Upper Chehalis Salish as the original Stick Indians?

From George Gibbs’s phenomenal 1877 ethnographic and historical tour de force, “Tribes of Western Washington and Northwest Oregon”…


Upper Chehalis people (image credit: Chehalis Tribe)

On page 172, Gibbs contrasts the “Tsihalis” (i.e. Lower Chehalis) with the Upper Tsihalis, whom the Puget Sound tribes call “Stak-ta-mish, or inland people”. This would be Lushootseed Salish ~ s-t’áq’t’-abš, though this word isn’t in the Bates-Hess-Hilbert 1994 dictionary.

That designation was expressed to Settlers via Chinook Jargon, as stík-s(h)áwásh, ‘forest Natives’.

Also note the similarity between the Lushootseed “Stak-ta-mish” and stík-s(h)áwásh! This coincidence may have reinforced everyone’s use of the Jargon term in frontier times.

This in turn became our regional English ‘stick Indians‘.

From another of his writings, we know Gibbs was also familiar with the use of this term to denote supernatural beings.

Gibbs didn’t know everything, but he knew far more than most Settlers. He had up-close & personal experience among tribes from northwestern California to a good ways up the BC coast.

So I think here we have some of the earliest reliable evidence of the Chinuk Wawa phrase stík-s(h)áwásh.

If you ask me, it’s neat to learn that this expression is specifically from the northern dialect of CW.

Not just differences in words and grammar, but whole phrases too, distinguish the older southern (lower Columbia River) from the newer northern versions of this language!

‘Stick Indians’ and variations such as ‘Brush Indians’ went on to refer to various tribes living inland (but close enough to the ocean to get contrasted with those salt chuck tribes that used the Jargon) — such as Samish people near modern Bellingham, Washington, and a number of Dene / Athabaskan tribes of northwest BC.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?