1873: More about Yaquina Bay war rumors


Today we’re privileged to be told another version of a Chinuk Wawa conversation between an Oregon (or California) Coast Indian and a Settler woman. 

Version 1 (actually published 3 weeks later than today’s) is at this link.

There, I put forth the analysis that Mrs. Kistler’s testimony can be called into question, on the basis of its sometimes inaccurate rendition of Indigenous speaking style in Chinook Jargon.

That version, which appears to replace much of the English below with full (and, typical for the time, untranslated) Jargon sentences for veracity, fails to note that “California Jack” went on to publicly deny Mrs. Kistler’s quotation of him.

Which leaves us in the too-common unfortunate situation where mortally serious issues came down to a White woman’s word against that of a non-White man.

From that, and from contemporaneous news coverage, I inferred that we might be seeing here an energetic justification for a trumped-up racial conflict.

To see for yourself whether violence was brewing, google “Yaquina Indian war 1873” … this history website, for example, suggests otherwise. Here’s an image relating to the Yaquina Bay Oyster War of 1863-4, though, which did involve Native rights:

yaquina oyster war

(Image credit: Offbeat Oregon)

You can compare what’s said in that “first” version with the following, almost entirely translated, account of the verbal exchange.

Incidentally, today’s article goes on to besmirch fluent Chinuk Wawa speaker Gen. Joel Palmer, the Indian Agent at Siletz Reservation (which included Yaquina Bay), as unfairly favoring Indian interests over Whites’, as a way of undermining his claim that the region’s Native people are not in a state of unrest.


On Friday, the 10th inst[ant]., a Digger by the name of California Jack, who was chopping wood for Mr. Kistler, did not come to work until late in the day. When asked by Mrs. Kistler to explain the cause of his tardiness, he replied that he was “sick at his heart, as he bad spent the whole night in a talk with the ‘Siwashes’ [Indians] at Old Sambo’s camp.” Mrs. K. urged him to state what transpired, when he made the following disclosures: The Indians were mad, and would break into one house and steal ictas [possessions], and also kill one man. In answer to the question what man, he said he dare not tell, for, if he did so, the Indians would kill him. Finally, when asked if the man referred to was Sawtelle, he replied “Yes.” He further stated that a general outbreak would be made; the Indians would kill all the whites, and appropriate their property. He said he had refused to consent to this proposition, and asked if the whites would protect him. When examined before the committee of citizens, this Indian denied the whole statement he had made to Mrs. Kistler, as narrated above.

— from the Corvallis (OR) Benton Democrat of January 18, 1873, page 2, column 2

What do you think?
Kahta mika tumtum?