1902: “The Yamhills” by the other Cooper

I’m no huge fan of James Fenimore Cooper, so it’s a relief to me that this here Settler-written “Indian” fiction from the Grand Ronde area isn’t from his pen.


The author waxing boosteristic about “Walnut City”! (Image credit: Atticus Hotel)

I’m not really liking this book in any case, though, as it’s awfully romanticized.

But — it does have some Chinuk Wawa dialogue, and some fun sketches by the author’s brother or some such relative to liven up this blog post 🙂 

Today’s topic is “The Yamhills: An Indian Romance” by [“Colonel“, not a nut pun] J[acob].C[alvin], 1845-1937. Cooper (McMinnville, OR: The Author, 1902).

This publication had a determinedly positive review in the Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, by a reviewer who found few traits to praise beyond the possibility that the story might inspire locals to a renewed love and appreciation of Oregon. 

One technical problem with this novel is that it’s almost entirely told in narration, so there’s extremely little dialogue in the first place. And only part of that takes place in Chinook. And some of the Chinook here is substandard. 

Plus, it turns out that J.C. Cooper wasn’t a gifted stylist. He cranks out cliché after exhausted trope. I had a hard time getting through the whole book…

But I did, and here’s what I found worthy of sharing with you today.

Page 6:



Page 8: 



Page 10:



Page 48 uses an expression “polaklie kula-kula” to mean ‘brown bird’, but it actually means ‘night bird’.  

Page 55:


Page 57’s “Mika tum-tum” for ‘your will’, i.e. ‘as you like’, sounds like something no one would ever say in Jargon: 


Page 57:


Page 59’s “Nika iskum muk-a-muk” would actually mean something more like “I’d take (i.e. accept) some food!”


Page 62’s European-style politeness, ‘After you’, is preposterous in Jargon: 



Page 65’s “skoo-kum e-ko-lie” for ‘great whale’ would have a sense more like ‘a powerful whale’, and “klat-ta-wa kel-a-pi taht-le-lum” sounds to me more like ‘went back ten times’:


Pages 65-66 have “cha-ko nika” for ‘come to me’, but I can only understand it in real Jargon as a rare way to say ‘I’m coming / I came here’ etc.


On page 94, “ko-pet sullex” is pretty understandable for ‘stop fighting’, although for that sense I’d expect the causative form “kopet mamook sullex“; as written, it sounds like ‘stop being angry’, a sort of odd thing to say. 


Page 130:


Page 149, a simple command: 



On page 103, someone says, ” ‘Mem-a-loost klim-in-a-whit!’ (Death to liars)”, which actually would mean something like ‘dead people tell lies’; it’s illustrated on page 179:



Bonus fact:

Jacob Calvin Cooper also authored “Red Pioneers: Romance of Early Indian Life in the West” (1929). Which might be equally fun reading.

What do you think?
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