1914: “Chinook-English Songs” (review)


Laura Belle Downey-Bartlett (image source: Steilacoom Historical Photos)


The hometown newspaper gave a thumbs-up to Laura Belle Downey-Bartlett‘s collection of popular American songs translated into Chinuk Wawa.

There really aren’t any critical remarks to be found in this book review. Instead, there’s the customary adulation of the post-frontier era for all things Pioneer.

To read the book “Chinook-English Songs”, follow this link. At some point, I’m willing to write up an evaluation of it for my readers. It’ll be far more critical than what you’re about to read ūüôā

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chinook-English Songs, translated and arranged by Laura B. Downey-Bartlett. 50 cents. The J. K. Gill Co.. Portland. Or.

Pioneers of Oregon (and may their¬†shadows never grow less) do not require to be told the meaning of the¬†“Chinook” language. But young folks¬†coming from other and more Eastern¬†states into this region may be pardoned from asking the question. Here¬†is what Webster’s dictionary says about¬†the word “Chinook:”

“A Jargon of words from various languages (the largest proportion of which¬†is from that of the Chinooks) generally¬†understood by all the Indian tribes of¬†the northwestern territories of the¬†United States.”

Mrs. Laura B. Downey-Bartlett has¬†done a public service of value in writing this little book of 40 pages, telling¬†in English and Chinook the words of¬†38 familiar songs and hymns, all loved¬†by our Oregon pioneers, spoken in¬†early Oregon days, and sung at reunions of these pioneers. English appears on one page and its equivalent in¬†Chinook on the other. For instance¬†take the song “America,” beginning¬†“My country ’tis of thee.” The first¬†verse in Chinook is given thus:¬†

“Nika illahee, kah-kwa mika,
T’see illahee, wake e-li-te,
Kah-kwa mika, nika shunta.
Illahee, kah nika papa mamsloos [SIC],
Illahee, klosh tellicum chaco;
Kee-kwilla konaway lemoti
Mamook wake e-li-te tin-tin.”

Among the Chinook-English songs¬†thus treated are: “Old Kentucky Home,”¬†“The Last Rose of Summer, “Ben Bolt,”¬†“Lilly Dale,” “Good Night, Ladies,”¬†“Comin’ Thro’ the Rye,” “Nearer, My¬†God, to Thee,” “On Jordan’s Stormy¬†Banks I Stand,” etc.

“The object in presenting to the public this little book of Chinook translations of folk-lore songs,” writes Mrs.¬†Bartlett, “is with the hope that it will¬†interest the rising generation and¬†thereby assist in perpetuating the life¬†of the Chinook Jargon, which has filled¬†such an important part in the early life¬†of the pioneers of this great Northwest.¬†How much of a success would it be, if¬†many of us learned enough Chinook to¬†attend the next pioneers’ reunion and¬†join in the chorus singing!”¬†

Mrs. Bartlett, who can be found at¬†350¬Ĺ Morrison street, is so much of a¬†Chinook enthusiast that she says she¬†is willing to give, free of charge, instruction in Chinook to all who are¬†willing to learn. She undertakes a big¬†contract.

— from the Portland (OR)¬†Sunday Oregonian¬†of June 28, 1914, page 11, column 2

What do you think?