1908: Mrs. Codfish couldn’t even talk Chinook!

Amazing how many racist assumptions one Settler reporter could pack into a brief local news piece…

mrs codfish

Mrs. Codfish? (Image credit: Streets of Salem)

There is no “L” sound in the Nuučaan’uɬ language; I’m guessing this woman’s name “Leetuk” perhaps relates to λ‘iisuuḥ (t’ɬiisuuḥ in Grand Ronde style), which means ‘rock cod’ in the C’išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht), ʔiiḥatishʔatḥ (Ehattisaht), Nučaaaɬʔatḥ (Nuchatlaht), and Qaay’uuk’ʷatḥ (Kyuoquot) dialects.

Also I’m curious whether things like ‘rock cod’ are typical traditional personal names among those tribes…

Anyhow it’s some kind of useful information that people were surprised by this lady’s inability to talk Chinuk Wawa in 1908. Knowledge of the language was indeed extremely widespread in southern and western Vancouver Island by that time.

Police court – Nootka Indian named Jimmie Peters… ancient squaw who rejoices in the name of Codfish, such being the interpretation of her Indian name of Leetuk. Mrs Codfish could not even talk Chinook. Accordingly her son was summoned and translated into Chinook, which the chief of police in turn rendered into English.

[Victoria (BC) Colonist, 1908-11-13]

What do you think?