aged tribesman in reply, to a query as to what might be the significance of a potlatch, and a younger buck, who stood nearby, was kind enough to explain that “mammok klosh tum tum,” translated into English meant “to make friendly feeling.” And this is why Istahibs Bill, the widow of Chehalis Bill, had sent out a call to her tribesmen far and near to gather on the banks of the Puyall[u]p and accept her hospitality. She had sold some land and desired to make everlasting peace with all Indians.

— from the Salem (OR) Daily Capital Journal of June 24, 1905, page 4, columns 1-5

Had the news reporter known more about Chinuk Wawa, he might have gotten a little farther than the supplied translation. The expression quoted is mámuk (or múnk) ɬúsh-tə́mtəm ‘to gladden, inspire’ as well as ‘to bless’. Would you consider the distribution of gifts at a death potlatch to be a form of blessing?

qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm?
What do you think?

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