1914: Pioneers appeal for “Indian war” pensions
Some big names among early Settlers appear here: Oregon Trail memorial promoter Ezra Meeker, Lower Canada rebel and Champoeg participant FX Matthieu, and women’s rights activist and publisher Abigail Scott Duniway…
But for us, the main event is the description of how much Chinuk Wawa was still being bandied about among oldtimers at a post-frontier Pioneers Association meeting.
Here’s the section headlined “Everything Is in Chinook”; among the categories to put this into are “Settlers playing Indian”.
But also, we see here the early Settlers’ (“pioneers”) recognition that they had learned Chinook Jargon via contact with Native people, for the purpose of sheer survival.
Also made plain is that this language has a structure of its own, with proper ways of pronouncing and phrasing what you say. I value the perceptive “locals only” observation that these folks spoke differently from those who learned CW from books!
Everything Is in Chinook.
Nearly all the speaking, most of the
singing and every bit of the laughing
was in the Chinook language.
And it wasn’t the kind of Chinook
that is learned fro mbooks [sic]. It had
been taught the “old-timers” by the
Indians themselves. They pronounced
the words with the proper accent and
used the correct Chinook idioms.
Probablv the most entertaining talk
was that of E. B. McFarland, repre-
senting the “Unimproved Order of Red
Men.” With elaborate manual gestures[,]
comical facial contortions and much
elocutionary emphasis, he protested, in
Chinook fashion, against the habit of
the “Boston men” in poaching upon
aboriginal reserves. Laughter frequent-
ly interrupted his monologue.
Mrs. Abigail Scott Duniway gave a
brief address and was loudly applauded
before, during and after.
Other speakers were ex-Governor T.
T. Geer, Ezra Meeker and half a score
of pioneer men and women, who extem-
poraneously expresses [sic] their pleasure at
— from the Salem (OR) Daily Capital Journal of June 20, 1914, page 5, column 1
The idea of “Indian War pensions” is questionable. Most or all such conflicts in the Pacific Northwest had been precipitated by Settler incursion onto designated Native lands, disregard of treaties, and general mistreatment and provocation of Indigenous people.
Why were so many Settlers, in the middle of frontier times when it was a lot of backbreaking work to make a living, so willing to drop everything and ride hundreds of miles to possible death in battle? It was commonly known that the US government often paid Whites who submitted invoices under the rubric of “Indian fighting”. Given the well-documented shortage of circulating cash in the frontier West, this was a rare opportunity to become not just self-sufficient, but prosperous.
Not to mention that most of the “Indian Wars” had occurred sixty years previous. These claimants’ cases had been examined long and thoroughly by Uncle Sam, and rejected for reason.