Puget Sound frontier times: Interview with Jake Jones Jr., 1958


(Image credit: IssaquahHistory.org)

Snoqualmie Valley history told by a son of a pioneer…

Today I’m excerpting an audio-recorded and transcribed 1958 “Oral History Interview with Jake Jones, Jr.” from the Issaquah (WA) History Museums. The interviewer was Willard Krigbaum, Jr..

The transcriber may not have know Jargon very well,and I badly want to hear the actual recordings since it’s explicitly indicated that Mr. Jones said many words that no one bothered trying to write here!

But we can make out a lot of highly interesting facts relating to Chinuk Wawa use in the mid-to-late frontier era of Puget Sound.

One broad observation is that Jake Jones, like other pioneers we’ve noticed in the same region, knew a fair amount of Lushootseed Salish words, which may have been considered part of CW in that time & place.

Looking at specifics:

Jones tellis about events in 1888 or earlier involving an Indigenous man whose name quite likely reflects a Chinuk Wawa handle *Cultus (kʰə́ltəs) Johnny (this was a common kind of name in frontier days):

jake jones 01

jake jones 01b

pages 2-3

About Chinook Jargon usage:

  • wáptu(-s) in a local pronunciation xwáptu(-s) and Lushootseed Salish s-píqʷuc ‘potatoes’
  • < July > meant any celebration to Lushootseed-speaking Indians, similar to how < Sunday > is any celebration in Chinuk Wawa (also notice the similar sound of júʔ-il ‘to enjoy oneself’ in Lushootseed)
  • Older Indians didn’t know Chinuk Wawa, just as Samuel Hancock observed in a memoir I recently featured here
  • < cayuses > ‘ponies’ and kʰíyutən ‘horses’
  • łax̣áwya ‘hello; goodbye’
  • < kopalakachocko > ‘where (do) you come from’, maybe a rusty memory of < kopa kah mika chako? > ‘from where (did) you come?’
  • Chinook Jargon was both an interethnic and intertribal language; this idea seems to lead Mr. Jones directly to one of his discussions of Indigenous hops pickers
  • Hops pickers would call out < chuckalay > when their boxes were full and ready to be taken away — maybe this involves Jargon < chako > ‘come’; maybe it’s a Lushootseed expression but I’m not finding anything likely in the dictionary of that language

jake jones 02

jake jones 02b

pages 20-21

More Jargon words:

  • ‘money’ < chickamum >
  • ’50 cents’ < sitkum dollar > ‘half dollar’
jake jones 03

page 22

On the history and development of Chinuk Wawa…including…

  • including what might be another slightly garbled memory of a language not spoken in a long time (seemingly saying < nika > ‘I’ means both ‘I’ and ‘you’; note the similarity of < mika > ‘you’)
  • < clam > again is proved to be a word of Jargon
  • < kuldus chickamin > ‘worthless money’ is given for ‘gold’, but this too could be a transcriber error or a fuzzy memory ( < kuldus chickamin > can also mean ‘only metal’, for example, and Jones confirms other settlers’ memories that paper money was unwelcome in territorial days)
  • < spoon salmon > for ‘steelhead’ seems a new Jargon discovery; does ‘spoon’ refer to the common method of catching them?

jake jones 04

jake jones 04b

jake jones 04c

jake jones 04d

pages 56-58

Jargon appears in a quotation about some soil that was tough to work:

jake jones 05

pages 58-59

Another Chinook Jargon word is remembered:

jake ones 111

page 59

A memory of the < skookum house > shows Jones’s typical Settler interpretation of < skookum > as good, leading him to reflect a bit. He also recalls < chickamin house > for ‘bank’:

jake jones 07

page 59

Jones remember a noun phrase that could help explain the American English dialect or slang term “high muckymuck”; with it he remembers phrases that evaluated people’s performance in treating others to a feast:

jake jones 08

pages 60-61

So there’s some good stuff in that interview to refine our concept of how Chinuk Wawa was used in Puget Sound frontier times.

It’s pretty consistent with what we’ve seen from other area pioneers in suggesting that Jargon was everywhere and that it was mixed with a bit of the local tribal languages.

We’ve also seen one or two likely new discoveries.

What have you learned?