Circa 1850: One clŭtchman good! Want two clŭtchman!

my adv illo

page 32 of chapter II

Chinuk Wawa was indeed current in southwest Oregon and northwest California in early frontier times; here’s more evidence.

My Adventures in the Far West” appeared serially in “The Leisure Hour: An Illustrated Magazine for Home Reading” in 1862.

That magazine is an interesting story in itself, being a byproduct of post-Industrial Revolution campaigns to stop working laborers to death, instead leaving them some free time to educate themselves.

Anyway, this article was written by an anonymous author who seems to have been:

  • a highly educated person (he drops Latin and French phrases freely),
  • a native of Britain,
  • and like plenty of other folks, came to gold-rush California around 1849 by way of Sydney, Australia.

The writer appears to be narrating factual events, with an eye for details that would be nearly impossible to fake. The fact that he published this article in “The Leisure Hour” suggests he was charitably inclined and wouldn’t have wanted to mislead his readers.

He appears to have been in northern California and southern Oregon circa 1849-1851, at which point he returned to Britain.

We find a few breadcrumbs in his narrative that show he was exposed to Chinook Jargon a number of times while in that region.

One clue is that he knows an Umpqua River, Oregon, Indian chief as a < tyhē >, that is táyí:

my adv 1

page 77 of chapter V

In the moments leading to the capture of “Chinook” (a man said to be a Pawnee (central Great Plains!) former slave of the Columbia River Chinookans), who is sought for having murdered the brothers of the writer’s companion Zeph, the latter is able to speak with a group of Indigenous leaders, in “the Indian tongue” which pretty clearly means Chinuk Wawa:

my adv 2

page 221 of chapter XIV

…Zeph…found — for by this time he had acquired a good deal of the Indian tongue — that the council had met to consider the expediency of combining together in an aggressive war on some of the more southern Californian tribes. After joining in the council, Zeph managed to interest Chinook in a certain project…

All of this occurred on the Shasta Plains of far northern California, by the way; the captured “Chinook” communicates his wishes to see his two wives, again obviously involving the Jargon as presented here — maybe to help readers comprehend him — mixed with pidgin English:

my adv 3

page 236 of chapter XV

“Ugh!” said her lord — never once deigning to bestow a glance upon her, “one clŭtchman, (wife), good! want two clŭtchman“…

Add today’s find to the consistent historical data on the very fast expansion of early-creolized Columbia River Chinuk Wawa southward and westward.

Initially, that occurred due to fur-trade brigades from the Columbia operating in that direction, as far south as the Sacramento, California, area.

The pidgin’s presence there was fortuitous for the goldseeking Whites who showed up en masse starting in the later 1840s. It proved to be a useful survival tool for them, at least until they had greatly outnumbered the Indigenous population and forcefully asserted their control over all aspects of life, including linguistic ones.

What do you think?