1840-1841: The US Ex Ex, the PNW, and the still-local Chinuk Wawa
We get quite the useful picture of how widespread the already-creolized Chinuk Wawa was in 1840-1841, when we absorb this great report:
Volume 4 of Charles Wilkes’s “Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition: During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842″ (Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1845).
That’s the same exploring voyage that brought Horatio Hale to the Pacific Northwest, where he was the first scientifically trained “philologist” — that era’s word for what’s now a “linguist” — to research CW.
Several consecutive chapters detail the experiences of various work groups assigned to examine parts of the Oregon Territory that correspond to present-day Washington and Oregon.
What’s written there shows us that the Jargon was still little known outside its core homeland, i.e. the Hudsons Bay Company-controlled corridor of settlements stretching from Astoria (Fort George) up the Columbia River to Fort Vancouver, south in Oregon into the Willamette Valley, and north in Washington to Fort Nisqually (plus the outpost of Fort Langley on BC’s lower Fraser River).
In 1840-1841, it would seem to me that virtually everyone who lived at, and tribes who lived adjacent to, fur-trade posts in this area generally spoke CW.
Only a few members of more distant tribes did — i.e. those individuals who visited the forts to trade.
A couple of isolated Chinuk Wawa words are reported outside of those settings, peshac ‘bad’ in Puget Sound (where it’s documented from Nootka Jargon days in 1792) and paulalee ‘(gun)powder’ in Makah territory, where the locals may have gotten it by trading with tribes closer to Fort Langley.
See if you agree.
Herewith, my tally of language- and contact-related information gleaned from Wilkes’s narrative.
Chapter IX (events of 1840, western Washington to lower Columbia R.)
p. 317: The first Indigenous PNW people encountered on arrival from Hawai’i (spring of 1840) are some Makahs “who spoke a few words of English” and want to know if the US Ex Ex are “Boston or King George’s ships, by which terms they distinguish Amercans and English”. (These are pre-CW words, known way back in Nootka Jargon times.)
p. 318: The Makah Wakashans “manifested little curiosity”, even at such an exceptionally large ship and so heavily armed. They wear a small silver tube through the nasal septum, and some small brass bells as earrings.
p. 319: Visiting the Klallam Salish, who already are subsisting in significant part on an introduced species, potatoes, and use a great many trade goods (pp. 319-320: they ‘boasted’ to the USEE of the good trades they make).
p. 321: Klallams “spoke of scalping” and suchlike activities.
p. 323: Wilkes interviews a Native (Klallam?) man to have him take a letter to HBC Fort Nisqually, the man repeats his “ave [Maria]” but the two can understand virtually nothing of each other.
p. 332: On land, it’s “impossible to proceed without the aid of the Indians”, who expect a ” ‘potlatch,’ or ‘gift’ ” in addition to their pay. (This may be a generic observation added later, after the expedition had been massively exposed to CW on the Columbia River. Or it may be a word noted locally around Nisqually, where as seen below Jargon was already spoken.)
p. 335: An illustration of a Native fishery on the upper Chehalis River where there’s a supposedly Nisqually (!) Salish village. (We’d expect this might have been an Upper Chehalis Salish community.)
p. 336: “The interpreter” speaks with these people and river navigation info is gotten.
p. 337-338: The Indians around Cowlitz Mission are Klickitats but “have obtained the general name of the Cowlitz Indians”.
p. 338: Canadian HBC retiree and Cowlitz settler Simon Plamondon is guide (he’s now recognized as ancestory of many Métis PNW’ers), and he appears to function as the Indian interpreter.
p. 338-339: Cowlitz Native women describe buckskin tanning in great detail.
p. 341: Mt. Coffin is the established name of the Native burial place at the mouth of the Cowlitz River; Native guides firmly express their own wishes. (This is possibly an early translation of CW míməlust-íliʔi ‘dead.people place’. Cf. p. 347.)
Preceding p. 343 is an illustration of Comcomly’s tomb at Astoria:
p. 346-347: Time is measured in numbers of ” ‘sleeps’ or days” after the catching of the first salmon of the season. (I note this because, from “Western” movies, I had had the impression that ‘sleeps’ referred to distances only.)
p. 347: Upstream from Astoria, another traditional burial location is known as Coffin Rock; the Klickitat guide visits a village to make inquiries on behalf of the explorers. (Cf. p. 341.)
p. 349: Visiting Fort Vancouver community (“swarming with children, whites, half-breeds, and pure Indians”), with an illustration of it:
p. 351: The distinct “Canadian French” is used with the (HBC) “servants” (employees).
p. 352: 5:00 PM on Saturday is when the week’s rations are given out (cf. the old Chinuk Wawa term muckamuck sun, literally ‘food day’, for ‘Saturday’); this food isn’t lavish or of high quality. Mixed-ethnicity relationships and families are the norm in the Fort Vancouver community. (Thus the strength of Chinuk Wawa here.)
p. 354-355: The 38 Indian and half-breed kids (23 boys, 15 girls) who are schooled here speak both English and French. (And certainly creolized Chinuk Wawa.) This community is a remarkably orderly place.
p. 356: Both Indians and Settlers expect a “present of ‘pot latch’ to boot” whenever they buy anything from the HBC; trappers can and do bring their mixed-ethnicity wives and families with them on expeditions.
p. 357: One location that already has a seemingly Chinook Jargon place name is “Wapauto Island on the Willamette” (now called Sauvie I.).
p. 361: Eight young Americans are trying to leave Oregon country because there are no White women to marry (highly indicative of the era’s differences in attitudes between Americans and the Canadians and Britishers of the HBC); illustration of “Indian mode of rocking cradle”:
CHAPTER X (1841, Willamette Valley to Nisqually)
… various American and ex-HBC settlers are already along the Willamette …
… various American and ex-HBC settlers are already along the Willamette …
p. 370: Illustration of Willamette Falls salmon fishing by Indigenous people:
p. 373: Interpreter Michael (Michel) La Framboise “has a wife of high rank in every tribe, by which means he has secured his safety.”
p. 374-375: Rev. Mr. “Bachelét” (Chinook Jargon expert FN Blanchet!), Catholic missionary, has an Indian school and serves area of “Faulitz” (Tualatin), Willamette Valley, Clackamas River.
p. 376: The Methodist missionaries’ avowed main purpose is to attract more American settlers.
p. 379: Indigenous population figures show that they still outnumber Settlers.
p. 389: The “Little Powder River”. (I think this is the Molalla/”Pole Alley” River, the latter variant being confused with Chinuk Wawa’s púlali ‘powder, dust’. More evidence of early CW place names.)
p. 391: “The settlers and Indians told us” a great deal of information about salmon fishing and storage.
p. 392-393: An illustration of Indian dice for women’s game & the local word for dentalium “ahikia“, i.e. a K’alapuyanized (with a- noun prefix) and/or Upper Chinookanized (with a- feminine noun prefix) borrowing of the originally Nuuchahnulth, then Chinuk Wawa, háykʰwa. Christian preaching has to be in Chinuk Wawa on the Clackamas River, with the Clackamas chief as interpreter (though he’s suspect to have taken some liberties with it for fun).
p. 399: Negotiating with Upper Chehalis tribal people via interpeter Plamondon.
CHAPTER XI (1841, Nisqually to Walla Walla)
p. 405: Leaving Nisqually for Walla Walla, with 60 voyageurs (~45 “Canadians”, ~15 Iroquois) + 8 wives in the company. One location near here is known in Canadian French as Prairie du Thé ‘tea prairie’, maybe for the presence of the Labrador/muskeg/Hudsons Bay tea plant.
p. 410: Illustration of fishing huts at the Dalles:
p. 424: A Walla Walla (Sahaptin) boy speaks both English and the local Native language. (But not Jargon.)
p. 427: In Walla Walla area, a medicine woman doing a traditional “sucking” cure. (Cf. my etymology of CW t’əmánəwas ‘spirit power’ as SW Washington Salish ‘sucking at the belly’.)
p. 431: Some info is gotten from a Dalles-area Native man about the theft of some of the explorers’ belongings.
CHAPTER XII (1841, Nisqually to Okanogan)
p. 436: Lots of info from 3 Twana Salish people of Hood Canal about a missing theodolite eyepiece.
p. 445: The Nisqually Indians have their own language “but in communication with others they use the Chinook language”. All business with Indians has to be accompanied by a potlatch, as noted several times already in the Narrative.
p. 446: The “good guide” Pierre Charles’s companion Peter Bercier (both probably Canadians, to judge from their names) speaks “English, and all the languages of the country”.
p. 449: A place a bit south of Nisqually and the “Smalocho” river is named La Tête, which I figure is a Canadian French term (see several more in the following pages). Otherwise, it could’ve been that French word loaned into Chinuk Wawa, latét ‘head’.
pp. 453ff: Yakama chief “Tidias” (who I think may be later sources’ “Teias”) and an older chief provide lots of info.
p. 458: The French name of Entiat in modern north-central Washington is Point de Bois (‘woods point’).
p. 461: French is the language spoken at Fort Okinagan as at all other posts of the company. The common term siffleurs = pikas, a.k.a. rock rabbits in modern regional English.
p. 463: The voyageurs call the Indian stick game jeu de main ‘hand game’. A local geographic name is the Grande Coulée, modern English ‘Grand Coulee’.
p. 464: The Isles des Pierres are a feature on the upper Columbia River. (‘Rock Islands’.)
p. 465: The Coulée des Pierres ‘rock coulee’.
p. 466: Some info is obtained from Okanagan Salish Indians.
p. 467: Some info from Spokane Chief Cornelius or Bighead about a pre-contact prophecy by a medicine man.
p. 468: At Fort Colvile there’s “an old half-breed Canadian” who has been here 50 years, that is, before the fur traders arrived.
CHAPTER XIII (1841, north from Okanogan)
This chapter reports plenty of Interior Salish words, in what looks like an untutored spelling scheme, so perhaps separate from what the expedition’s philologist Hale collected.
p. 487-488: A man, evidently Chief Spokane Garry, speaks good English.
p. 497: The large number of languages spoken in the Interior necessitated a long chain of interpreters. Missionary Marcus Whitman thinks the Nez Perce language is taking over (note — not Chinuk Wawa!).
p. 501: One of the earliest occurrences of the name “Diggers” for Native people is in regard to tribes north of Shoshone-Bannocks.
CHAPTER XIV (1841, north from Nisqually & to San Francisco)
p. 510: Catholic mission building (Steilacoom?); some Indians at Port Orchard can say prayers and tell beads, and “could sing some Catholic hymns in their own language”. (Which may be Chinuk Wawa, which most of the expedition wouldn’t recognize.) Skagit Salish people of Whidbey Island provide lots of information successfully to the explorers.
p. 513: Skokomish, Suquamish, Klallam, and Skagit Salish tribes of Puget Sound “do not scruple to call one another ‘peshac,’ or bad”. (A pre-CW word of Nootka Jargon, noted all over the coast by the 1790s.)
p. 516: A camera lucida is used to take the portrait of Makah (“Classet”) Chief George of the “Tatouche tribe”, who speaks pidgin-style English.
p. 517: With the Makahs one item of trade is “paulalee” (powder), Chief George (who is also known as King George, p. 518) of Tatouche Island knows “a few words of English” but communication is difficult. He keeps asking “What for so big ship?” and “What for so many mans?” (He may have been known as King George due to an affinity for trading with British ships and/or the HBC’s Fort Langley.)
p. 522: The well-known mixed-race brothers Ramsey and George receive poor marks as the (so-called) pilots guiding visiting ships through the Columbia River bar.
p. 524 is followed by illustration of the wreck of the US Ex Ex ship Peacock in the Columbia River estuary:
All in all, the Chinuk Wawa found by the Expedition is concentrated at Fort Vancouver, as we know from Horatio Hale’s extensive published chapter in one its Report volumes.
It’s also detectable throughout the zone of mixed-ethnicity household settlement radiating from that location.
There’s scarcely a trace of the Jargon outside that zone, though; even adjacently in Puget Sound we still see, 50 years into Euro-American exploration and trading, clearer signs of Nootka Jargon than of CW.
Well then, when did Chinook Jargon extend beyond its comfy Fort Vancouver-centric homeland?
William Turkel got this right, in his historical linguistic study in 2004 — the key event was the Fraser River (and subsequent) gold rushes. From 1858 onwards, Chinuk Wawa was suddenly and massively imported northward into what’s now British Columbia, mainly by Americans who had relatively little experience of this language, which was already famous for being a way to talk to Indigenous people.
Up until 1858 — for the first 53 or at most 63 years of this language’s provable existence — if you spoke CW, you were “down south” in the CW heartland or closely adjacent to it. The language was a pidgin, as far as I can tell you, for its first 2 or 3 decades.
By about 1825, when the big Fort Vancouver community was founded, your model of how to talk Chinook Jargon was the early-creolized variety. (An outpost was at Fort Langley, “down south” by BC standards, established 1827.)
From 1858 onwards, you might instead be up in interior BC, speaking a re-pidginized variety of the Jargon, which in short order became the second dialect and developed independently from Oregon Country CW.