“Kammus…is excellent both for indians and hogs”: the Ebey diary


Rebecca Whitley Davis  Ebey (1823-1853) (image credit: Ebey’s Forever)

The first wave of settlers in northern Puget Sound (Whidbey Island to be exact) used plenty of Chinuk Wawa, because they dealt daily with Indigenous people.

The family we’ll hear from today knew and hosted “Major Shaw” and “Doctor Tolmie”, which is one fact that already implies they’d know some pretty decent Jargon.

Plus, Mrs. Ebey, who wrote 99% of the 1853 diary we’re looking at today, constantly mentions Indians visiting the house, working for the Ebeys, carrying mail for them, and so on. Among the more overt clues about Jargon usage…



page 132

I hired two Cloochmen to finish digging and setting out onions and paid them in a few potatoes and a little thread.

Not only is < Cloochmen > (łúchmən, ‘women’) Chinook Jargon, but that entire exchange could easily be negotiated in CJ, as all the necessary words were available in that language.



page 134

We have but few hogs yet; but in another year we expect to have some. They can do well here on Kammus there are quantities of it on this island, and it is excellent both for indians and hogs.

< Kammus > (kamas ‘camas’),like < Cloochmen > above, is capitalized in an evident intent to flag it as a foreign word — one from Chinuk Wawa.

One last instance for now:

king george

page 136

King George, General Taylor and Clonason are all here today receiving their money for their lost potatoes, and seem very well pleased. 

< King George >(kʰinchóch ‘English; British”) is the Chinook Jargon name of one of the three Klallam Salish men who visited the Ebeys that day.

— all from “Diary of Colonel and Mrs. I.N. Ebey“, The Washington Historical Quarterly VIII(2):124-152

What have you learned?