1939: Sarah L. Byrd (born 1843?) remembers
An elder pioneer was interviewed by the Depression-era Federal Writers Project in the 1930s…
Works Progress Administration, that is.
She was interviewed by Sara B. Wrenn in Portland, Oregon on March 3, 1939.
This was a “folklife” initiative, essentially turning the tactic of “salvage ethnography” to Settler culture by interviewing some of the oldest elders.
This interviewee’s oldtime rural dialect is transcribed kind of painstakingly, as is the Chinuk Wawa she includes.
Sarah Byrd’s family immigrated from “Ioway” to Oregon City, Oregon in 1848.
I don’t know if her married surname Byrd is from a Red River Métis husband or not. “Bird” was a big name connecting the PNW with the Red River.
Here she is talking more like a Settler than a “Siwash”, i.e. she’s with a group of other such ladies, likely years after the frontier because Gearhart, in Clatsop County, Oregon was incorporated in 1918.
If “Mrs. Vantine” is Caroline (Cosgrove) Vantine, this is 1907 or earlier, but still probably after the 1890 “closing of the frontier”. A neat side note about Caroline, as a young wife and mother she lived in Boise, Idaho Territory, at a time when Jargon was still spoken there due to the legacy of the Oregon Trail.
In classic “Oregon Pioneer Association” style, they’ve agreed to talk only Chinuk Wawa for the duration of a lunch reunion…
…begin to come down from Portland, an’ they would have horse
races. My! I c’n remember seein’ them people when they first got there.
The roads wuz so dusty, an’ their faces wuz jest like a siwash. Thet ol’
hotel stood there a long time. It wuzn’t so many years ago it burned down.
I us’d to talk jargon like a siwash. Once down at Gearhart some ladies wuz
visitin’ me, an’ they c’d talk jargon too. We had lunch, an’ we wuzn’t to
say anythin’ but in jargon. One of ’em, Mrs. Vantine, wuz perty good, so I
sed to her, “Potlatch nika mika seopose” (Give me your hat) First she
looked kinda puzzled, an’ then, all at once she smiled an’ took off her
hat an’ giv it to me.
Well, I’m gettin’ a little old — 96 years my next birthday, but I feel
chipper as a chipmunk, an’ I jes like to see anybody call me “Grandma”
thet I ain’t “grandma” to.
— from an interview in the Library of Congress
Siwash = sáwásh = ‘Native person’.
Potlatch nika mika seopose = pá(t)lach nayka mayka síyápuɬ = ‘give me your hat’, in average Settler pronunciation.