1870: “Bombardment of Wrangel”

bombardment illo

From the front cover; there are many additional excellent drawings in this report. Go read it!

A frontier-era report on a major episode in early US-Alaskan history shows that Chinuk Wawa was already present when the Russians left.This is a booklet titled “Bombardment of Wrangel, Alaska“, i.e. the Tlingit village of Ḵaachx̱aana.áakʼw (a.k.a. Old Wrangell) in southeast Alaska. (Don’t confuse this event with the Kake War.)

Its subtitle is “Report of the Secretary of War, Secretary of the Interior, and Letter to the President”, and it’s credited to Vincent Colyer, Secretary of the Board of Indian Commissioners; it was published in Washington, D.C. in 1870, with no publisher information explicitly given.

A few passages in this report (which pointedly lays blame for the bombardment on the US military) indicate that Jargon was current this far north by Christmas Day of 1869.

For one thing, a “W. Wall, interpreter at Wrangel” is mentioned (page 5), who was more likely a Chinook speaker than skilled in Tlingit, a notoriously difficult language for strangers.

Then there are the following observations by various witnesses:

bombardment klootchman

With Si-wau there were Esteen, his brother, Si-wau’s klootchman, (wife,) and old Klootchman, (woman,) who was sitting up, and perhaps a few others sleeping in different parts of the house.

— testimony of M.R. Loucks, page 6

bombardment soldier tyee

I told him that if he wished to say anything to the soldier Ty-ee [military leader], he could do so in the morning.

— Loucks, page 6

bombardment 1

After running up the Stikine, I then entered one of its tributaries, about one hun
dred and fifty miles up, called the Clear Water River. It was named by a party of
miners, from the fact of its water being much more clear than the Stikine. The Clear
Water runs southeast. It is a very rapid stream indeed, and in many places very shal
low. It can be navigated with difficulty about fifteen or twenty miles in canoes, where rapids occur so frequently that no one cares to risk life and property by braving them. Here the climate is very fine and healthy, inhabited by the “Stick” or Tree [‘Forest’] Indians. [The Dene peoples.] These Indians partake of the same descriptions and traits as those along the Stikine. We left our canoe moored in a small side stream in full view of a trail in constant use by this tribe, and during a week which I spent in traveling from there in every direction, not a single article was disturbed by them. I frequently met them, and would ask them in their own language (“Mika manick, mika canin?“) [mayka nánich nayka kəním?] “Did you see my canoe?” They would say (“Moitka“) [nawítka] “Yes;” and on returning I could see their trail pass it, but no indication of their approaching.

— testimony of Harry G. Williams, page 13

bombardment 2

To the west and south of Prince of Wales Island is an off-shoot of the Hydah or
Queen Charlotte Island Indians. They number some three hundred and are called
An-e-ga. [Elsewhere these people are attributed to “Chilkaht” Inlet, page 19, but by the description here they should be the “Kaigani” Haidas.] They, it may be said, are the only Indians from Behring Bay to Portland Inlet that speak a different language from the rest. They raise considerable quantities of potatoes, trap mink, bear, and beaver. They also go up the Naas River in March for the collection of the hoolicon [úłx̣ən] or candle-fish oil, which, when pressed, is as well flavored as leaf lard.

— testimony of Frank Mahony, page 20

What do you think?