1893-1897: Sweet “BetseyAnnSpikes” :) (Part 4 of 7)

The muse of the Oregon coast is back…


Indian woman picking shát-úlali (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

…dropping fluent Chinook Jargon into her letters to the editor.

(Hat tip to Southern Oregon History, Revised, whose comments are in italics below.)

Student of the Old School.

My Dear Ed:–

It hez bin an orful long time since I skribbled tu yer most valable paper. The rezon wuz simply this dear Ed, I wuz taken down with that pleg taked grip, or suthen o’ the kind, and kame ni dien az it wer. Well Ed., the nuze haz kum down here that Mr. Blumer, az ust tu be the kounty trazure of Jacksin Kounty, has bin shamefully negleckted. Mrs. Tellitall told me that she hurd that Sally Tattletail hurd Mr. W.A.N.T. Office say that Mr. Blumer wouldent of bin disgrased so if it hadent of bin fur hiz goin away without tellin everbody wher he’s goin. It is time the county wuz sendin him that five thousand dollars it robbed him out uv, fur he mite be in need uv it. Dear Ed., I seed in yer last ishu uv yer valable paper a sitkum [1] [“part of a”] letter from Tommy H. B. Taylor. From its ring, or tune, I’de jedge the writer hed bin taken lessons from Prof. Schack Schonschin, az taut me and the other squaz, last summer up in the shot o’-lil-lies [“berries”]. Ill-a-hee [2] mika kumtux six? [3] [“Do you understand me, friend?”] Well, my dear Ed., if ever yu, or eny uv yer force uv Mail klerks should kum slaunterin down this wa, kum and see me. Yours as ever,


— Medford (OR) Mail, March 9, 1894, page 2


“sitkum [1] [“part of a”] letter”: literally ‘half of a’.

“…last summer up in the shot o’-lil-lies [“berries”]. Ill-a-hee” [2]: here we have one of those frequent mis-punctuations typical of newspaper Chinuk Wawa. The intended expression is shát-úlali-íliʔi ‘huckleberry patches’, with reference to Indigenous women’s custom of visiting the uplands in late summer to early fall to harvest the berries. (Huckleberries look like clusters of the small lead “shot” pellets used in shotguns.) 

“mika kumtux six?” [3]: ‘Do you understand, friend?’ = mayka kə́mtəks, s(h)íks(h)?

What do you think?