C.C. McCoy recalls Fraser River Indigenous reaction to first steamboat
Christopher Columbus McCoy (1836-1905) accidentally arrived in British Columbia at the moment the Fraser River gold rush began…
He stayed and prospered, through the usual adversities.
Here McCoy recalls Native people’s reaction in Chinuk Wawa to the first steamer that came up the Fraser River:
…I well remember the first steamer that stemmed the waters of the Fraser. She was the Surprise, and made her first trip from Sacramento in May, 1858…it was a comical sight to see the Indians’ surprise at the vessel, which they, delighted, called ‘hiyou Boston man‘s house,’ when they saw their own figures in the looking-glasses in the saloon.
— from the New Westminster (BC) Pacific Canadian of October 7, 1893, page 4, column 4
That four-word phrase as remembered by McCoy is not entirely in Chinook Jargon, since it carries an English-language Possessive suffix. In Grand Ronde (2012) dictionary spelling it’s háyú bástən-mán (łaska) háws ‘many White-people (their) house’.
Which parallels other, earlier Indigenous people’s evaluations of the first sailing ships on the coast as ‘floating houses’. For example, in Nuučaan̓uł (Nuuchahnulth; Nootka) of Vancouver Island, BC, the word for the European newcomers (now effectively for all non-Natives) is mamałn̓i, analyzed as ma ‘dwell’ plus -małn̓i ‘out on the water’. I’m not sure this has anything at all to do with the mirrors in the saloon of the Surprise…!