1941: Chester Anders Fee, “Oregon’s Historical Esperanto”

Chester Anders Fee (1893-1951) of Pendleton, Oregon, wrote an article titled “Oregon’s Historical Esperanto — the Chinook Jargon” Oregon Historical Quarterly 42(2):176-185, June 1941.

Although it appeared late in CJ history, this article didn’t have to be so irrelevant.

Within a year of Fee’s piece, truly excellent articles on Chinuk Wawa came out, from the pens of BC lawyers FW Howay and Robie Reid. Both of those outdo the majority of research so far published by linguists.

Fee, however, is hidebound. He’s blinkered by the super-White-oriented folklore of Oregon’s relatively old community of Settlers, which he parrots dutifully. This comes at the expense of serious examination of sources. So he rarely goes farther than reproducing someone else’s already public work — and much of that is fictional.

Fee’s lack of a deep grasp of the Jargon perhaps relates to his place of birth, in the northeastern corner of the state. That was never the core area of activity, Chinook-wise. And Fee was born late, after the end of the frontier era. While he likely grew up hearing some of the language spoken, we’d probably know if he had very much real experience of it.

Taking a positive stance towards this situation, I can tell you that Fee’s writing is of anthropological interest, in that it’s the finest distillation of Oregon Settler culture into 10 pages that you’ll find. (Reflexive self-serving racism and all.)

And Fee saves us the effort, which I’ve often found tedious, of reading the piles of Settler-written Pacific NW fiction that happen to use a few CW words. He tallies exact numbers from that genre.

Because I’ve been showing many other versions for comparison, I’ll include here the Jargon translation of the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) that Fee shows us (on page 185) from early Protestant missionaries Lee & Frost’s book “Ten Years in Oregon“. This is of unexpected interest, as I’m so far not finding this prayer in any editions of that book that are known online. In fact, the attribution seems mistaken; this Lord’s Prayer seems to trace to FN Blanchet’s 1870s dictionary, which was then modified and reprinted by JK Gill for many decades.

lee frost lords prayer

Ne-si-ka pa-pa klax-ta mit-lite ko-pa sa-ha-lee, kloshe ko-pa 
ne-si-ka tum-tum mi-ka nem. Ne-si-ka hi-yu tik-eh cha-co 
mi-ka il-la-hee; ma-mook mi-ka kloshe tum-tum ko-pa o-ko-ke [SIC] 
il-la-hee kah-kwa ko-pa sha-lee [SIC]. Pot-latch kon-o-way sun ne-
si-ka muck-a-muck, pee mah-lee kon-o-way ne-si-ka ma-sah[-]
chee, kah-kwa ne-si-ka ko-pa klas-ka spose ma-mook ma-sah[-]
chee ko-pa ne-si-ka. Wake lo-lo ne-si-ka ko-pa pe-shak, pee 
marsh si-ah ko-pa ne-si-ka kon-o-way ma-sa-chee. Kloshe kah-
kwa.

That’s all I have to say about that.

What do you think?