Thesis on (Canadian) French influence in PNW

Those who are interested in all things French-Canadian about the Pacific Northwest frontier know that it can be hard to locate helpful sources…

…So it’s nice to find a Masters thesis in History by Gregory Rathbone (Portland State University, 1981) : “The French Connection in Early Oregon“.

My readers will be happy to know that a search for “Chinook Jargon” in the document turns up several useful references.

There are other Jargon-related points brought up.

For example, on page 94 Rathbone evaluates a claim published way back in 1854, in the Oregonian. The idea was that the tribal and place name “Coquille” (which looks like the French for ‘(sea)shell’, but which you now hear pronounced as “COKE-wool”) derives from “an Indian word for eel”.

That is, from Chinuk Wawa skákʰwəl. This is a word whose earliest known occurrence seems to be Joel Palmer’s 1847 < ko-ko-well >.

Now, that’s quite neat, because Palmer has been the only source lacking the old Chinookan s- prefix on this word.  We’ve inadvertently come across a confirmation here, presumably from a Settler eyewitness, that early-creolized period CW at least sometimes treated this noun for ‘eel’ like so many other Chinookan-sourced words, stripping away the original prefix segments.

Rathbone’s focus is of course broader than this specific example I’ve spotlighted here. And he does a very good job of surveying the many ways French-Canadian culture has helped create modern Oregon and left a lasting mark on it.

I recommend giving this thesis a read.

What do you think?
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