Siletz church services translated into “Jargon” well into 20th century

Locally, it was called “Jargon”.

From a town-by-town roundup of news…


Siletz church 01.PNG

Siletz church 02


     The Easter Sunday services were of unusual interest. The Sunday school attendance was over 100. The audience filled the house to capacity. The 11 o’clock sermon was preached by Rev. C.W. Pogue, pastor and interpreted in Jargon by John Williams instead of Archie Johnson. Mr. Williams has good use of the Jargon and made it very plain to the old Indian people. He also made it plain that no “moonshine” or wicked person could get to heaven without forgiveness. At noon a splendid basket dinner was served in cafeteria style to everybody. At 2 o’clock p.m. Rev. John Adams explained in Jargon the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. This was also made very plain to the old people.      

     A quartette composed of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Larsen, Arthur Bensell, and Jess Daniels. A song in Jargon by Mrs. Mauric[e] Andersen. As this song referred to the future state or existence the Indian people were very quiet and attentive while it was being rendered. Mrs. Andersen knows the Jargon language so well that the expression and sentiment were brought out so fully that it was no wonder the Indians looked sad when they thought of their friends over there beside the beautiful River of Life.

— from the Toledo (OR) Lincoln County Leader of April 21, 1922, page 1, column 1

Look at that date!

The year 1922 is very late for Jargon to be used in daily life, in most locales.

But at Siletz Indian Reservation, from the mid-1850s onwards, a situation similar to what we’ve learned about Grand Ronde Reservation occurred: people grew up speaking Chinuk Wawa.

These would be “the old people” of 1922. It would seem they knew Chinook Jargon as well as, or better than, English.

So we often find news reports showing that the need was felt to interpret into Jargon at Christian services.

Just which “song in Jargon”, surely a religious one, was sung would be nice to find out. Because the Easter services we’re reading about today were Protestant (Methodist, I think), it wouldn’t have been any of the Catholic hymns. It could’ve been one of Myron Eells’s published, and widely used, Chinook Jargon hymns. Or maybe it was something created or translated by a local person, not a rare thing either.

It’s definitely interesting to see names named of people who were considered excellent Jargon speakers in the community. We can learn more about each, probably via oral histories, as well as archival searching.

There’s at least one photo of tribal member John Williams in the Lincoln County Historical Society’s collections.

I also found one of the (primary?) interpreter, Archie Johnson:

archie johnson

(Image credit: CTSI)

The Chinuk Wawa-speaking Reverend John Adams is likely to be this man (1847-1938), buried at Paul Washington Indian Cemetery:

john adams

(Image credit: Findagrave)

Arthur Bensell went on to become Siletz Tribal Council Chairman; his papers are archived.

Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Andersen make a number of appearances in local papers in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Quite a number of good threads to follow in today’s article…

What have you learned?