1912: A postcard in Chinuk Wawa (from a new archive)

Rein “Snass” Stamm, have you seen this?

I’m going to file this under two major themes that we see in old Chinook Jargon texts…

Invitations, and the Golden Potlatch of the Tillikums of Elttaes.

Found in the Seattle Public Library, via a new Pacific Northwest history website (Northwest Digital Heritage), an invitation postcard to the Seattle Golden Potlatch of 1912.

The front carries a Jargon invitation with an English translation, plus bad imitation Coast Native art:


Klosh mika chako kopa Seattle tenas atlki [1] warm moon. [2]
It will be good for you to come to Seattle a little later in the summer. 

Nesika mamook hyas Potlatch [3] pe [4] hyiu hee-hee.
We are going to give a big Potlatch and have lots of fun.

Nesika delate tikky [5] mika chako pe mitlite [6] konomoxt nesika.
We very much want you to come and stay with us.

Klosh mika wahwah kopa konoway huloyma tilikum. [7]
Please pass the word along to other friends.


tenas atlki [1] looks like an interestingly Diminutivized form of the adverb áɬqi ‘later, in the future’, and that’s possibly what it is; compare with the known tənəs-ánqati ‘a while ago’. We have to handle this form carefully, though, as this is Settlers’ written Jargon, which would write in an identical form the sequence of adverbial tənas ‘a bit’ + áɬqi. This is a fine distinction, and not crucial to understanding the message. Another, and more interesting, point is this spelling < atlki >, a rarity among Settler Jargon writing in that it tries to show the precise “slurpy-L” pronunciation of /ɬ/. 

warm moon [2] is not a set idiomatic phrase known to us, so it’s worth pointing out here that the writer is expressing ‘in a summer month’; notice that they don’t use a preposition, true to fluent speakers’ use of nouns to express time. 

mamook hyas Potlatch [3] … I find myself claiming this often: within known fluent Chinuk Wawa speech, it’s been incredibly hard to find any clear examples of pá(t)lach as a noun for a ceremony or celebration, whereas Settlers loved using this word that way. 

…pe [4] hyiu hee-hee On a related note, here we have híhi also being used as a noun meaning ‘fun’, a common English-inspired expression among Settlers talking Jargon to each other, whereas the documents we have of known fluent Jargon seem to show only a noun sense of ‘a game’ for this word. This noun phrase “hyiu hee-hee” is very common in the genre of written (i.e. Settler) invitations in CW. 

Nesika delate tikky [5] mika chako Also utterly typical of these Settlers is this English-style syntax, failing to use the normal Jargon subjunctive/irrealis subordinate-clause marker pus between nsayka dlét tíki ‘we want’ and mayka cháku ‘you (to) come’. 

mitlite [6] konomoxt nesika is translated on the postcard as ‘stay with us’, which I suspect isn’t quite what you’d take from this perfectly fluent Jargon wording — I’d just take míɬayt kʰanumakst nsayka as ‘be with us’. 

kopa konoway huloyma tilikum [7] Absolutely Settler, too, is the assumption that tílixam means ‘friend’ rather than people.

Put all of these points together, and you have a good example of a broad post-frontier literary genre in the Pacific Northwest states, by which I mean “White people talking to White people in Jargon to be cool”.

The back notes that the name Potlatch is from Chinook Jargon, and in further true White-people fashion, it claims that this Settler celebration has “expanded” the word’s definition beyond (merely) giving people generous gifts!


All told, an interesting find to add to our treasure trove of texts in Chinook Jargon.

Bonus fact:

I strongly suspect the Chinook Jargon text on this postcard was written by Edward “The Patriarch” Clayson. Here’s why.

What do you think?