1905: “Silver chickimun” in Alaska

When I checked whether an 1897 German book’s “chicamin silver” was real Alaska Jargon, I got excited for a second by the article under a racist headline…

fishing_cannery_letnikof (1)

Cannery, Haines, AK (image credit: Haines Sheldon Museum)

But (A) I’ve already proved that the German writer van Moeller was miscopying material from Portland’s JK Gill, and (B) the following has the phrase in reverse, i.e. correct Chinuk Wawa, order.

That said, here we have a possible case of a typical late- or post-frontier loanword from local English (‘silver’) being taken up in the Jargon, and it’s completely believable that silver chickimun was local CW.

Here I also notice hootch (‘alcohol’), a word that originated in southeast Alaska and which was probably associated with CW.

free fight hed

free fight

Indians Have Night of Turmoil

The news comes from Haines that the Indians down there have been having a high old time. Last Tuesday was pay day with one or two of the canneries and the silver chickimun and the hootch that was secured for it were too much for the noble red men of the forest. There was a night of drunken debauchery and fighting. Wednesday morning there was hardly a face in the village that was not scarred and discolored. One Indian lost an ear. It had been bitten off in a mixup where Marquis of Queensbury [Marquess of Queensberry] rules were not given due consideration. In fact there was plenty of evidence yesterday to show that none of the fights of the night before were refereed by Graney. It was a kind of go-as-you-please series of matches, John Barleycorn winning most of them.

— from the Skagway (AK) Daily Alaskan of September 21, 1905, page 1, column 3

Not the finest of prose, but it’s a bit of evidence about what Chinook Jargon in Alaska was like.

What do you think?