1882: New Year, new church (Myron Eells speaks, Part 1 of 3)

american missionary

< Tlus Chi Kol 2020 >, Happy New Year 2020!Let’s start a new mini-series, featuring progress reports from Washington Territory missionary and Jargon promoter, Myron Eells.

Eells (1843-1907), himself the son of missionaries to the Spokanes, was often identified as one of the first non-Native kids born in the Pacific Northwest.

That tells you a lot about the Settler culture’s habit of defining itself as White; no one of multi-cultural ancestry, let alone Indians, got seen as “American”, or “pioneer”, or part of history.

Which is odd because PNW society in what we can call the Chinook Jargon Era was, by definition, mixed. That was a fact of daily life.

Otherwise there’d be no CJ, which is a language Myron Eells grew up speaking, and putting to the uses of the dominant culture, which professed a desire to either turn the Indigenous people into White Christians, or else exterminate them.

Such are the ironies that we in the modern PNW trace our roots to.

In today’s article, take a look at how crucial Chinuk Wawa was for Reverend Eells’ efforts to make Native folks understand Christianity…

new year eells.PNG

…a truly Happy New Year!




Our little church at S’kokomish has swarmed, granting letters to seven of its members who live at Jamestown, Dunginess, most of whom were Clallam Indians. Four others united with them on profession of faith, and the Congregational Church of Jamestown was organized by your missionary April 30. One infant baptism took place at the same time. A number of their white neighbors gathered in to the encouragement of the Indians, six of them communing with us. The services were held in Chinook, Clallam, English, Chinook translated into Clallam, and English translated into Clallam.

At the same time we made a few hymns in the native Clallam language — the first ever made in the language. A good share of the Indians understand English and sing some in it. All but a few of the very oldest understand the Chinook jargon, which I talk and in which we have a number of hymns. But they were anxious to have something in their own language and were much pleased with them. They consist mainly of the same sentiment as is contained in our songs of “Come to Jesus,” “Where are the Hebrew Children?” “I’m Going Home,” though a few are entirely different in meaning from any of our English songs.

The work here at S’kokomish has been more encouraging than last year. Five have united with us this year on profession of faith. The older Indians are taking more interest than heretofore, asking for extra meetings, and some of the younger ones who have been in school are helping very greatly in them, and in my absence taking charge of some of the meetings with entire acceptance to their older friends.

— from The American Missionary XXXVI:7 (July 1882), page 215

What do you think?