siʔaɬ (Chief Seattle’s) speeches to back-translate: Part 2 of 3

wəx̣t hayu masi kʰapa ukuk lalang-tayi Peter Bakker, yaka munk-kəmtəks nayka qʰa pus nanich ixt ɬush skul-pipa…

From the master’s thesis “The Many Speeches of Seathl: The Manipulation of the Record on Behalf of Religious, Political and Environmental Causes” by Eli Gifford comes this second of three known speeches by Chief Seattle to have been written down as they were remembered.


Chief Seattle’s mark on a document he couldn’t possibly have understood well (image credit: HeraldNet)

What we have in each case is most likely the words of the chief’s Chinuk Wawa interpreter to the White government officials, as well as to any Native participants who did not speak Lushootseed Salish.

So this is more material ripe for the “back-translating” into Jargon. The northern dialect would be most historically accurate.

Pages 62-63 (1855), from the Treaty of Point Elliott parlay:

seathl speech 2 a

seathl speech 2 b

I look upon you as my father. I and the rest regard you as such. All of the Indians have the same good feeling towards you and will send it on paper to the Great Father. All of them, men, women and children rejoice that he has sent you to take care of them. My mind is like yours. I don’t want to say more. My heart is very good towards Dr. Maynard. I want always to get medicine from him.

Now by this we make friends and put away all bad feelings if we ever had any. We look upon you as our father. We will never change our minds, but since you have been to see us we will always be the same. Now, now do you send this paper of our hearts to the Great Chief. That is all I have to say.

Obviously, when you translate this back into “Chinook”, it’s best if you keep in mind that this English version is some witness’s idea of a culturally proper way to convey a dignified political negotiation to a literate White audience. You’ll have to filter out the overlaid Settler coloration.

There’s also the mechanical issue that this is speech that went through two layers of translation, which I can testify always leaves its mark. My fondly remembered linguistics professor Joe “The Whole Mahosker” Malone of Barnard College, Columbia University taught us entire courses about these issues, and his wisdom has guided me in my work on a Slovenian novel, Chinook Jargon letters, and Brazilian song lyrics.

That said, today’s quotation is recognizably Chinook Jargon in its phrasing and metaphors. And it’s short. Not hard to restore.

Bonus challenge:

Once someone volunteers a back-translation to Chinuk Wawa, will one of my readers restore that to Dxʷləšucid?

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?