Siletz church, 1915: English in the AM, creolized Chinook in the PM

rhys gwynn

Rev. Rhys Gwynn, fighting pastor (image credit: Findagrave)

Today: a short news paragraph leads us to some deep Jargon connections…

sophie gwynn

Sophie Gwynn (image credit: Findagrave)

…And, as is so common in Chinook Jargon research, the unspoken role of the wife is as important as the husband in the spotlight.

english in the am

Rev. Dr. [Rhys R.] Gwynn [1834-1917] will hold services at Siletz Sunday in the absence of Rev. [W.T.] Pearce. In the morning he will preach in English and in the evening in Chinook.

— from the Toledo (OR) Lincoln County Leader of May 14, 1915, page 1, column 6

Presbyterian preacher Rhys Gwynn, a diminutive but pugnacious native of Wales, was said to be an Oregon pioneer of 1852 (and/or Hudsons Bay Co. sailor in the mid-1850s), a date range that by itself would virtually guarantee that he’d speak excellent Chinuk Wawa.

Better yet, his wife Sophie (née Sophia Dubreuil Palaquin, 1837-1912) was the Oregon City-born child of a “Yougleta” (Kwakwaka’wakw) Native mother from BC and a French-Canadian fur trader father, in a generation when that normally meant you grew up speaking early-creolized CW.

So Mr. Gwynn was probably an excellent, and willing, choice to send to the Siletz Reservation to preach.

The fact that his Jargon was almost certainly the creole variety is an indicator that folks at Siletz understood that style, which is associated most famously with Grand Ronde.

In Melville Jacobs’s 1930’s collection of “Chinook Jargon Texts”, there’s one story I recall as being told by a Siletz speaker. It has possible traits of creolized CW that I’ve discussed with colleagues over the years. At this point I think we can safely take the presence of creolized CW there as a given.

qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm?
What do you think?