1892: Chinook Whist

chinook playing cards

Chinook playing cards (image credit: Zazzle.com)

Evidently not an April Fools joke!

I’ve played cribbage in Chinuk Wawa, but Chinook Whist is new to me.

Whist looks to have been “the” fashionable card game for respectable folks to play in mixed company in 1892, judging by the way it dominates the social columns of the time.

Here you can read the invitation in Chinook Jargon that was sent out. (Click that link to see more in that genre.)

chinook whist


Enjoyable Gatherings in Various Portions of the City.

Last evening was a gala night for the society people of Olympia, as was evidenced by the number of delightful parties given, in various portions of the city. Notwithstanding the inclement weather, pleasant people gathered to indulge in progressive whist and other festivities, and to enjoy the hospitality of their entertainers. Of these various gatherings none were more enjoyable than the Chinook Whist party given by Mr. and Mrs. Chilberg, at their home on Fourth street. The invitations were uniquely gotten up and were written in Chinook, and read as follows:

Nanitsh chahko kopa nika house tomolla, Thursday, 31st inst., 
nánich(,) cháku kʰupa nayka háws tumála, Thursday, 31st inst[ante mense],
look, come to my house tomorrow, Thursday, 31st inst.,
‘Look, come to my house tomorrow, Thursday the 31st of this month,’ 

polakie[sic] 8 o’clock ikt. Boston-man, Mr. —-——— chaka iskum mika,
púlakʰli stúxtkin oklak*(,) íxt bástən-mán, Mr. —-——— cháku ískam mayka,
evening eight o’clock one American man, Mr. ____ come get you,
‘in the evening at 8 o’clock, a certain White man, Mr. ____ will fetch you,’ 

Chinook whist. Hiyu waw-waw, hiyu hee-hee.
chinúk whist(,) háyú wáwa, háyú híhi.
Chinook whist, much talk, much fun.
‘There’ll be Chinook whist, lots of conversation, (and) lots of fun.’

Whist was played according to Siwash [‘Indian’] rules and afforded no end of amusement to the participators. Miss Nellie Frost and W. J. Foster received the hyas [‘big’] prizes, the former receiving a photograph rack and the latter a cigar case, while the tenas [‘little’] prizes were awarded to Mrs. C. D. Garfield, who received a harmonica and G. H. Funk who was given a toy papoose [‘baby’, i.e. a doll]. Those who participated in this whist potlach [‘giveaway; celebration’] were: Mr. and Mrs. C. D. Garfield, Mr. and Mrs. Alva Meyers, Miss Nellie Frost, Miss Carrie Frost, Miss Addie Dobbings, Miss Phoebe Owens, Miss Stella L Fitch, Miss H. Villa Card, Miss Dora Sternberg, G. H. Funk, J. H. Norris, A. L. Campbell, B. L Hill, W. J. Foster and and [sic] L. Grant Talcott.

— from the Olympia (WA) Tribune of April 1, 1892, page 1, column 5

The Chinook Jargon of the invitation is grammatical and fluent. “O’clock” may be a word that was used in local CJ; I’ve definitely found it in British Columbia.

One good reason for believing the above is a true story is that it was picked up as a “special” from an Olympia correspondent to a Seattle newspaper, telling additional details of this unique evening, such as its menu having been written in Chinuk Wawa (and click that link to see more in that genre) :

society at olympia


Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Chilberg Give a Fine Chinook Whist Party.

OLYMPIA, April 2.— [Special.] — A “Chinook” whist party was given on Thursday evening by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Chilberg, invitations to which were written in the Chinook tongue. Progressive whist, played according to siwash rules, was the leading feature of the happy occasion’s amusement. Refreshments served from a menu written in Chinook tasted just as sweet as by their English names. The hyas prizes were won by Miss Nellie Frost and Mr. W. J. Foster, and the tenas prizes were awarded to Mrs. C. D. Garfield and Mr. G. H. Funk. The Klootchmen [‘women’] and Boston men [‘American/White men’] present at this whist potlatch were: Mr. and Mrs. C. D. Garfield, Mr. and Mrs. Alva Meyers, Miss Nellie Frost, Miss Carrie Frost, Miss Addie Dobblngs, Miss Phoebe Owens, Miss Stella L Fitch, Miss H. Villa Card, Miss Dora Sternberg, Mr. G. H. Funk, Mr. J. H. Norrls, Mr. A. L. Campbell, Mr. B. L. Hill, Mr. W. J. Foster and Mr. L. Grant Talcott.

— from the Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer of April 3, 1892, page 12, column 5

A parting note — people definitely have played cards while talking Jargon.

Likart is the noun from Canadian/Métis French, and it shows up in other Indigenous languages from Oregon to northern BC. (In some cases it came via Jargon, in others — especially up north — directly from fur-trade French.)

Təmtəm is the word for the suit of ‘hearts’. We don’t know the Jargon words for ‘spades’, ‘diamonds’, ‘clubs’, or for ‘kings’, ‘queens’, ‘jacks’ — but Native terms for these can be found in a some existing dictionaries of tribal languages. Those might inspire some fun translations into Chinuk Wawa!

What do you think?