Letters of Dr. John McLoughlin

There’s hardly any directly mentioned Chinook Jargon in HBC honcho John McLoughlin’s published correspondence, but that doesn’t mean we learn nothing about CJ from him.

For instance, for saddle blankets, McL mentions “appechemons” (p. 9), “apichimons” (p. 44), and “appichimons” (p. 127), which we know in Jargon as lápʰusmu.

On p. 59 he talks about “hiaquois”, which are the dentalium (tusk shell) “Indian money” we know as háykʰwa.

McLoughlin on p. 69 refers to “the little chief” of a certain place, which we’ve seen as tənəs-táyí for a subchief or a self-important person. The same page also has him using the phrase “pork eaters” for new recruits to the wilderness fur trade.

Another Chinuk Wawa term based on a Canadianism, appears in a couple of places: on p. 233 we see “one small cassette”, and on pp. 284-5 again “cassette”, corresponding to CW lakʰasét ‘box’.

Not a Jargon word but historically relevant, we find McLoughlin on p. 282 speaking of traveling off to the “Chilhilis” by way of the Cowlitz; on p. 287 it’s spelled the “Chi Ki liss”. This is the place name, Chehalis, which should refer to the Lower Chehalis adjacent to the Lower Chinookans.

So we learn from these letters something about expressions that were so common in the Pacific Northwest fur-trade environment that they were also used in English.

These observations come from “The Letters of John McLoughlin from Fort Vancouver to the Governor and Committee” (Toronto, ON: Champlain Society, 1941-1944).

What do you think?