1868: Sproat, “Scenes and Studies…”

A Scottish settler on Vancouver Island, who claims to know just 100 Chinook Wawa words, turns out to be a sympathetic and keen observer of First Nations life…

SPROAT

A photo of Sproat at work as an Indian Commissioner on the Fraser River, BC (image credit: BC Archives)

…and Gilbert Malcolm Sproat (1834-1913) likewise tells us a lot of important frontier-era information relating to CW, although without once directly quoting it or listing a vocabulary of it.

What I’m getting into today is his misleadingly racist-titled book “Scenes and Studies of Savage Life” (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1868). (Hat tip to Peter Bakker for noting that I hadn’t yet written about this publication.)

Here’s what I turned up in his book that’s relevant to the Jargon; the quoted speech is routinely given to us in English, albeit with hints of having been translated from Chinook. 

Pages 3-4 — on Sproat’s arrival in 1860, via a native interpreter, local “Aht” (Nuuchahnulth) chiefs express their apprehension of an impending flood of “King-George-men“.

Pages 35-36 — two women scolding Sproat for trying “to steal our papa…You are a common man.” The reported words suggest speech in Chinuk Wawa.

Page 54 — “gammass” is the way Sproat reports people on the West Coast of Vancouver Island as pronouncing the word camas.

Page 76 — a local all-white jury’s verdict is influenced by CW: “We find that the Siwash was worried by a dog.”

Page 108 — angry phrases from some Indigenous people who Sproat’s party comes into conflict with are reported as”Toquaht house“, “Toquaht stick“, “steal stick“, “you come here to steal stick“. This may reflect a pidgin English and/or translated Chinook Jargon.

Pages 128-13 deal primarily with the Nuuchahnulth (Wakashan family, southern branch) language, and because that’s one of the parents of Chinook Wawa, it’s worth examining in detail. Sproat demonstrates his strong and keen powers of language observation, anticipating a number of very important ideas (such as “grammaticalization”) that have more recently come to be taken as fact by linguists. In the course of his musings, he makes a number of points likely to be relevant to studies of the pidginized “Nootka Jargon” that contributed importantly to early CW: 

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Klahchoochin, “a stranger,” or literally, “the newly-
come,” is derived from klah, a root signifying “present
time,” and chookwah, “come.” This last word is con-
nected with the Chinook word chako. The radical klah is
found also in the word klahooye, “now ; ” klah-huksik,
“the present generation;” and probably in klah-oh,
“another,” with its derivatives, klah-oh-quill, “the day
after to-morrow,” and klah-oh-quill-ooye, ” the day before
yesterday.” The quill in the- two latter words is found
also in atlah-quill, “eight,” and tsow-wauk-quill, “nine,”
and probably means “beyond,” or “in addition;” and
the ooye of the last word is a word of time, used by itself
to express “soon “or “presently,” and found in words
implying both the present and the past, as klah-ooye,
ahm-ooye, klah-oh-quill-ooye. Even to one possessing
only an imperfect knowledge of the language, the con-
tinual presence of significant roots in compound words is
evident. The peculiarity may be noticed in instances
where the meaning of the root is entirely unknown (that
is, unknown to any Indians I conversed with); thus, while
chaputs is the word now used for canoe, the syllable kleel
is found to occur in many words connected with a canoe.
The similarity of the following words — kleetcha, “the
steersman;” kleetchaik, “a rudder;” kleetshitl, “to
steer;” kleetsuppem, “a sail;” kleetsmah, “stuff to sit
on in a canoe;” and even klootsinnim, “the board which
the paddler kneels upon,” can hardly be accidental.

Next to these prominent features of the Aht Ian-

 

TERMINATIONS OF WORDS. 129

guage, which may be farther verified by consulting the
vocabulary, — to which I must generally refer the reader,
as it is not my intention to comment on the lan-
guage at length, — some of the most usual termina-
tions of words deserve notice. Ah or mah is, in verbs,
the termination of the first person both in the singular
and plural; huh or ayts, of the second; and mah, win, or
sometimes atlma, of the third person. These terminations,
however, are not so bound to the verb but that sometimes
they are transferred to an accompanying adverb, the exact
manner of expression being apparently a good deal deter-
mined by phonetic considerations, subject to rule. From
wik, “not,” and kamotop, “to understand,” we get either
wikah-kumotop, or wimmutomah, both equally meaning,
“I do not understand;” but the latter word has lost two
prominent consonants in the process of composition. In
contradistinction to the terminations mah and utlma, which
are applicable to the third person, the ultimate win, also
applicable to the third person, has specially the curious
meaning, in some instances, that the speaker has not seen
that which he speaks of, and in other instances, that the
object is not in sight at the time of his speaking. This
reference to a past and a present may indicate a growth of
the language towards the formation of tenses, but the form
has reference at present to space and locality, rather than
to time, though the idea of time is often necessarily included
in the expression. What I mean to observe is that perhaps
ultimately the savage may use this termination “win ” to
express one of the two times (past or present), and adopt
some other termination to express the other time. The
w” and the “n” sounds frequently are found in compound

130 EXPRESSIONS OF NUMBER AND TIME,

words, the one implying a negative, and the other the
idea of sight. It might, however, be considered fanciful
to look for the derivation of the syllable win in these, even
although waw-win, “to hunt by shouts from unseen
hunters” (the game hearing only, and not seeing, their
pursuers); and tupwin, to gird or girdle the waist (and so
to conceal the nakedness), might seem to point in the
same direction. The first syllable in waw-win is obviously
the same as in waw-wah or waw-waw, “to speak” or
“shout.”

The expression of number is more definite in the Aht
language than that of time. Reduplication of a significant
syllable is used to describe number in objects and fre-
quency in action. The words waw-waw and tseka tseka
are both used of sustained speech; waw means simply
” to utter a shout,” or “to say.” I find the single word
tsechkah in a vocabulary of eighty years ago, though I
have not myself heard it without the reduplication. Of
three words in the Aht language, meaning “to work,”
two, oo-ooshtuk and pe-pe-sati, have the doubled syllable,
implying, no doubt, repeated action. Yetseh-yetsah and
yetseh-yetsokleh have been already mentioned. Maht-mahs
means “all the houses ” or “the entire population,” mahte
or mahs being the word for a single “house ” or “settle-
ment.” The significance of the following terminals must
be considered as only implying a general rule, more or less
liable to exception. Instruments end in ik — as hukkaik,
“a knife;” hissik, “a saw;” kleetchaik, “a rudder.”
Colours end in uk or ook, as ey-yoh-quk, “green;[“] kistokkuk,
“blue;” klay-hook, “purple;” kleesook, “white;” toop-
hook, “black” (hissit, “red,” is an exception).

 

TERMINATIONS. 131

Trees and grasses end in pt, as kow-whipt, see-whipt,
ootsmupt, klakkupt, klakkamupt, and many others.

Genera end in oop and toop, as eesh-toop, “house-
hold things ; “sush-toop,” beasts of the forest;” tel-
hoop, “fishes of the sea.” The word kleetstoop means
“blankets,” in contradistinction to the special name given
to each blanket according to its colour.

Verbs often end in shitl, shetl, and chitl. This termi-
nation is, on the whole, well-marked, though exceptions are
very numerous. It would, in fact, be more correct to say
that these endings, when occurring, are generally found
in verbs, than to call them verbal terminations. They
probably imply action or movement. Thus, apart from
verbs, we meet with these ultimates in kleeshitl, (from
kleesook, “white,”) “the growing light of morning which
comes before sunrise;” in toopshitl, (toop-kook, “black,”)
“the increasing darkness of sunset and immediately after;”
and in moolshitl, “the flood, or flowing tide.”

The most common termination in the language is lh.
It is difficult to assign any uniform meaning to this termi-
nation. I have sometimes thought that it expresses the
application of the meaning of a general word to a word of
a more particular import. Thus ey-yoh-quilh, the usual
term of the Ahts for a green blanket, means “a green
one.” The general term for blanket, as named above, is
kleetstoop; as this word has no apparent connection with
ey-yoh-quilh, and as the Ahts use now almost exclusively
blankets for dress, we must suppose that in saying “a
green one,” they are referring to their usual and almost
only covering. The word for a black blanket is toopkulh;
for white, kleeselh; for red, klayhulh; (klayhook is purple,

 

132 THE NITINAHT DIALECT.

hissoolh is bloody.) Attalh or uttalh is an Aht word for
black, evidently formed from attyh or uttyh, night.

Terminations in up seem to convey the meaning of
loss, curtailment, injury, as châ-tay-up, “to cut off with
a knife;” kââsup, ” to hurt, to wound;” hy-yusatyup,
“to lessen or diminish;” kawkushup, “sickness of the
eyes;” ash-sup “to break a cord or string;” quoy-up “to
break a stick.”

Sproat goes on to discuss some of the unique traits of the “Nitinaht” (Ditidaht) dialect, noting for example (page 133) its pronunciation boouch for ‘deer’, which is < moouch > in other dialects — the source of CW máwich.

His comparison of Anderson’s “Nootka” vocabulary of the 1780s with his own 1860s knowledge is an excellent little linguistic study! On pages 134-137, Sproat notes numerous differences, ascribing them to both Anderson’s mere one-month stay in the area and to eighty years of language change. The latter is a pretty remarkable insight for Victorian times. And the former verges on recognizing that Anderson was (in our present view) documenting a pidginized speech, Nootka Jargon, as much as recording actual Nuučaan’uł. I see signs of pidginization in Anderson’s frequent “close but no cigar” misunderstandings of what the First Nations folks were saying:

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Cook’s List of Nootkah Wokds.

Any one duly appreciating the difficulty of collecting
the words of an unknown language without an interpreter
will admire the industry of Mr. Anderson, surgeon of
Cook’s ship, the Resolution, who, in the short space of less
than a month, obtained in the neighbourhood of Nootkah
some 280 native words. The tribes who live in that
neighbourhood, I may state, are the Moouchaht, Ayhutti-
saht, Noochahlaht, and these form part of the Aht nation
—a fact hitherto unknown. On examining Mr. Anderson’s
list, I recognize, inclusive of the first ten numerals, 133
words which are substantially the same as words now spoken
by the tribes in Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound. The distance
along the coast between Nootkah and Nitinaht is about
90 miles. When from the remaining 147 words in Mr.
Anderson’s list are deducted those words in which the
Nootkah Indians at present differ from the Nitinaht (or
Barclay) Sound tribes, and those words in which they may
agree, but with which agreement I am unacquainted, it is
probable that very little change will be found to have
taken place in the Aht language since Cook’s visit eighty
years ago; perhaps not a greater change than might be
observed in the language — say of the south of Scotland,
within the last hundred years. It is singular that an
unwritten language should have been preserved with so
little alteration among tribes so widely scattered, and who
have so often opposed each other with deadly hatred.*

[FOOTNOTE:] * The language of the Indians in the interior of America— commonly
called the Indians of the Plain — is constantly changing, owing to their
roving habits and intermixture with other tribes. In the case of some of

MR. ANDERSON’S VOCABULARY.

135

The curious pronunciation remarked upon by Mr.
Anderson as only approximately represented by lozth may
have been somewhat altered and simplified by lapse of
time, or it may be a peculiarity not shared by those of
the Aht tribes best known to me. The words spelt by him
according to that pronunciation are now pronounced in
different instances as thl, lth, or lh, or are at least nearly
represented by such a combination of letters ; not very
different, after all, from Mr. Anderson’s pronunciation, only
I cannot distinguish the sound of s or z. I quite recognize
what Mr. Anderson means when he says, “It is formed
by clashing the tongue partly against the roof of the mouth
with considerable force, and may be compared to a very
coarse or harsh method of lisping.” I do not, however,
recognize an actual lisp, which would, of course, imply the
presence of a sibilant. In Mr. Anderson’s vocabulary I
find, without any very careful examination, a few words
either erroneously set down by him, or which have since
changed their meaning. The error (if any) in one or two
cases may easily be explained. I here give a few words,
as set down by Mr. Anderson, and also their present
pronunciation and meaning : —

Mr. Anderson’s Words.
Nootkah.
Opulszhl, “the sun.”
Onalszthl, “the moon.”
Tsechkah, “a general song.”

Present Words.

Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound.
Hoop-palh, “the moon.”
Nas, “the sun.”
Tseka, “to speak, say, or sing.”

[FOOTNOTE CONTINUES:] these tribes, the vocabulary of a missionary is of little use to his successor
after the lapse of a dozen years. The Coast Indians, on the other hand,
remain for generations — perhaps for centuries — on one spot, and their
language, consequently, is less susceptible of alteration, notwithstanding
the effect of the coast intercourse before alluded to.

136

MR. ANDERSON’S VOCABULARY.

Mr. Anderson’s Words.
Nootkah.

Haweelsth, or Hawalth, “friendship,
friend.”
Eineetl, “goat, deer.”
Okumha, “the wind.”
Tchoo, “throw it down.”
Jakops, “a man.”
Nahei, Naheis, “friendship.”
Ta-eetcha, “full, satisfied with eat-
ing.”

Present Words.
Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound.
How-wilh, “chief.”
Ahtoosh, or, Moouch, “deer.”
Ennitl, “dog.”
Wikseh, “wind.”

Tchoo, “incites to any sort of ac-
tion.”
Chekoop, “a husband.”
Ko-us, ” a man.”
Nahay, Nahais, “give or to give.”
Teech, “well ; not sick.”
Teechah, “I am well.”

The present meaning of tush-she is “a door- way,” the same
word being applied to any gangway, and also to a track or
road in the woods. Mooshussem is “a door or lid.” For
klao or klao-appi, a word of likely occurrence in barter with
Indians, Mr. Anderson has “keep it,” or “I’ll not have
it,” having, I daresay, assigned that meaning to the word
from the evident dissatisfaction expressed by the person
using it. The real meaning of klao is “another,” or
“something else;” and klao-appi means “substitute
something else.” The expression, therefore, does not
convey so much a refusal of the article offered in barter
as a request that something else more acceptable should
be produced.* Klao, or klah-oh, is a word which enters
frequently into the speech of the Ahts, and always with
the signification of “another” or “some more.” Ah-ah-
tomah-klah-oh Oliver is a literal rendering of “Oliver
asks for more.” Ohkullik, or ohquinnik, set down by
Mr. Anderson as the general term for “box,” is now
used only to describe a box with double sides, the inner
ones sliding out. The innih or ullik gives the idea of
duality; klah-hix is the common term for “a box;”

AFFINITY OF INDIAN LANGUAGES. 137

klah-haytsoh for one having a lid fitting over the sides.
The word allee, or alla, which Mr. Anderson translates
“friend,” or “hark ye,” is the same as the present
Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound anni, and the Chinook annah,
the transition from n to l, easy in all languages, being
particularly so in the Aht language, in which a sound
often lies halfway between two kindred consonants. The
exact meaning of anni is “look.” It is connected with
the reply generally made to it, anni-mah, “I see;” with
cheh-neh, “I do not know,” or, more literally, “I do not
see,” or “have not seen;” and also, no doubt, with the
Chinook nanich, “to see;” and many other words in
which the same root may be traced. The word kaweebt,
applied by Mr. Anderson to the wild raspberry, is now
used by the Ahts for a very common and well-known berry-
bush, to which the colonists give the name of ” the salmon-
berry.” Though not the wild raspberry, it is of the same
order of plants, and not unlike it in appearance, and when
in flower might easily be mistaken for the wild raspberry.

It’s only on pages 137 to 139, kind of surprisingly, that Sproat really focuses his discussion on Chinuk Wawa. He begins by specifying that he really only has acquaintance with the “Aht” dialects, i.e. the Nuučaan’uł language, but he speculates that all tribal languages southward along the Washington coast are related. (!) (At least 3 entire families unrelated to Wakashan are traditionally spoken there: Chimakuan, Salish, and Chinookan.) But, from his personal experience, he aptly notices that Nuučaan’uł has plenty of resemblances with Chinuk Wawa:

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There is a decided resemblance between the Aht
language and many words of the Chinook jargon, which
is a portion of the language of the now almost extinct
Chinook tribes at the mouth of the Columbia River,
supplemented by words of other tribal dialects on the
north-west coast; also by French, English, Hawaian, and,

CHINOOK AND AHT WORDS. 139

perhaps (but of these I am doubtful), Spanish words. The
real Chinook was the first coast language of the north-
west coast languages that was learned by settlers and
traders on the banks near the mouth of the Columbia
Eiver; and a portion of it was afterwards incorporated into
a barbarous jargon, to facilitate communication with other
natives.* I know about 100 words of the Chinook jargon,
and probably 500 of the Aht language, and among these,
without research, I can recall the following parallels : —

Chinook. Aht.

Mowitch, “a deer” Moouch, “a deer”
Syah, “far away” Si-yah, “far away.”
Kloosh, “good” Kloothl, “good.”
                          ( Chu-uk, ” water.”
Chuk, “water” ( Tsu-uk, “a river”
Kumtax, “to understand” Kumotop, “to understand.”
                                ( Nanetsah, “to see.”
Nanich, “to see”   ( Yetspannich, “to walk out and see.”
Hyas, “great” Eher, “great.”
Hy-ya, “a great many” Ei-yeh, “a great many.”
                                         Hyemmah, ” a great many.”
                                         Hy-yu, “ten, i. e., the highest number
                                         one can count on the fingers.”
Chako, “to come “, Chookwah, “come.”
Klootchman, “a woman” Klootsmah, “a married woman.”
                                              Klootchmoop, ” a sister.”
Wayk, “no, not” Wik, wiklyt, wikah, waykomahy, “no, not.”
Wah-wah, “to speak” Wah, “to speak.”
Keekilly “low, deep down” Keekqulh, “submerged.”

Many other words suggest themselves, not showing
such an evident similarity, but still conclusive to one
knowing something of the Aht language. The similarity
to the Chinook is contained often in some composite word,

[FOOTNOTE:] * This is the real origin of the Chinook jargon, in reference to which
one writer after another copies the conventional nonsense that the Hudson
Bay Company “invented” it. Such an achievement as the invention of a
language is beyond the capabilities of even a chief factor.

140 CHINOOK AND ART WORDS.

where the resemblance has been almost entirely lost in the
expression of the more simple idea. Thus — to take a
partial instance from one of the parallels just adduced — the
word nanetsah retains, indeed, the radical nan found in the
Chinook nanich, but has a different termination. The
Chinook termination, however, has remained in the Aht
composite word yetspannich, a word which means “to go out
and look about,” and is applied to any one strolling about
without any apparent object. In like manner, the Chinook
roots chuk, tsuk, enter continually into Aht composite words,
and convey a reference to water; wik and wayk, in com-
position, imply a negative; and nan and an, similarly,
imply sight; and kloothl implies good — thus showing a
much more intimate connection between the Chinook and
Aht tongues than the mere similarity of a few words, not
in a composite form, would suggest. It may be objected
that the Aht Indians, a few of whom know something of
the Chinook jargon, may have introduced some of the
words among their own words; but, with any knowledge
of the languages, it seems impossible to hold this opinion.
The Ahts know perhaps fewer of the Chinook words than
any other Indians in the island, and yet the other Van-
couver Indian languages do not, so far as I know, exhibit the
same similarity to the Chinook. The Ahts have absolutely
no other word for water than chu-uk, and it is not likely
that they would have adopted the Chinook word, and
entirely lost their own term for such a common necessary.
The various tribes of the Aht nation differ a little, but a
very little, in their language; each tribe having some
few words quite peculiar to itself. One of these differences
affords fair evidence of the reality of the relation between

SIMILARITY OF CHINOOK AND AHT TONGUES. 141

the Aht and the Chinook; the difference to which I allude
is the variation in the term for deer among different Aht
tribes. Those Aht tribes which have, in modern times, seen
most of the white man, and, therefore, heard most of
Chinook, inhabit Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound. The name
which the tribes in that locality have for a deer is ahtoosh,
but other Aht tribes more to the north, who have heard less
of Chinook than the others — tribes such as the Ahousaht or
Moouchaht — call a deer moouch, which has a very close
likeness to the Chinook mowitch. This similarity of an
important word in the two tongues existing among those
Aht tribes ignorant of Chinook, and which happens not to
be found in the language of the tribes who know Chinook,
is one proof of an old connection of the Aht and Chinook
languages. I have said that, in Cook’s list of words, made
eighty years ago, a general resemblance of the two languages
is found; and I may here add that an intelligent Indian on
the west coast of the island has remarked to me upon the
similarity of the Aht and the Chinook, without any sug-
gestion from me; also, that the conclusion thus indepen-
dently formed is confirmed by those traders who are most
familiar with the dialects spoken along the coast. Being
altogether unacquainted with the neighbouring languages
on the nearest American territory, I do not know whether
the Aht form of language has kept merely to the ocean
coast, or has in any instance penetrated into the interior of
the country. I should expect to find that it adhered to
the coast; but, no doubt, the course of the language might
be altered and directed inland by such a feature as a great
river, or a range of mountains. The distance, following
the ocean coast, from Cape Scott in Vancouver Island to

142 TRIBAL NAMES.

the Columbia River, which, so far as I know, is the range
of the Aht language, is about 400 miles. I have not
attempted to trace the language outside of these limits,
and I can form no opinion whether the Aht people spread
originally from the Columbia River, along the coast towards
the north, or whether they spread south from the west coast
of Vancouver Island.

On page 154 we find an exceptional style of speech, a pidgin-like English spoken by one of the few local Indigenous people who had traveled as far away as San Francisco:

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A few captives were dragged by the hair towards the
village. Amongst these were two children, a boy and
girl, of about twelve years of age, who had been captured
by the Indian alluded to. This savage had been at San
Francisco, and could speak a word or two of English.
Anybody on the west coast of Vancouver Island knows
“trader George ” (the Indian in question), the rich
merchant of Klah-oh-quaht. Approaching my informant
in a state of great excitement, he repeated, “me strong,”
“me brave,” “me very strong heart’…

We see what’s probably a pan-Pacific-Northwest native metaphor in instances like page 157’s “their ‘hearts are bad’ ” and page 165’s “his heart is good”, which likely helps explain the large number of such expressions in Chinuk Wawa.

Some appended materials include, on page 312, a discussion of the Nuuchahnulth view of “King-George Men” versus “Boston-men“:

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The Indians regard the English as a large tribe, whose principal
village is distant. Their name of King-George men was given to
the English because the first of the English who visited the Aht
coast frequently talked of a great chief of that name. For the same
reason, another white tribe — the Americans — are called by the
Indians Boston-men, owing to their frequent mention of that great
seaport in their own country. The Ahts distinguish an Englishman
from an American as easily as they can point out a Klah-oh-quaht
or a Nitinaht among themselves; and this not by the dress, but, as
they described it, by the face, and the way the hair is worn. Owing,
I believe, principally to the bad quality of the blankets and other
goods offered in trade by American traders, the Americans are to
this day regarded by the Ahts as inferior to the British.

Finally, on pages 313-314 we’re treated to a discussion of issues relating to Chinook Jargon that Sproat feels ought to be cleared up in the public’s mind. It’s a little ironic, and it tells us something of interest, that he confuses “real” Chinook[an] and “Jargon Chinook” (CW); the words he cites as being from the former are in fact all CW, one or two of them of Salish origin:

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The natives did not, during five years [of Sproat’s residence among them], invent new names for any
of their domesticated animals. They called all of them, except
the dog, by one name — the Jargon-Chinook word moosmoos, which
specially means the ox, and is probably connected with the Walla-
walla (in Oregon) word for the buffalo moosmoos-chin[Here Sproat is borrowing from George Gibbs’s 1863 dictionary.] The know-
ledge of this word, with a general application of it at first to any
large annual, may have come down the Columbia River from Walla-
walla to the Chinook district at its mouth, and spread gradually,
with the use of the jargon, along the coast to the north, until it
reached the west coast of Vancouver Island. I found that the dog-
was known to the Ahts before my arrival, and that they had a name
for it ; but they have no knowledge or tradition as to the “woolly
Nootkah” dog, which travellers have reported as existing on this
coast. They call the dog ennitl or annitl, a name which it may not be
fanciful to suggest was composed from the Aht word anni, “look,” and
shitl, an Aht verb terminal, implying “movement” (see the chapter in
this book on the “Aht Language”), and was bestowed on the dog on
account of its quick sight and rapid movements. The real Chinook
language, distinctly from the Jargon-Chinook, has separate words of
its own for animals domesticated by civilized man, e.g. [borrowing from Alexander Ross 1846] keutan, horse ;
kamux, dog; piss-piss, cat; polotax, hog. These words cannot be
older than the time of the first travellers or settlers on this portion
of the Pacific coast, who brought such animals with them; but the
imitative word moosmoos, in various forms, coming, as it must have
come, from the interior of the country, through aboriginal channels
to the western shore, may be as old as the first bellowing of the
buffalo heard on the North American continent by man.

Having mentioned the Jargon-Chinook, I may notice a statement
made respecting it by Lord Milton and Dr. Cheadle. In a note,
page 344, of their pleasant book, The North-West Passage by Land,
they inform the reader that the Chinook-Jargon was invented by the
Hudson Bay Company for use in trading with the Indians. This
statement, which I daresay these travellers heard at Victoria, and
without examination adopted, is erroneous, as their own good sense
might have told them. It would imply that at some solemn “con-
vention” of Hudson Bay Company traders and savage chiefs, chosen
words were agreed upon which, from a stated time, were to be the
signs for certain objects and actions, and that these words came into
general use on the coast, thus exhibiting the philological phenomenon
of a language definitely known to have been invented by man. The

314 APPENDIX.

truth is, as stated in Chapter XV. of this book, that the Chinook-
Jargon is simply a depravation of the Chinook language — an old lan-
guage, which probably is the mother of all the dialects spoken on the
coast between the Columbia River and the north of Vancouver Island.
This original Chinook language, of which I possess a vocabulary,
and which does not, as Dr. [Daniel] Wilson says (Prehistoric Man, [1865], vol. ii.,
p. 429), “baffle all attempts at its mastery,” was spoken by the
Chinooks and other tribes at the mouth of the Columbia River, and
is now almost extinct, owing to the disappearance of the people. It
was probably the first native coast language in this quarter that was
learned by the traders of J. J. Astor, and the North-West Company;
and these, with the traders of their successors, the Hudson Bay
Company, in trafficking at different points on the coast, would
naturally use the native language best known to them— the
Chinook — which, it so happened, from the affinity of all the dialects
along the coast northwards, would be understood without great diffi-
culty by the different coast tribes. In the course of time, on the
decline of the original Chinook-speaking tribes, the standard of
reference for the language would be withdrawn, and dispersion and
deterioration would ensue, until finally the old language would cease
to be spoken, and would be changed and corrupted into the present
contemptible lingua Franca.

All told, there’s extremely little direct reporting of Chinook Wawa usage by Sproat, yet he’s obviously familiar with it.

Together with his unusually close acquaintance with Nuuchahnulth, the careful observations he shares are worth paying attention to.

G.M. Sproat is a mythbuster, and the Jargon has had too many myths attached to it, so I recommend his book highly.

What do you think?