1896: Talking to Spokane Garry’s sister in Jargon

camas prairie montana

Camas Prairie, Montana (image credit: Youtube)

The hat tip for this rare find goes to Tina Wynecoop, without whose recent Facebook post I mightn’t have noticed it.

This is an article from the “Weekly Plainsman,” Plains, Montana, March 28, 1896 (Vol. 1 No. 21), transcribed by David J. McEldery from scanned microfilm at the Plains Public Library, 6 Oct 2010.

That newspaper, as well as the Missoulian referenced below, are absent from the databases that I usually look to in my research. 

The following account traffics in racially tinged tropes. Settlers who contributed anecdotes to newspapers seem to have felt duty-bound to their peers to tell of quizzing Indians about their age, if they couldn’t get a weather forecast out of them. It was routine to marvel that some elder or other was “100” years old or more. In reality, in 1896, to be a sister of Spokane Garry (circa 1811-1892), you needn’t have been more than 70 years old or so. 

On the other hand, some genuine good humour is displayed here, sometimes at the writer’s own expense. Unusually for his time, he claims to have been dirtier than the Native people he encounters. 

The identity of this sister is not made clear. One of Garry’s sister’s name is known, Quint-qua-a’pee; he had other siblings “whose names are not known“.

The writer’s claim of talking Chinuk Wawa with Garry’s sister may hold water. CW was known among Spokane tribal members more in frontier times than after, and this woman would’ve been old enough to have picked up the language before say 1855, at which date relations with Whites took a turn for the worse because of the below-mentioned Colonel Steptoe and colleagues. Take note, though: the “Jargon” was never as important a language in the Spokane area as it was in many other regions, so we have relatively little documentation of its use with these tribes. It’s even more noteworthy when we learn of Jargon being spoken anywhere in Montana, so today’s article is a valuable contribution on both counts.

Game Warden Booth’s Trip After Indians on Thompson River

The following letter is a description of Mr. Booth’s trip to Thompson River taken from the Missoulian:

Editor Missoulian: Having received an urgent request from citizens and farmers of Plains to attend to some Indians who were slaughtering deer on Thompson River in open defiance of the game law, I packed up my camping outfit and boarded No. 1 on the 17th inst.  [I.e. on the 17th of this month.] Arriving at Plains and seeing a number of Indians and half breeds, and fearing they would hear of the object of my visit and would send word to their friends on Thompson River, I got on board a wagon bound my way for twelve miles, and camped with Mr. Ottis Avery [a note in the article as I received it — “actual spelling was Otis -D.”], who, with Mr. Jim Hayes, accompanied me on my trip; better nor braver fellows in the face of overwhelming odds I have never seen or read of. We easily followed the trail made by the Indians going in and out, which on the whole was good over two feet of snow.

We met five Indians with several horses loaded with deer, hides, and dried meat. I arrested them, ten more coming up while we were feeding our horses, I also placed them under arrest. At this time also came a half breed from Camas Prairie, being as I feared — sent to warn them. Of our actions then and subsequently I shall give you later.

On the following day I followed them to Camas Prairie, and having so far accomplished my object, I took the trail to my old partner Ed Lemeraux’s [typo – should be Lameraux – D.] place on “Warm Springs,” [now called Hot Springs, MT – D.] distant some twelve miles and received a “Cead Mille Falte” [the latter is not French] [1]. He lives close to the springs where the Indians and others can bathe without heating rocks, I did not need a bath as I had one some six or seven months before, but in order to be in touch with the balance of the Indians I took one. The water has a temperature of 120 degrees and has wonderful curative properties. Ed has as fine a farm as lies “out doors.” He showed me rutabagas, cabbage and beets, weighing each 30 pounds. Carrots twenty-five inches long. He had last season an acre and a half planted to potatoes which yielded 400 sacks of a fine potatoes as I have ever seen. He cuts yearly two hundred tons of timothy and there are thousands of acres of as good land in sight from his door.

I rode through the dense forests of timber containing millions of logs to the claim, which must in the near future resound to the merry stroke of the woodsman’s ax. During the next day’s ride I visited an Indian’s house in one corner of which I saw a very old and feeble woman whose hair was nearly as white as the snow on her native mountains. I asked the Indian her age in the best Chinook[,] French, and Irish, of which I was master, and learned it to be an hundred years. She is sister to Spokane Garey [Garry] who led to war the confederate tribes of Kalispels, Coeur d’Alanes [Coeur d’Alenes], Colvilles, Nez perces, Palouses and Spokanes, Garey was in command of the above tribes when Colonel Setptoe [Steptoe; typo in paper] made such an ignominious retreat and which caused his subsequent disgrace.

Arriving in Plains on Saturday too late for train I put up at McGowan’s hotel. Too much cannot be said of the genial colonel’s attention to his guests, nor other splendid accommodations he has to offer to the hungry and weary traveler. The hotel is luxuriantly furnished throughout. The rooms are large and well ventilated. In the parlors are organs and pianos of the best make, added to which are cold and warm baths, the whole making an hotel for solid comfort second to none in the state. His fine store of stone and brick fill a long felt want in Plains. The colonel is looked upon next to our old friend Neptune Lynch, Sr., as being the father confessor, settling family difficulties that occasionally arise in the best regulated families as well as communities, and by his good common sense and level head saves his patrons many a dollar that would otherwise go into the courts.

The PLAINSMAN, a bright and newsy paper ably edited by Mr. Moser, cousin of our Gus, also fills a long felt want in Plains. It has a deservedly liberal patronage and should be in the hands of every working man and farmer. As this letter has assumed proportions that I did not intend it should, I must forego the pleasure of giving your readers a snake story told me by Mr. Neptune Lynch, Sr., but as the Hon. Judge Woody knows all about it; you may get it from him.

J.S. Booth
Game Warden

[1] céad míle fáilte = ‘a hundred thousand welcomes’ in Irish (Gaelic). Of the 3 languages Booth says he spoke to Garry’s sister in, the only one I expect she’d have understood was Chinook Jargon. French, likely to be Canadian/Métis French given the locale, was a sensible alternative to try: Spokane Garry learned it as a young student at Red River Colony, although we haven’t heard of him teaching it to his tribe upon returning home. “Half-breeds” or Métis people in northwest Montana seem to have spoken varieties of Canadian French and Michif Cree-French. Irish, not so much, as we don’t hear of North American Native people picking up that language in adulthood. 

Incidentally, Neptune “Nep” Lynch, Jr. (1860-1900), son of a man mentioned in today’s article (the Lynches are a wealthy regional family dynasty), is said to have known “the Red Man’s tongue”, which could mean he spoke a version of Montana Salish, and/or perhaps Chinuk Wawa.

What do you think?
qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?