How many commandments is this, total? :) (10 Commandments, Part 3)

everette 10c comment

Take note!

Dr. Willis E. Everette, M.D.’s 1895 translation is the longest, quirkiest, and most full of s*** in this mini-series.

The reason his Jargon translation of the Ten Commandments is so verbose is less about a difference from Tlingit, which he didn’t speak, and more about his feeling comfy bloviating in Chinook 🙂

Right up front I want to tell you that Everette gives no sign of speaking Chinuk Wawa fluently.

I know little of Everette’s biography except that he was born in Brooklyn in 1855, prospected for minerals in the Alaska and Washington Territories, held patents, wrote for Scientific American. He couldn’t have grown up speaking CW (having come West around age 19), or learned it well from daily use (as I’ll show).

One scholarly linguist notes that Everette believed Chinook Jargon to be in decline, and if that’s what he thought, he’d have had little motivation to learn it properly.

His scientific-looking phonetics below, which were an intentional effort to get the Smithsonian Institution to take him seriously, are in fact inconsistent.

In many places they actually reveal that he was working from commercially published guidebooks to the Jargon — showing for example that he was mis-reading the pronunciations.

He supposedly collected some Chinuk Wawa data in the areas of Yakima Agency and/or Lake Chelan, Washington, which I would expect to surpass today’s in quality, but I haven’t yet seen it.

Everette’s entries in the Smithsonians’ 1893 “Bibliography of the Chinookan Languages” include one for this 10 Commandments manuscript, which makes the following insupportable claims:

pilling everette

…recorded “from personal knowledge of the language. Written at Pyramid Harbor, Alaska, in May, 1884, and corrected word by word by repeating to Chilcat, Sitka, and British Columbia Indians until they were thoroughly satisified with each word and its meaning, as well as a full understanding of each sentence.”

My issue isn’t with the claimed locale, timing, or participants. What’s problematic is W.E.E.’s assertion (and doth he protest too much?) that he knows plenty of Chinook, and that all the Indians say so. Consider for a moment: in the 1880s or 1890s, would any of those Native people see his claim in print, or be able to read it, or to write a clarification? Not likely. This guy banked heavily on the “street cred” he claimed to have built up by hanging out with virtually every tribe on the continent north of 40 degrees latitude. (See the above-linked bio.) It’s very suspicious to keep proclaiming “I’m probably the biggest genius”, without just showing your knowledge.

Had Everette been a good real speaker of the language, it would have shown through in this document. And that’s a shame, because among all the known Chinuk Wawa versions of the 10 Commandments, his is the only one that attempts a full translation of the famous text, Exodus 20:2-17. The other Jargon translators merely outline it; it’s only Everette who provides us with this scrap of actual Bible translation, although he does leave out some bits like “I…brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery”.

The Ten Commandments

20 And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

(Here I can remind my readers that, contrary to popular rumors, hardly any of the Bible was ever translated into Chinook Jargon. I’ve collected essentially all the close approximations and small fragments thereof, and I think it’d be an interesting project if the funding ever comes along. There would be quite an audience for a Chinook Bible, I think.)

There are too many shortcomings and unclear expressions in this document to list in a non-scholarly article, so believe it or not, I’ll try to limit my comments (shown after Everette’s writing)…

everette photo

“Indians come up to me and say, sir, you are a genius of the Chinook Jargon” is what I image Everette thinking in this photo (photo credit: Alaska’s Digital Archives)

(This leads to other questions. Where did he get his Tlingit version of the 10 C’s? And who he ever intended to preach to in his terrible Chinook? But those are tangents I’m not pursuing today.)

everette 10 c 01

Máikä wek kûʹmtûks 
mayka wík kə́mtəks
you.SINGULAR not know
‘You don’t know’

hûlóimä sáqäli táiʹyi pi 
x̣lúyma sáx̣ali-táyí pi
other above-chief and
‘other gods and’

náikä.     2. Máikä wek 
náyka [1].     2. mayka wík
me.     2. you not
‘me.     2. You don’t’

mäʹmûk síähost kăʹnäwe 
mámuk siyáxust [2] kʰánawi [3]
make face [sic] all
‘make all of’

yákä kópä pi ĕʹlähi kópä
yaka kʰupá(?) [4] pi ílihi kʰupa
him there(?) and place in

‘them(?) into masks(?) there(?) and places into(?)’  

sáqäli-táiyi-ĕʹlähi, pi kópä tcûk 

sáx̣ali-táyí-ílihi, pi kʰupa chə́qw
above-chief-place, and in water
‘heavens(?), and in water’

kíkwĭli ĕʹlähi; máikä wek 
kíkwəli-ílihi; mayka wík
below-place; you not

‘hell; you don’t’

mämûk tĭʹkiq yakä kánäwe 
mamuk-tíki [5] yaka kʰánawi
make-want him all
’cause(?) him to want all’ 

síähost, pi ĕʹlitai [6] yákä
siyáxust, pi iláyti [sic] yaka(.)
face, and slave him(?)(.)

‘the faces(?), and he’s a slave.’

everette 10 c 02

Náikä máikä sáqäli táiyi, náikä
náyka mayka sáx̣ali-táyí, nayka
I your above-chief, I
‘I’m your god, I’m’

sĭ’k tûmtûm sáqali táiyi pi
sík-tə́mtəm sáx̣ali-táyí pi
hurting-heart above-chief and
‘an upset god and’ 

máikä misátci pápä, máikä
mayka masáchi [7] pápá, mayka
your evil father, you
‘your evil father, you’

mísätci, náikä kau máikä
masáchi, nayka k’áw mayka
evil, I tie your
‘are evil, I tie up your’

tĕ’näs; aá, nawĭ’tkä, klon pi
tənás; áha, nawítka, (t)łún pi
child; yes, indeed, three and
‘children; yes, indeed,  three and’

läkĭt tcítc pi tûʹpso [sic] yákä tĕnäs
lákit chích pi tə́psu [sic] [8] yaka tənás
four grandmother and grass [sic!] his child
‘four grandmothers’s and grandfathers’s (?) children’s’

yákä pápä kläʹkstä misäʹtci –
yaka pápá łáksta masáchi-
his father anyone evil-
‘father who(?)’

tûʹmtûm máikäʹ, pi náikä
tə́mtəm mayka, pi nayka
heart you, and I
‘your are evil-hearted, and I’

pătlätc klós-tûmtûm kăʹnäwe
pá(t)łach (t)łús-tə́mtəm kʰánawi-
give good-heart all-
‘make happy every-‘

tĭläkûm kläʹkstä tĭqíq náikä
tílikam łáksta tíki(x̣) nayka
people anyone want me
‘one who want me’

pi ĭʹskûm náikä wăʹwä[.]
pi ískam nayka wáwa.
and take my word.

‘and pay heed to my words.’

3. Máikä wek yáiĕm wăʹwä
3. mayka wík yáʔim wáwa [9]
3. you not tell.story say 

‘3. You don’t tell stories saying’

sáqäli táiyi nĕʹm pĭʹlton pi misäʹtci[.]
sáx̣ali-táyí-ním píltən pi masáchi.
above-chief-name foolish and evil.
‘god(‘s) name is foolish and evil.’ 

kläʹkstä yáiĕm wăʹwä sáqäli táiyi
łáksta yáʔim wáwa sáx̣ali-táyí-
anyone tell.story say above-chief-
‘(If) someone tells stories saying god(‘s)’

nĕʹm misäʹtci, yákä máika tûʹmtûm
ním masáchi, yaka mayka tə́mtəm
name evil, he you(?) think(?)

‘name is evil, he you think’

everette 10 c 03

wek klós pi yákä wek skúkûm 
wík-(t)łush pi yaka wik skúkum
not-good and he not strong
‘is bad and he is a weak’

män:     5. Pĭʹtûk sĭʹnämăkst 
mán:     5. pítəq* [10] sínamakwst-
man:     5. think(?) seven-
‘man:     5. Think of the seventh’

sûn, pi wek mäʹmûk 
sán, pi wík mámuk(.)
day, and not work(.)
‘day, and don’t work(.)’

Táqûm Sûn mäʹmûk kăʹnäwe 
táx̣am-sán mámuk kʰánawi
six-day work all
‘On the sixth day do all’

máikä mämûʹk. Sĭʹnämăkst 
máyka mámuk. sínamakwst-
your work. seven-
‘of your work. On the seventh’

Sûn máikä wek mäʹmûk 
sán mayka wík mámuk
day you not work
‘day you don’t work’

pi máikä tĕnäs, pi kăʹnäwe 
pi mayka tənás, pi kʰánawi
and your child, and all
‘and your children, and all’

máikä tĭlĭkûm, pi kăʹnäwe 
mayka tílikam, pi kʰánawi
your people, and all
‘of your people, and all’

máika kiyúätän, kăʹnäwe 
mayka kʰíyutən, kʰánawi
your horse, all
‘of your horses, all’

wek mäʹmûk; táqûm sûn 
wík mámuk; táx̣am-sán
not work; six-day
‘don’t work; six days (?)’

máikä Sáqäli táiyi mamuk 
mayka sáx̣ali-táyí mámuk
your above-chief make
‘your god made’

kăʹnäwe ĕʹlähi pi mĭtʹlait 
kʰánawi ílihi pi míłayt
all land and sit
‘all the land and sat’

sĭʹnämăkst sûn pi yáiĕm 
sínamakwst-sán pi yáʔim
seven-day and tell.story
‘seven days (?) and told stories’

wăʹwä; yákä klóc sûn pi 
wáwa; yaka (t)łúsh sán pi
talk; he [sic] good day and
‘talking; he is a good day and’

kăʹnäwe tĭʹlĭkûm mĭʹtlait 
kʰánawi tílikam míłayt
all people sit
‘everyone sits’

pi wek mäʹmûk.
pi wík mámuk.
and not work.

‘and doesn’t work.’ 

everette 10 c 04

5. Kăʹnawe kloc maika
5. kʰánawi (t)łúsh mayka
5. all good your
‘5. All good is your’

tûʹmtûm máika pápä 
tə́mtəm mayka pápá
heart your father
‘heart (to?) your father’

pi mámä pi máikä 
pi mámá pi mayka
and mother and you
‘and mother and you’

mĭʹtlait yútlkût kópä 
míłayt yúłqat [11] kʰupa
exist long.material.object [sic] in
‘have(?) a long thing in’ 

ĕʹlähi okúk máikä 
ílihi úkuk [sic] mayka
place this your
‘a place this’

sáqäli taíyi păʹtlatc náikä 
sáx̣ali-táyí pá(t)łach nayka(.)
above-chief give you(.)
‘god of yours gave me.’

6. Máikä wek săʹleks mĕʹmälus 
6. mayka wík sáliks míməlus(.)
6. you not angry kill(.)
‘6. You don’t angrily kill.’

7. Máikä wek kăpswăʹlä aäʹlima [sic] [12] 
7. mayka wík kapshwála x̣lúyma
7. you not steal other
‘7. You don’t steal another’

män yäʹka klútcmän. 
mán yaka łúchmən.
man his woman.
‘man’s wife.’

8. Máikä wek kăpswăʹla kăʹnawe 
8. mayka wík kapshwála kʰánawi
8. you not steal all
‘8. You don’t steal all the’

ĭʹktäs.     9. Máikä wek yáiĕm 
íkta-s.     9. mayka wík yáʔim
thing-s.     9. you not tell.story
‘belongings [sic].     9. You don’t tell stories’

kĭʹmtä män, pi yaiem 
kimt’á mán, pi yáʔim
behind man, and tell.story
‘behind a person(‘s back?), and tell stories’

klimĭʹnähwĭt.     10. Máikä wek 
t’łəmínxwət.     10. mayka wík
tell.lies.     10. you not
‘that [sic] tell lies.     10. You don’t’

tĭʹki ĭʹktäs aäʹlima män wek yákä
tíki íkta-s x̣lúyma mán(,) wík yaka
want thing-s other man(,) not his

‘want belongings to [sic] another man(,) not his’

klútcmän pi kiyúätän.
łúchmən pi kʰíyutən.
woman and horse.
‘wife and horse.’


x̣lúyma sáx̣ali-táyí pi náyka [1]is obviously intended as ‘(no) other god than me’, if you know the English versions of the Bible that someone like Everette would’ve grown up with. It uses what we’re told by some old Jargon guidebooks is the comparative of adjectives. (Expressions like “bigger than a house”.) What’s odd-sounding when Everette uses it here is that ‘other’ isn’t exactly a regular adjective in human languages, it’s a “quantifier” instead, and you don’t normally speak of one thing as being ‘more other than’ another. English is actually fairly unusual in allowing the wording ‘other than’, at least in some dialects. Fluent Chinuk Wawa doesn’t allow that, in any of the data I’ve seen.

mámuk siyáxust [2] is another expression that’s easiest to figure out if you already know the Bible in English. Everette is trying to express ‘make an idol’ here, ‘make an image’ of some other god. ‘Idol’ is a foreign idea to the Indigenous cultures, so Jargon translators have had difficulty settling on a way to try saying it; JK Gill had < stick pe stone sahale tyee > (lit. ‘wooden and stone god’); George Gibbs had < tamahnous > (lit. ‘spirit power’). Everette’s inspiration was that idols are images, as portraits are, so he uses the word for ‘face’ here. 

kʰánawi [3] yákä — Everette seems to intend ‘(not) any of them’ here, where he uses the words for ‘all of him’. 

kʰupá(?) [4]  — I’m guessing Everette was working from a dictionary such as George Gibbs’, one that tells you < kopa > is sometimes not just a preposition but the word for ‘there’. The same expression is used in modern Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa, where kʰapá has replaced the earlier yawá.

mamuk-tíki [5]  — This is a unique expression, not really known to us from the old classic guides. Everette seems to intend it as ‘worship’, but it just sounds like a weird ‘make want / cause to want’ to Jargon ears.

ĕʹlitai [6] Here’s simple proof that Everette was trying to write out phonetically words that he’d not heard said aloud. The word for ‘slave’ is iláyti to rhyme approximately with “delight me”; he thinks it rhymes with “belly-tie”. 

masáchi [7] pápá — This is a strange expression, ‘evil father’, that Everette appears to be reaching for some way to express the Bible’s “punishing the children” language. 

chích pi tə́psu [sic] [8]  — More proof that Everette had a published Chinook Jargon dictionary open as he concocted this translation. The simplest explanation for his mistakenly writing the word for ‘grass’ instead of the one for ‘grandfather’ is that those words are close to each other in an English-to-Jargon vocabulary! In Gibbs 1863, for instance, they’re separated by just 3 entries. 

yáʔim wáwa [9] — This seems to be another of Everette’s inventions. Therefore your average Jargon speaker wouldn’t necessarily have understood it. If anything this phrase (lit. ‘tell stories saying’) has a distinctly American English ring to it. Everette likes it, and keeps using it through the rest of his 10 Commandments.

pítəq* [10] — I’ve written about this word on my site before. It’s a bookish word, one that went out of use decades before Everette bought whatever Chinook dictionary brought it to his attention. 

yúłqat [11] The choice of this word for adverbial ‘(a) long (time)’ is a howling mistake. The extremely frequent Jargon word líli, often spelled < laly > in olden times, is always the right way to say ‘long time’. Yúłqat only ever means ‘long’ in reference to physical dimension of a material object!

aäʹlima [sic] [12] — Last but not least is this further trace of reliance on books. There’s an unusual spelling of the word for ‘other; strange’ in certain published CJ dictionaries such as Hibben & Carswell’s out of Victoria, BC: < alloyma >. And that’s 99% guaranteed to explain Everette’s fake-accurate phonetics, aäʹlima. For a more reliable pronunciation, try Grand Ronde’s x̣lúyma.

Note: plenty other words in Everette’s manuscript are transparently Hibben & Carswell’s, e.g. in his vocabulary section after the 10 Commandments, ‘ants’ is < kuk-walla >, cf. H&C’s unique < kuckwalla >. Unique because H&C’s entry is a mistprint for ‘nuts’ (i.e. < tuckwalla >)! This amounts to esquivalience on Everette’s part 🙂

Summary of the above:

Everette’s Ten Commandments translation is probably his own clumsy attempt. I don’t believe he could’ve gotten it from any actual missionary in Alaska; those folks would have (A) checked whether Indians were understanding their Jargon words, (B) relied on an Indian interpreter to provide them a solid translation into Jargon, (C) hated the Jargon and found a way to communicate via the local tribal languages, or (D) some mix of the preceding. Even less likely is the notion of Everette’s having somehow obtained this translation from a local Tlingit; his lengthy Jargon-Tlingit vocabulary in the same manuscript is riddled with the same holes pointed out above.

The above text carries abundant signs of having been slapped together by an overconfident and ignorant cheechako.

Kata maika tumtum?
What do you think?