1901: Martha Douglas Harris’s “Chee-chee-ka” (Part 2)

salmon weir at quamichan

Salmon weir at Quamichan village on the Cowichan River, Vancouver Island (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Now we get into the guts of it…

I’m going to show MDH’s Chinuk Wawa — with its large amount of Vancouver Island Salish vocabulary*, which I’ll underline below — & its English translation, both as given by her in the book.

*(Presumably Hul’q’umin’um’, given the title of her book, but I’ll also try to compare with SENCOTEN etc.)

Added to those, I’ll do my customary analysis, giving word-by-word “glosses” (an exact translation) and my understanding of how to translate the whole story.

Of course, I’ll throw in a lot of footnotes, because there are many many interesting things going on in this story.

A couple of clues to the reader, in advance:

  • The typical problem with older published Jargon holds here. There are plenty of errors of spelling and punctuation that look to have been caused by the English-but-not-Jargon-speaking typesetters, who would’ve been reading from Mrs. Harris’ handwritten draft text. However, I believe Mrs. H. is using commas in a carefully considered way…
  • And Mrs. Harris’ English translation is very free, so at a lot of points it diverges widely from what her Jargon/Hul’q’umin’um’ text is actually saying.
  • Usual Chinuk Wawa equivalents, when known, for the Vancouver Island Salish words used below:
    • < chee-chee-ka > ‘mink’ : mínk
    • < soyka > ‘man’ : mán 
    • < schilt > ‘weir, fishtrap’ : no known word
    • < atshim > ‘facing it’ (?) : no known word
    • < klisumtum > ‘cutter, knife’ (?) :  úptsax̣
    • < stikya > ‘wolf’ : lílu
    • < quitsi > ‘trout’ : t’sə́m-sámən (‘spotted-salmon’)
    • < stehue > ‘?’ : 
    • < qualo > ‘take’ : ískam, or ‘pelt, skin’ (?) : skín
    • < squani > ‘head’ : latét
    • < kalu > ‘beaver’ (?) : ína (‘beaver’)
    • < quinass > ‘whale’ : kʰ(w)ánis
    • < klextimist > ‘?’ : ?

The following is plenty dense!

Those who stick around & read everything below will learn a lot.

DDR: ‘Mink,’
MDH: ‘Chee-che-ka […]’

Hyas ankutte, icht soyka, yaka mamook icht schilt, kopa klip chuck;
hayas-ánqati, íxt swúy’qe’, yáka/yaka [1] mámuk íxt shx̣ét’l, kʰupa t’łə́p/t’łúp [2] chə́qw;
very-long.ago, a.certain man(,) he build a.certain weir, in deep water;
DDR: ‘long ago, was a man; he built a weir in the deep water;’
MDH: ‘[…] was once upon a time a man who could change himself into mink shape. One day he had set his trap in the river […]’

pe yaka mitlite atshim, yaka nanitch okook schilt.
pi yáka míłayt ?’ásum?, yáka nánich úkuk shx̣ét’l.
and he stay facing, he watch that weir.
DDR: ‘and he sat ?facing it?, he watched that weir.’
MDH: ‘[…] and was watching the stick that held the door open.’

Tenas lele, yaka nanitch atshim, icht-ickta klatawa kopa schilt; pe yaka hyas
tənəs-líli, yáka nánich ?‘ásum?, íxt íkta łátwa kʰupa shx̣ét’l; pi yáka hayas-
little-long.time, he look facing, a.certain thing go in weir; and he [sic] very-
DDR: ‘After a while, he was looking ?that way? (and) a thing went into the weir; and it was very’
MDH: ‘Presently the stick moved, and he […]’

kwutl, yaka schilt, pe yaka iskum yaka klisumtum, pe yaka nanitch icht
q’wétł, yaka shx̣ét’l, pi yáka ískam yaka ?lhic’-um-tun*?, pi yáka nánich íxt
tight, his weir, and he take his cutter, and he see a.certain
DDR: ‘snug [i.e. crammed full], his weir was, and he got his ?knife/cutter?, and he saw a certain’
MDH: ‘[…] let down the door and pulled up the trap. Instead of fish he caught a […]’

tenas stikya.
tənəs-/tənás* [3] stqé:ye’

DDR: ‘wolf cub.’
MDH: ‘[…] fine young wolf.’

Pe yaka wawau, “ichta mika mamook, kopa nika schilt?”
pi yáka wáwa, “íkta/íxta* [4] máyka mámuk, kʰupa nayka shx̣ét’l?”

and he say, “what you do, in my weir?”
DDR: ‘And he said, “What are you doing in my weir?” ‘
MDH: ‘ “Now, then, what are you doing in my trap?” ‘

Tenas stikya wawau, “Nika tikegh tlap quitsi.”
tənəs-/tənás* stqé:ye’ wáwa, “náyka tqíx̣/tíki(x̣) [5] k’wsíc/k’wsúc.”

little-wolf say, “I want trout.” {generic noun in Hul’q’umin’um’}
DDR: ‘The wolf cub answered, “I wanted some trout.” ‘
MDH: ‘ “Oh, I was looking for salmon trout. Please let me go.” ‘

“Mika kopet; mika mesahchie pos kapswalla nika quitsi.”
máyka kʰə́pít; máyka mas(h)áchi pus [6] kapshwála nayka k’wsíc/k’wsúc.

“you stop; you evil if steal my trout.”
DDR: ‘ “You stop that; you’re bad for stealing my trout.” ‘
MDH: ‘ “No, indeed; you have been stealing from me long enough, and now I will punish you.” ‘

Chee-Chee-Ka mamook iskum tenas stikyas kopa yaka stehue, yaka
chuchí’q’un’ mamuk-ískam [7] tənəs-/tənás* stqé:ye’-s [8] kʰupa yaka ?____?, yáka
mink make-get little-wolf-PL*/-3.POSV by their/its ?___?, he
DDR: ‘Mink ?gathered up? the wolf cub(s) by his/their ?___?, (and) he’
MDH: ‘So the poor wolf was […]’

mamook memaloost, pe qualo yaka squani, okook tenas.
mamuk-míməlust [Ø] [9], pi k’wuluw'(/kwunut) [10] yaka {sq’ʷáŋiʔ} [11], úkuk tənás. 

make-dead [it], and skin (noun)/take (verb) its head, that child.
DDR: ‘killed [it (sic)], and removed(?) the head of that child.’
MDH: ‘[…] killed, the fur and head taken off and stuffed. ‘

In-a ti, icht hyas stikya, wawau.
ínatay [12], íxt háyás(h) stqé:ye’. wáwa.

across [sic], a.certain big wolf talk.
DDR: ‘Across (the water), a certain big wolf, said:’
MDH: ‘By and bye [sic] the wolf’s father came down to the river and asked Chee-che-ka[…]’

“Kla-how ya! Halo mika nanitch nika tenas?”
“łax̣áwya! hílu máyka nánich nayka tənásʔ”

“hello! not you see my child?”
DDR: ‘ “Hello! Have you not seen my child?” ‘
MDH: ‘[…]if he had seen his son pass that way.’

Pe-Chee-Chee-Ka, wawau. “Halo nika nanitch kah yaka.[“]
pi chuchí’q’un’, wáwa. “hílu náyka nánich qʰá yáka [Ø] [13].”
and mink, talk. “not I see where he [be.located].”
DDR: ‘And Mink said, “I haven’t seen where he is.” ‘
MDH: ‘ “No, I have not,” answered Chee-che-ka, telling a lie.’

Pe okook stikya, wawau konoway yaka sikhs. Kalu, Chetwoots, mowitch,
pi úkuk stqé:ye’, wáwa kʰánawi yaka síks(,) ?squl’éw’?, chétxwut-s* [14], máwich,
and that wolf, talk all his friend(,) ?beaver?, black.bear-PL, deer,
DDR: ‘And that wolf asked all his friends, the ?beaver?, black bears, deer,’
MDH: ‘So the wolf asked all his friends, the bears, deer, […]’

pe swaawa, Quinass, pe klextimist konoway sikhs, pos ela han yaka — pe
pi swáwa*(,) qwunus, pi ?____? kʰánawi síks, pus iláhən* yáka — pi
and cougar, whale, and ?___?(,) all friend, in.order.to help him — and
DDR: ‘and the cougar, whale, and ?___?(,) all (his) friends, to help him — and’
MDH: ‘[…] sea lions, panthers — everyone he asked, and […]’

konoway kulakula.
kʰánawi kə́ləkələ.
all bird.
DDR: ‘all the birds.’
MDH: ‘[…] all the birds.’

Halo klaska [sic] cumtux kah okook tenas mitlite.
hílu-ɬáksta/hílu łáska [sic] [15] kə́mtəks qʰá úkuk tənás míɬayt.
none.of-they/who know where that child be.located
DDR: ‘None of them knew where that child was.’
MDH: ‘But no one knew where his son was.’


yáka/yaka [1] mámuk Here I’m spotlighting how we can’t quite tell if the < yaka > is meant as the start of a new full clause (‘…was a man; he built…’), or if it’s more like an equivalent of the English ‘who’ at the start of a relative clause (‘…was a man who built…’). 

t’łə́p/t’łúp [2] chə́qw — The word < klip > definitely means ‘deep’, but since both Chinuk Jargon and Hul’q’umin’um’ have the same word for that, it’s impossible for us to tell which language MDH had in mind here. 

tənəs-/tənás* [3] stqé:ye’In another detail that we can’t technically decide on, MDH here may have meant either tənəs-stqé:ye’ ‘young wolf; wolf cub’ or tənás* tqé:ye’ ‘small wolf’. Influenced by the context that’s given by later sentences, I’m going with ‘cub’ here. 

íkta/íxta* [4] MDH, like some other speakers in her time, has a tendency to pronounce the words for ‘one’ and ‘thing/what’ similarly to each other. íkta is the original, accurate way to say ‘what/thing’, while íxta is a change that makes it sound more like íxt ‘one’. (And lots of folks, especially those who didn’t speak Indigenous languages, pronounced ‘one’ as ikt.)

tqíx̣/tíki(x̣) [5] — MDH’s spelling < tikegh > might represent an older-fashioned, southern-dialect pronunciation like tqix̣ for ‘want’. There are additional features in her Jargon that also suggest she learned it from old-school Fort Vancouver (lower Columbia River) speakers. I’ll be pointing those out as we go along. 

pus [6] — For example, MDH’s use of this little word seemingly to mean ‘for’ (‘you’re bad for stealing…’) has overtones of southern-dialect pus. In the northern dialect(s), pus can hardly ever mean ‘for’, except in the sense of ‘for the purpose of’. 

mamuk-ískam [7] — I’ve recently discussed this expression on this blog, and I think more examples are forthcoming in some articles I’m working on. In good Chinuk Wawa, it means ‘accumulate, gather up’ (multiple objects). This observation leads to the next footnote.

stqé:ye’-s [8] — Here MDH seems to be adding an English-sourced noun plural suffix to a word for ‘wolf’. This strategy was not rare among Anglophones who spoke Chinook Jargon, and the preceding footnote shows us that a plural object is expected when you use the verb mamuk-ískam. The fun, i.e. confusing, element is that this is not a Jargon noun, and it’s pretty clear from the story that only one wolf cub is involved! See footnote 14 for another example. 

mamuk-míməlust [Ø] [9] — The use of the “null” third-person object [Ø] in grammatical Chinuk Wawa expresses an inanimate object ‘it’. (Null meaning nothing is pronounced; no word for ‘it’ is used in such cases.) Which is weird because a wolf cub is animate, right? Wait a second! The cub has just been killed, at this point in the narrative! I’ve seen this beautiful little point of Jargon grammar demonstrated in a Grand Ronde story, too, where a cat is referred to with animate-object yaka … until it’s killed, at which point it’s referred to with [Ø].

k’wuluw'(/kwunut) [10] — Confusion comes in here about which Hul’q’umin’um’ word MDH intended. k’wuluw’ means ‘a skin; pelt’, which is somewhat relevant to the scene. (So < qualo yaka squani > would work out to ‘the head of the pelt’; see next footnote.) But kwunut means ‘take it’ as in ‘grab it, catch it’, presumably intended by MDH as ‘take off; remove’, which would make a little more sense. (Making < qualo yaka squani > equivalent to ‘took its head (off)’.) I’d guess MDH could’ve been consulting a handwritten vocabulary of Hul’q’umin’um, and accidentally wrote the word for ‘head’ that was adjacent to the word for ‘take’ that she actually was looking for. 

{sq’ʷáŋiʔ} [11] — I was unable to find a Hul’q’umin’um word corresponding to this < squani > in the two dictionaries I used, but neighbouring SENĆOŦEN (Saanich) Salish of the Victoria, BC area has quite a close match meaning ‘head’. 

ínatay [12] — This word means ‘across; beyond’ in Chinuk Wawa. MDH uses it that way in her Jargon text, implying ‘across the water’. But somehow her English translation veers away from that, giving a misleading impression that ‘By and bye’ (i.e. ‘eventually; after a while’) is its meaning. 

qʰá yáka [Ø] [13] — Here is another of Chinuk Wawa’s quite frequent “null” words. In this case it’s a “be”-verb, with the sense unquestionably being ‘be located somewhere’. 

chétxwut-s* [14] — The presence of the English noun plural -s here strengthens our supposition that the one we thought we were seeing in footnote 8 is really there. 

hílu-ɬáksta / hílu łáska [sic] [15] — Once again we have some indeterminacy between two possible ways of reading a phrase. As is fairly common in northern-dialect Jargon, the words for ‘they’ and ‘who’ get somewhat intermingled and confused for each other. (There’s a good reason for that, believe it or not. The word for ‘they’ is, in actual spoken Jargon, pretty rare, especially in the north.) So here we can’t definitely judge whether MDH intended hílu łáska kə́mtəks ‘They didn’t know’ or hílu-ɬáksta kə́mtəks ‘Nobody knew’!

My evaluation of Martha Douglas Harris’s Jargon use so far is this: It’s truly fluent. Aside from her use of local Salish words, which I suspect is more for literary effect than a reflection of actual people’s usage — The only hiccups have been pretty much due to the fact that we’re reading, rather than hearing, her words. What a pleasure that would have been!

Stay tuned for the further installments in this mini-series…

What have you learned?

What questions do you have?