1905, Similkameen: Oh! the Grabbing White Man.

Another example of dead folks’ spirits speaking Chinuk Wawa

grabbing white man

First result in a Google Images search (Image credit: NBC News)

…Totally straight southern interior BC Chinuk Wawa, in fact, from a Syilx Salish man.

With its novel spellings & untranslated Chinook text, the following post- or late-frontier piece was assumed to be understood by local Settler readers. 

Its fluency can also be gauged by how genuinely plaintive its Chinook Jargon (which I guess technically qualifies as poetry/doggerel, as it’s in dialogue with some rhyming English) is.

Thanks to Alex Code for sending this treasure along to us.

I’ll make a few comments after you read for yourself about a White-privileging rumor from the Similkameen-Okanagan country:

oh the grabbing

Oh! the Grabbing White Man.

On the death of Cos-a-tasket, (Pinto) medicine man to the Chuchuwayhas tribe near Hedley, a rumor went out that having no male heir, the old man’s land was public property and therefore jumpable. Hardly was the old man’s remains lowered to that abode where white and red man alike must go than several bold white men staked that portion of the late owner’s reserve. An invocation to the spirit of the deceased was, therefore, made as follows:

Spirit of Cos-a-tas-ket, why
Do white men stake the fair domain 
So lately held by you on earth: 
Your grandson, F’lix ploughs up the same 
Tell him and others of your race 
The error of the sly pale face!

The spirit being thus invoked, answereth:

Ankate nika stop copa mika 
Hiu white man cutun stop kopa nika field 
Pe white man halo potlach chikamun 
Yaka cutun kapswaller nika tipsum 
Kopet hay pe halo chikamun stop kopa nika 
Alta nika mamloose, white man kapswaller nika illahie. 

Karqua nika wawa Cos-a-tas-ket: 

“Son of my son and Indian brothers all 
Before the ‘white’ can push thy claims aside 
There’ll have to be some ‘good old summer time’ 
And Pinto’s wife again shall be a bride.”

— from the Princeton (BC) Similkameen Star of April 22, 1905, page 1, column 3

Interpreting that Jargon:

Ankate nika stop [1] copa [2] mika [3]
ánqati nayka stáp* kʰupa mayka
in.the.past I be.located with you
‘I used to be with you,’

Hiu white man [4] cutun stop kopa nika field [5]
háyú (h)wáyt*-mán-kʰíyutən stáp* kʰupa nayka fíld*
many White-person-horse be.located in my field
‘Lots of Settler horses were in my fields,’

Pe white man halo potlach chikamun [6] 
pi (h)wáyt*-mán hílu pá(t)lach chíkʰəmin
but White-person not give money
‘But the Whites didn’t pay,’ 


Yaka cutun kapswaller nika tipsum [7]
yaka kʰíyutən kapswála nayka típsu
their horse steal my grass
‘Their horses stole my grass,’ 

Kopet hay [8] pe halo chikamun stop [9] kopa nika
kʰəpít héy* pi hílu chíkʰəmin stáp* kʰupa nayka
finished hay and no money be.located with me
‘No more hay and I’ve got no money,’ 

Alta nika mamloose, white man kapswaller nika illahie.
álta nayka míməlus, (h)wáyt-mán kapswála nayka ílihi.
now I dead, White-person steal my land.
‘Now I’m dead, the Whites are stealing my land.’ 

Karqua nika wawa [10] Cos-a-tas-ket:
kákwa nayka wáwa Cos-a-tas-ket:
this.way I tell Cos-a-tas-ket:
‘Here’s what I say to Cos-a-tas-ket:’

Comments on that Chinook Jargon: 

The “copula” stop [1] is common in northern-dialect CJ, especially in British Columbia. It’s a fairly close equivalent to older/southern CJ míłayt, denoting (A) being located somewhere or (B) existing. Also see note [9] below. 

The generic preposition copa [2] covers the idea translated as English ‘with’, when we mean the sense ‘among, in the proximity of’, as here: ‘I was with you / among you.’ But ‘together with’, i.e. joint subjecthood, is kʰanumákwst (‘together’). 

It’s a mild surprise to find ‘singular you’, mika [3], where the “speaker” might be thought to be addressing all of us living people. But it’s not definitely wrong. 

The phrase white man [4] is common in northern CJ for ‘Settler(s)’. 

The new borrowing field [5] surely reflects the usual high degree of contact of CJ with locally spoken English. 

‘Pay’ is often expressed in northern CJ as potlach chikamun [6], ‘give money’. 

The spelling tipsum [7] for the usual CJ típsu ‘grass’ perhaps does reflect local Salish CJ use. I’ve found other words in northern CJ mutated in ways that suggest Salish people adding Salish suffixes that made sense to them. An example from southern interior BC, from my dissertation, is komtaks[-]t f or ‘know’. 

The noun hay [8] confirms a word known to us from letters in northern CJ. 

‘Have’ can be expressed with the northern CW stop that I discussed above. Here’s an example: halo chikamun stop [9] kopa nika, literally ‘no money exists/is.located with me’. 

Fluent CW works this way: nika wawa [10] Cos-a-tas-ket, literally ‘I say Cos-a-tas-ket’, for ‘I say to/tell Cos-a-tas-ket’. 

Kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?