1907: A (mis-)remembered central Washington “Lord’s Prayer”?


A vintage political cartoon by Dr. Seuss, from the eve of US involvement in WW2, taking aim at United Mine Workers of America union leader John L. Lewis (image credit: UC San Diego Digital Collections)

A Lord’s Prayer that giveth, and taketh away!

A secondhand version of Portland, Oregon, publisher J.K. Gill’s “Lord’s Prayer” translation seems to be an example of Chinook Jargon oral history!

This looks like the prayer as some central Washington late pioneer-era Settler learned it from Gill’s ultra-popular dictionary, perhaps as long as a quarter-century earlier — because it’s got some really weird additions.

Have a look.

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Words Used by Indians When Quoting the Lord’s Prayer.

The Chinook jargon is the universal language of the Northwest Indian. It is a mixture of various dialects and the Boston man, or American, as the natives designated the whites a few years ago. At the time of the first compilation there were about six hundred words in the Chinook jargon. Many have become obsolete, and at present probably two hundred words would complete the dictionary. Much of the language is made up of signs and without them the words alone often express nothing. The jargon has been of great service to pioneers and missionaries who were compelled to travel among the various tribes in early days. Now the Indians talk as ordinary white men, and manage to make themselves understood to all, whether they know the jargon, or the words of foreign tongues. One of the interesting relics of the jargon is the Lord’s Prayer, as given and interpreted with each paragraph or part of a sentence: 

[text matches JK Gill’s, but with spelling differences & with dashes added between syllables:] Ne-si-ke Papa klax-to-mit-lite ko-pe sa-ha-li, dlosh ko-pa ne-si-ka tum-tum mi-ka-nem; Our Father who stayeth in the above, good in our hearts (be) thy name; klosh mi-ka ty-ee ko-pa kno-a-way til-li-cum; good thou chief among all people; klosh mi-ka tum-tum ko-pa il-la-he kan-kwa-ko-pa sa-ha-lie; pot-latch kon-a-way sun ne-si-ka muck-a-muck; good thy will on earth as in the above, give every day our food. 

[text omitted by the local informant: pee kopet-kumtuks konaway nesika mesache, kahkwa nesika mamook kopa klaska spose mamook mesahche kopa nesika; Gill’s translation of this: and remember not all our sins, as we do to them that do wrong to us;]

[text differing from JK Gill’s:* Nesi ke papa klax-ta mit-lite ko-pa ka hy-as sollux, pee spose klax-ta me-sa-chie ko-pa ne-si-ka sollux ko-pa klax-to: If we do ill (be) not thou very angry and if any one evel [sic] toward us, not we angry towards them;] [text again matches JK Gill’s:] mahsh si-ah ko-pa ne-si-ka kon-a-way me-sa-chie; send away fat [sic] from us all evil.

— from the Ellensburg (WA) Dawn of November 29, 1907, page 1, columns 2-3

* A more literal translation of the informant’s differing (and sacrilegious?) text: ‘Our father who is in where (there is) great anger, and if someone (is) evil to our evil to someone.’

I see quite a number of indications here that some respected local elder of the Settler community provided this unique remembered version of the prayer to the newspaper’s editor.

It  looks like a very interesting bit of local Chinuk Wawa culture.

What do you think?