Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa in the “Kalapuya Texts” (part 5: Social relations)

godfather kiss

Godfather kisses (image credit: Ebay)

We’ve been looking at known Chinuk Wawa words from early Grand Ronde speakers of K’alapuya tribal affiliation…

We’ve also found evidence of even more GR CW in the 1945 book “Kalapuya Texts“, for example in connection with introduced technologies such as building and metallurgy.

It’s not just technology that demands acculturated words…Now let’s consider yet more traces of Grand Ronde Jargon in that publication, in the area of:


Because social change takes many forms.

How about romance?

I’ve been told that in at least some cultures, the activity of kissing is not part of tradition, just as Tachini Pete’s amazing dictionary of Montana Salish points out for other intimate activities that you can nonetheless express in the language.

Well, there’s the entertaining possibility of a Jargon inspiration for ‘ate (kissed) his mouth’ in a French-derived Petit Jean tale on page 286.

Now, Grand Ronde Jargon sources have already told us that ‘kiss’ = kʰís from English, or an old word bibi.

(Etymology question: Is this bibi from Canadian French babytalk? I’m only aware of bisou, as in the ultra-catchy song “Zou Bisou Bisou”…

There are other babytalk words in Chinuk Wawa; for example, Father Le Jeune tells us tutu for a ‘pet, a pet cat’ although in French now, toutou is ‘doggie’. The question lingers. But I’ll bet you a big plate of poutine and a Molson that I’m right.)

Anyway, ‘eat mouth’ would be *mə́kʰmək-lapúsh in Grand Ronde-style Jargon as implied by the K’alapuyan evidence. Maybe we’ll find some proof of that phrase in the future. I can testify that we often find multiple synonyms for newly introduced concepts in Pacific NW languages, so bibi and kʰis are not necessarily the whole story.

Page 297 shows us Kalapuyan ‘pour water on’ = ‘baptize’. Well, what do you know, Father Lionnet’s lower Columbia creolized-CW dictionary, published in 1853, shows us < mamuk wah tsok >, literally ‘make-pour water’, for baptiser ‘to baptize’. Need I say more?

Page 297 additionally brings us ‘the above headman’ = ‘God’. This is almost too familiar to bother pointing out, but I’m going to go there. Chinuk Wawa says sáx̣ali-táyí for this, having the same literal meaning as well> (You understand ‘headman’ is an anthropology word for ‘chief’.) Nobody seems to know if this way of referring to the Creator existed before contact with white Christian missionaries, so I can’t say for sure that it’s modeled on the Jargon. It might just be shared. But with the gigantic amount of other Jargon influence in the “Kalapuya Texts”, it’s quite believable that ‘God’ has the same explanation.

Related, and also on page 167, is Kalapuyan ‘great headman’ for ‘the government of the United States — symbolized in the president’. That’s another really familiar phrase if you’ve read about the mid-1800s treaty negotiations with Indigenous tribes in the Northwest, essentially all of which were conducted in, guess what, Chinook Jargon. Presidents were always referred to as some kind of *háyásh-táyí ‘great chief’ or *háyásh-pápá (‘great father’),one of many examples being in my previous post “Chinook Jargon Asks Taft“. (See also the scholarly study, “The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians” by Francis Paul Prucha.)

I’ll end with page 297’s ‘made-father’ = ‘godfather’, a relationship introduced along with Christianity.

We’ve never seen a Jargon word for this.

In the French of the settlers who introduced Petit Jean stories (which is where this term makes its appearance), ‘godfather’ is le parrain.

That’s not a match for ‘made-father’, which might be something like *łaska mamuk-pápá yáka (‘they’łe made him a father’), or *mán chaku-pápá (‘a man who’s become a father’), in Jargon — kind of awkward compound by the standards of nouns in the language.

But on the other hand, it’s hard to imagine another channel by which the concept of ‘godfather’ could possibly have come to Kalapuyans of Grand Ronde.

There, Catholic Christiantity + French-Canadians + Petit Jean tales + Chinuk Wawa, were a tighly associated cluster of traits.

So my bet is that ‘godparents’ were a concept that had some specific understood form in the Jargon of the earlier reservation period.

Stay tuned for, yes, more in this mini-series on using Linguistic Archaeology© to excavate early Chinuk Wawa from Grand Ronde tribal texts.

What do you think?
íkta msáyka tə́mtəm?