Eyley Sr. & Jr. tell “European stories” in Sahaptin

I’ve recently written how Kalapuyan speakers at Grand Ronde, Oregon, told “Petit Jean” stories in their languages, which show a good deal of Chinuk Wawa influence.

It turns out that this same genre of tales — gotten from French Canadian ex-furtrader settlers who married into the local tribes, and likely told in Chinuk Wawa — is found across the Columbia River too.

They’re collected on pages 248ff of “Northwest Sahaptin Texts, Volume 1” edited by Franz Boas’s student, Melville Jacobs (1934).

Two speakers in one family are presented telling “tales of European origin” in Sahaptin.

The father’s tellings (Sam Eyley/Iley Sr. (1860?-?); pages 247-250) are told in what I take as essentially traditional vocabulary and concepts.

But the son’s (Sam Eyley Jr. (1897?-?; pages 251-???) more clearly reflect local Chinuk Wawa influence. On page 93 Jacobs puts it this way: “Eyley Jr. is much given to modernisms even in the recital of tales and myths.”

Some of Sam Jr.’s words, even if they’re already known to us in the Jargon, aren’t found in readily available Sahaptin reference sources like Beavert & Hargus’s 2009 Ichishkiin Sinwit dictionary.

Just as I strongly suggested with the Kalapuyan texts, I’m thinking that the outright loanwords, as well as the occasional Sahaptin compound, testify to the Jargon’s influence.

It probably tends to support this that Jacobs, and fellow Boas trainee Thelma Adamson, who worked with Mrs. (Mary) Eyley, comment on the strong Lower Cowlitz Salish cultural influence on this family. Her heritage included Lower Cowlitz people, and there are certainly a couple of loans from that language in these texts.

There’s a lot of significance in any Lower Cowlitz connection, because that ethnic group inhabited a region around Fort Vancouver that was closely connected with the frontier fur trade and with early creolized Chinook Jargon.

Lower Cowlitz Salish, for sure, was greatly influenced by the Jargon. It looks like the Sahaptin of a certain generation also was.

A third man, a Klickitat called Joe Hunt, also told Jacobs some Sahaptin stories. (They’re in the first 100 or so pages of this publication.) His Sahaptin also contains a good number of borrowings, mostly from Chinuk Wawa. I don’t know what generation Mr. Hunt belonged to.

A woman, Mrs. Dan Secena, tells some Kittitas stories. I know little of her biography.

Let’s look at a list of the first probable Jargon loanwords to leap off the page at me (besides obvious ones already pointed out by Jacobs).

I’ve tried to put Jacobs’ phonetics into a Grand Ronde style of writing, hoping to make it easy to compare forms. I also try to separate out Sahaptin affixes by using dashes.

As always, I expect more loanwords to become apparent on further examination.

  • ‘stable’ k’usi-n-mí-pa anít-pa (literally ‘horse house’ as in Chinuk Wawa kʰíyutən-háws; Vol. 2, page 214)
  • < lions > ‘lion(s)’ (p. 225; uninflected even though it’s the object of a verb); laion is also known in Kamloops Chinuk Wawa
  • < tigers > ‘tiger(s)’ (p. 225; uninflected); taigir is also known in Kamloops Chinuk Wawa
  • waw-qilúx̣-ma-ma-n ‘geese’ (p. 229; this is the Yakama word for ‘swan’ and resembles Chinuk Wawa qʰíluk ‘swan’, said to be from Chinookan) (contrast p. 69, from a different speaker, k’lak’lá-ma ‘(native?) geese’, which strongly resembles Chinuk Wawa kə́ləkələ ‘bird’, also said to be from Chinookan)
  • i-kúk-iya ‘he cooked’ (p. 225; Jacobs says this is from English! it’s Chinuk Wawa)
  • lakamín ‘stew’ (p. 225; this Chinuk Wawa word is the object of the verb ‘cook’, but interestingly it seems not to have the Accusative case -n on it)
  • likúk-nan ‘rooster’ (p. 229; CW)
  • tala ‘money’ (uninflected; p. 223; CW)
  • nəwítk’a ‘indeed’ (p. 224 and frequent throughout the texts; CW, said to be Chinookan; interestingly there are similar words in Quinault Salish)
  • píshpish-nan cat (p. 229; CW)
  • < block > (of wood; uninflected; p. 230; I expect this was used in local CW)
  • ləklásh ‘barn’ (p. 231, correctly identified by Jacobs as Chinook Jargon)
  • < maul > (noun, p. 231; again likely used in local CW)
  • < dance > (in various noun inflections, p. 232; CW)
  • < lamp > (inflected; p. 233; a word known in Kamloops CW for example)
  • ləpwá-n ‘peas’ (p. 233; CW)
  • ləklí ‘key’ (p. 227; CW)
  • < pockets > (uninflected; p. 227; known in Kamloops CW)
  • For a potential hint at Indigenous people’s pidginlike English and/or CW, note the invariable final /s/ (perhaps ~ /z/) in this string of singular and plural words that Jacobs presents as English: < deuce > [sic], < queens >[sic], < jacks > [sic], < ace > [sic] (p. 233)
  • < tacks-ma > ‘tacks’ (p. 233; likely local CW)
  • sták ‘stacks’ (of wheat; uninflected; p. 220; known in Kamloops CW)
  • lúp-ki ‘with a rope’ (said by Jacobs to be English; p. 35; CW)
  • shúp ‘soap’ (uninflected; said by Jacobs to be English, p. 35; CW)
  • a-wachi-ta ‘you will watch’ (Jacobs says the root is English, p. 30; the verb recurs in other texts; an often overlooked but well-documented CW word)
  • sámn-in ‘salmon’ (p. 121; Jacobs calls it English; CW)
  • músmusts-nan ‘a buffalo’ (p. 115; CW for this locally extinct species)
  • káptən ‘captain’ (i.e. a true, effective leader; p. 140; CW)
  • malyí-ta ‘(let us) marry’ (Jacobs says it’s either English or French; p. 221; CW); also á-mani-ya ‘(they got) married’ (p. 235; Jacobs says this root is from English ‘marry’ but it’s just a fairly predictable variant pronunciation)
  • i-mənúr-ita ‘to manure’ the ground (p. 230; perhaps local CW?)
  • antwán ‘Antoine (?)’ (said to be a woman’s name; p. 235)
  • apamwe-sitkum-san-ita! ‘have mid-day meal with me!’ (p. 218; sitkum-san is definitely CW for ‘mid-day’, and ‘mid-day meal’ is a CW-ism)

Thanks for indulging this data dump 🙂

Speaking in linguistic archaeology terms: There’s probably something interesting to be discovered by checking which loan words get integrated into Sahaptin’s much-affixing grammar patterns & which do not. I’d imagine newer loans will turn out to have less of those “inflections”.

Just briefly repeating my main points for today, the French-Canadian-Métis influence on lower Columbia-area culture is quite significant, and it’s typically accompanied by many, many traces of Chinuk Wawa.

What have you learned?