Ugh: “Rebounding Vengeance”

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So I’d say this piece of fictional Chinook was composed by someone who had some exposure to Jargon, although according to the Preface, she was born in Hastings, Ontario, Canada, and only reached the Newport, Oregon area well into the post-frontier era (1902). 

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There’s the good and the bad of it.

The book is “Rebounding Vengeance: An Indian Romance, and the Evolution of Newport, Oregon” by Theresa Ketcheson Roper ([Corvallis, OR]: Gazette-times Press, 1919).

And literally the first word in this novel is an Indian in 1825 southwest Oregon saying:

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Which does not bode well for realism.

Nor does the opening salvo of dialogue between this “young brave” and an “Indian maiden”, conducted as it is in Chinuk Wawa.

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1 “Kla howya, six.

The maiden’s black eyes sparkled, and a half smile parted the full red lips, but she did not say a word or make a move.

Embolded [sic!] by her looks, he took a few more steps forward, then he looked all around, up and down the beach on either side of his lofty position, which enabled him to see plainly from where he stood. Apparently satisfied that no one else was near he said:

2 “Chuck?

3 “Wake; mika chach co till?” for the maiden saw the look of utter fatigue in his face.

4 “Wake.

5 “Ik-tah mika tikah?

6 “Mika o-lo.

‘”Yahkwa mitlita mika muck-a-muck,” and turning quickly, she beckoned him to follow, and she led the way to the very outer edge of the bluff where there were a few feet of green, grass overhanging the almost-perpendicular rock.


1—”Good morning, friend.” 2—”Water.’* 3—”No, are you tired?” 4— “No.” 5—”What do you want?” 6—”I’m hungry.” 7—”Here is something to eat.”

— from pages 10-11

Why’s that not realistic?

Allow me to count the ways.

In the mid-1820s on the south coast of Oregon, the Jargon was not to my knowledge used between Indigenous people. The male character is said (on page 12) to be a Chinook from the lower Columbia River, and such a person could well have known early Jargon, which was already creolizing into some folks’ mother tongue in that locale. But you couldn’t yet expect southern Oregon strangers to understand it.

Not to mention that Chinuk Wawa was still highly variable in 1825 — it hadn’t yet settled into the form we now universally recognize. So these people’s imagined dialogue in 1919-vintage Jargon is a big fat anachronism. Jarring to the mind.

Ah, and I’d be derelict in my duties as your linguistic guide to this novel if I didn’t specify that many of its lines of Chinuk Wawa speech are unintelligible. Dig this:

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Nope, that’s not Chinook Jargon. < Wa > was never a word of actual CJ. < Tik-eh > was not a noun. Etc.

Also, there are an inordinate (and I’m literally using that word right) number of misspellings of Chinuk Wawa words strewn throughout the text, which becomes sort of maddening for anyone hoping to get an idea how the language is spoken.

Other than all that, some folks have a greater tolerance than I have for romanticized Eurocentric fiction using Indigenous characters (always described as “maidens” and “braves”) and settings.

Besides, there’s undeniably a lot of Chnuk Wawa in this book, so you’ll get some kind of practice out of it.

So go have a read, it’s free.

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For me, the most amusing part of reading this novel in Google Books 🙂

What do you think?
Ik-ta mam-ook me-si-ka pit-tuck (lol)?