1909: Quinault “Capoeman” & Chinook Jargon cops

As I work on a 1909 (and earlier) manuscript from a priest, I may be finding new news about the family name “Capoeman”.

Frame 52 of Rev. Paul Gard’s papers at Marquette University has this entry in a list of folks at Tulalip Reservation on Puget Sound, Washington:


Sheriff Joe – & Joe ( capoliceman.

I’ve preserved the odd punctuation and capitalization intact, but it looks clear to me that the last word is capoliceman.

That’s not a name or a word that I’m familiar with.

But it immediately reminded me of the present-day Quinault tribal surname Capoeman.

I’ve been told that that name is Chinuk Wawa: kapú+mán ‘coat man’. It was explained to me that this refers to the frontier-days custom of American officials giving Indigenous leaders a good suit coat to wear.

And there was a Joe Capoman, with a different spelling that was more common then, for example listed as an Indian Policeman at Puyallup Reservation. also on Puget Sound in Washington, in 1893. That’s likely the same guy as Sheriff Joe capoliceman. (A tragic side note: Joseph Capoman testified in 1913 that his 2-year-old child had been induced to sign away a land allotment to oil prospectors.)

But why capoliceman? Rev. Gard didn’t make many writing mistakes in his journal. He’s usually excellent at documenting what Native people were saying around him.

So I suspect that locally, Tulalip folks re-interpreted Joe’s existing name in light of his job, since plenty of people at the turn of the century and before were known by a ‘white man name’ involving either their profession or their place of origin. If so, it’s easy to believe that Joe really was called Joe capoliceman.

By the way, < polis man > is a word — and a person’s last name — known in BC Chinuk Wawa.

I will be searching for confirmation of the ideas above…

What do you think?