1870: Sluiskin on the mountain

sluiskin portrait

Sluiskin (image credit:VisitRainier.com)

A frontier-era expedition to the top of Mount Rainier with an Indigenous  guide had to use Chinuk Wawa as its working language.

Sluiskin was his name, and he guided General Hazard Stevens (how would you like to be called General Hazard?), Philemon B. Van Trump, and Edward Coleman.

The first installment of news on their ascent was published in the September 3, 1870 edition of the newspaper quoted below, but colorful details waited for two weeks later, and they’re what I’m going to show you.

sluiskin 1a

sluiskin 1b

Sluiskin, though he hunted faithfully for deer and the mountain goat, failed to kill anything larger than badgers or marmots. He was out hunting when the mountaineers arrived in camp, and did not “put in an appearance,” without a “mowitch” [deer] as usual, till evening, As he stalked slowly into camp and silently took a position by the fire, gazing long and fixedly at the returned “Boston men,” [white/American men] he might have afforded a good subject for the pencil of an artist wishing to sketch a type of the red men as they may have appeared (in apparel, at least,) before the “Boston[white/American] and “King George” men [British men] invaded the land.

sluiskin 2

Sluiskin exhibited a degree of intelligence that not a little surprised his “pale face” compagnons du voyage, and was possessed of a vein of humor and satire, which he indulged at the expense of the Boston men” whenever occasion offered.

sluiskin 3

Finally, when he found that all his arguments were fruitless in persuading them from carrying out their rash determination, he said he would keep camp two days and nights after they were gone, and if they were not back on the third morning, he would go siyah [far/away] to “Olimpee” [Olympia] and tell their friends or tillicums that they had been lost on the mountain— copa la tete mountain. [on the head mountain (sic); not grammatical Chinuk Wawa, and perhaps a misremembering of kʰapa lamutáy latét ‘on the mountain-top’]

sluiskin 5

On the 22d Sluiskin, having first been paid for his services and presented with a number of “icters,” [valuables, possessions] took his departure for the Cowlitz.

— from “Ascent of Mount Rainier” in the Olympia (WA) Washington Standard of September 17, 1870, page 1, columns 2-4

By the way, that place name “Lackamas” is Chinuk Wawa for ‘camas’, and that particular spelling of it is suggestive of the known variability of stress placement in it: lákamás.

What do you think?