1893: “Siwashes” at the [Chicago World’s] Fair

This is an oddity, with genuine Chinuk Wawa from Native people, far from home, who chose to play up to White people’s stereotypes.


George Hunt 3 years after the Fair (image credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not, however, our only documentation of pidgin languages being spoken at the famed Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.

I’m only going to extract the Jargon quotations from the following article, which you can “CTRL+” to read in full.

  • “Clow-how-i-um Six!” … not translated; local readers knew it means ‘hello friend’; I’ll say that that the preservation of the word’s original “M” at the end of ɬax̣á(w)yam may be evidence in favour of my position that that word lost the “M” mostly in the mouths of Settlers and under the influence of the English language greeting ‘how are you?’
  • “Mica kum-tux Vancouver?” … not translated either; locals knew it means ‘do you know (are you familiar with) Vancouver?’
  • “Cow mica ti-ee?” is translated here as ‘Where is your manager?’, totally clear in the exotic setting of Illinois. That man is here called:
  • “Chickamen Illahe” … ‘the god of money (George Hunt)’, but the phrase as shown means ‘money place; land of money’. If I can judge by the use of the word ‘god’ — which is saghalie ti-ee in Chinook Jargon — the writer may well have intended the more logical compound, chickamen ti-ee ‘money boss’. Gosh knows whether it was him or the editor or the typesetter that put it out in this goofy form.

Here’s the whole article, “Siwashes at the Fair”:

siwashes at the fair

— from the Vancouver (BC) Daily World of July 27, page 3, columns 1-2

Bonus fact: 

George Hunt, who was managing the exhibit of Native cultural practices at the Fair, is famous for having been anthropologist Franz Boas’s main consultant on the Kwak’wala (“Kwakiutl”) language. There are those who have voiced criticisms of Hunt’s competence in Kwak’wala, given his “foreign” ancestry that’s noted in this article.

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