Highlights from “St Nicholas League”: A Visit (1907)
A neat change of pace: one girl’s contribution of Chinuk Wawa to a kids magazine in the turn-of-the-century post-frontier era.
The writer, Frances Elizabeth Huston, was from somewhere “back East”, she says.
In the “St. Nicholas League” magazine (it was comparable to today’s “Highlights” mag, and it’s a joy to leaf through), she tells of “A Visit” among Warm Springs Indians in Oregon:
by FRANCES ELIZABETH HUSTON (AGE 13)
I THINK the very pleasantest visit I ever had was about two years ago, when my mother and I visited my aunt and uncle in Oregon. They lived in a little town in the Cascades, with the mountains all around in their soft shadings, from gray Coyote Point, called so because the weird wail of the coyotes was often heard from its rocky ledge, to the distant Mount Hood, shining, as I remarked to my aunt, “like a great mound of ice-cream,” against the clear blue sky.
I learned to ride “like a little buckaroo,” my uncle said, and to fish; and we took long drives over the mountains, to return, tired but happy, and throw ourselves into our chairs on my aunt’s cool porch.
And sometimes, in the long evenings, the old Indian braves who knew my uncle well and called him “ Charlie,” with all the familiarity of old acquaintance, would come into the yard and smoke, and tell us stories in their broken English of the days when they were young.
One of them told us about a young man who was besieged by hostile Indians on the top of old Coyote Point, looking at its dark shape against the sky with meditative eyes and blowing long whiffs from his pipe as he spoke; and how, there being no other way in which he might save his life, he jumped his horse over the ledge of rocks at its edge, a distance of fifty feet, and fortunately escaped.
And then sometimes we visited the Indians in their camps. It was very interesting to watch them, but they were decidedly dirty. The squaws did all the work and the braves smoked. The little papooses seemed very happy even if they were strapped to hard boards with nothing to amuse them but beads hung in front of their round greasy faces.
It was after one of these expeditions that my aunt told me that one of the young squaws had named her little daughter for her, “Yennes Panny” [sic, misprinted for Tennes] (little Fanny). These Indians (the Warmsprings) pronounce F as if it were the letter P. But the little baby had died, “memeluse” the Indians call it, and the poor young mother was very unhappy.
When we returned to the East after our long, delightful summer, of course I was very glad to be at home again, but I shall always like to think and to read of picturesque Oregon, of which I shall ever have a pleasant memory.
It’s a wonder if Ms. Huston didn’t go on to a journalistic career; she wrote a fine style, with or without the pesky prejudices of the times.