1888: A sermon by Myron Eells (part 5)

Time to pick this interesting thread up again…


The best seeds ever are from these folks, does that settle the argument? (image credit: Chinook Seedery)

Found in Horatio Hale’s popular post-frontier book “An International Idiom” (London: Whittaker & Co.,1890) is a very good Chinuk Wawa sermon by a fella said to be one of the first Settler kids born in the Pacific Northwest, the Reverend Myron Eells.

Eells’s English wording in today’s installment begins on page 30, and his Chinook + his English word-for-word translation is on pages 35 (the first word of it) and 36 (the rest of the passage). As usual, his work is of such a quality that the only thing I’m adding is a Grand Ronde-style phonetic rendition in bold italics; my asterisks highlight words whose pronunciation we don’t know in detail from the existing CW documentation.

Kwinnum tahtlum cole ahnkuttie okoke leplet mash klaska
qwínəm táɬlam kʰúl ánqati úkuk liplét másh ɬaska 

five ten winters ago those missionaries left their
‘Fifty years ago these missionaries left their’ 

home kopa siyah Boston illahee, pe mamook delate
hóm kʰupa sáyá bástən-ílihi, pi mámuk dléyt 

home in far-off American land, and did just
‘homes in their far American land, and did just’

kahkwa Jesus yaka wawa. Wake siyah tahtlum cole
kákwa djísəs* yaka wáwa. wík-sáyá táɬlam kʰúl 

as Jesus he said. Not far (nearly) ten winters
‘as Jesus had taught. Nearly ten years’

klaska mitlite kopa Walla Walla illahee; pe mesachie
ɬaska míɬayt kʰupa wálawala*-ílihi; pi masáchi 

they stayed at Walla Walla country; but bad
‘they remained at Walla Walla. Then some bad’

siwash chaco hias solleks kopa ikt leplet, Dr.
sáwásh chaku-hayas-sáliks kʰupa íxt liplét, dákta [1]

‘Indians became very angry against one missionary, Dr.
‘Indians became very hostile to one missionary, named Dr.’

Whitman yaka nem, pe klaska mamook mimoloose yaka
wítmən* yaka ném, pi ɬaska mamuk-míməlus yaka 

Whitman his name, and they made dead him
‘Whitman, and they killed him’

pe yaka klootchman pe huloima tillikums. Huloima
pi yaka ɬúchmən pi x̣lúyma tílixam-s. x̣lúyma 

and his wife and other persons. Other
‘and his wife and other persons. Other’

leplet chaco kwass kopa siwash, pe mash siwash yaka
liplét chaku-k’wás kʰupa sáwásh, pi másh sáwásh yaka [2]

missionaries became afraid of Indians, and left Indians their
‘missionaries became afraid of those Indians, and left that’

illahee. Klonas hiyu tillikums wawa, “Jesus yaka wawa
ílihi. t’ɬúnas háyú tílixam-s wáwa, “djísəs yaka wáwa 

country. Perhaps many persons said, “Jesus his words
‘region. Perhaps many persons said, “The teaching of Jesus…’

hias cultus, spose yaka wawa ahnkuttie kopa leplet,
hayas-kʰə́ltəs, spos yaka wáwa ánqati kʰupa liplét, 

very foolish, when he said formerly to missionaries,
‘…was not good, when He said to the missionaries long ago,…’

[‘]kloshe klatawa kopa konoway illahee konoway kah, pe[…]
[‘]ɬúsh ɬátwa kʰupa kánawi ílihi kánawi-qʰá, pi[…] 

[‘]good go to every country every where, and[…]
‘…that they should go into all lands, and…’

[…]lolo Bible kopa konoway tillikums.”
[…]lúlu báybəl* kʰupa kánawi tílixam-s.” 

[…]carry Bible to every nation.[‘] ” (Was)
‘…carry the Gospel to every people.” ‘

Okoke delate
úkuk dléyt 

That true
‘Was what they said right?’

wawa? Halo. Elip okoke man, Dr. Whitman, yaka
wáwa? hílu. íləp [3] úkuk mán, dákta wítmən*, yaka 

speech? No. Before that man, Dr. Whitman, he
‘No! Before Dr. Whitman’

mimaloose, yaka potlatch kloshe wawa kopa siwash;
míməlus, yaka pátɬach ɬúsh wáwa kʰupa sáwásh;

died, he gave good speech to Indians;
‘died he had given good teaching to the Indians.’

huloima leplet mamook kahkwa. Okoke wawa
x̣lúyma liplét mámuk kákwa. úkuk wáwa 

other missionaries did likewise. That speaking
‘Other missionaries had done the same. That teaching’

kahkwa kloshe seed. Alta yaka chaco hias. Spose nika
kákwa ɬúsh síd*. [4] álta yaka chaku-háyás. spus nayka 

like good seed. Now this becomes great. When I
‘was like good seed. Now this has grown mightily.’

chee klatawa kopa Walla Walla, nika nanitch yahwa ikt
chxí [5] ɬátwa kʰupa wálawala*, nayka nánich yawá íxt 

now go to Walla Walla, I see there an
‘When I now go to Walla Walla, I see there an’

siwash leplet, Nez-Percé yaka illahee. Pe nika…
sáwash liplét, nípərsí [6] yaka ílihi. pi nayka…

Indian missionary, Nez-Percés his country. And I…
‘Indian missionary; he is of the Nez-percés nation. And I…’


dákta [1] wítmən* may very well have sounded to the Indigenous audience like Eells was thinking of Marcus Whitman as a medicine man, that is, as a Native-style healer. One of the terms for that in CW is dákta, and numerous such t’əmánəwas-tílixam had ním kʰupa hwáyt-mán / bástən-ním of the form ‘Doctor Jim’, etc. 

sáwásh yaka [2] ílihis noteworthy for Eells’s use of the singular yaka to refer to ‘their(s)’, which is completely grammatical in the northern CW that he is fluent in. 

íləp [3] úkuk mán, dákta wítmən*, yaka míməlus — ‘before that man Dr. Whitman died’ — is a usage that I analyze as more Settler than CW. That is, it mirrors Eells’s first language, English, which has ‘before’ as a preposition. CW strongly tends to reserve íləp as an adverb, so most fluent speakers would say something like íləp pus…yaka míməlus, literally ‘at first when hypothetically…he was going to die…’

síd* [4] ‘seed’ is a word that we can go ahead and officially add to the known lexicon of Chinook Jargon. I’ve found it in use in many northern-dialect areas, for instance in Kamloops Wawa it’s a usual word. I expect it was in the Jargon from an early time, as a specialized word of Euro-American agricultural technology. But, as is true of so many English-derived words in CW, it was left out of virtually all published vocabularies because anyone literate enough to read them already knew it!

spus nayka chxí [5] ɬátwa kʰupa wálawala* is the one moment of puzzlement that I experienced in reading today’s passage. ‘When I now go to Walla Walla’, Eells translates it. If he meant ‘now’, why wouldn’t he use álta, which is the basic word for expressing the present time? Plus, álta has the added advantage that it customarily represents a sequence of events, so it’s a good linker between the past events that Eells has been telling and the present moment. To use chxí is to talk about ‘starting to go there’ or ‘having just gone there’. I almost wonder if Eells was working from his written English text (which is very likely), and despite his superb fluency, maybe he momentarily lapsed and translated his “now” with CW’s chxi ‘new’! 

nípərsí [6] — I feel confident showing this word with this phonetic pronunciation, corresponding to what we know in Grand Ronde CW. This is because Eells keeps writing it with an acute-accent mark, “Nez-Percé”, “Nez-Percés”, and “Nez-percé”. From that, I infer that he said this name as 3 syllables, not the 2-syllable [nézpərs] that us Northwesterners now say. At the time of the sermon, there were plenty of Canadian/Métis French-speaking folks still alive in the PNW, and Eells almost certainly had known quite a few of them in his lifetime, so it’s pretty reasonable to expect that the way they actually said “Nez-Percé” exerted a big influence on its CW form. Only in post-frontier times, when English-speakers became such a monolithic majority, did the spelling pronunciation [nézpərs] become well-known. 

Next installment — the grand finale!

What do you think?