1923: Hugh hiyu tillicum [sic(s)]
We now know of a total of 4 letters in Chinuk Wawa written by William “Willie” McCluskey of the Swinomish Indian Reservation in northwestern Washington State.
Ed Benn (1874-1934) (image credit: findagrave)
In previous years I’ve published the two that we then knew of. Today I’ll show one of the two newly discovered thanks to the help of my reader (and professional researcher) Alex Code.
Like always, I’ll do a deep dive into the Chinook of this, after letting you read the source newspaper article for yourself.
HUGH HIYU TILLICUM
McCluskey Tells Eldridge Indians Regard Him Klosha.
Hugh Eldridge postmaster, is in receipt of a letter written in Chinook by William McCluskey, of LaConner, commending him for interest shown in behalf of the Indians in their coming convention to be held in Bellingham, June 9.
The letter and translation follow:
“LaConner Wash., May 26, 1923.
“Mr. Hugh Eldridge,
“Kloshe Tillicum Hugh:
“Nika Nanich copa paypa “Bellingham Herald” iktah mika delate klosh wawa copa ikt Tyee Boston-man “Ed Benn” copa Tacoma, pe spose yaka mamook kumtux konaway ahncutty Boston tillicum chacho yahkwa illahe, pe claska help klahowyum tillicum copa ikta klaska tikeh mamook copa Bellingham.
“Nika mamook kumtux hyue tillicum copa yahkwa Swinomish ikta mika wawa copa Paypa, pe klaska Oh! delate massee tumtum copa mika. Chee klaska kumtux mitlite ikt Boston-man copa illahe delate tyee, klosh tumtum, copa klahwoyum tillicum.
“Alke claska onaway delate youlth tumtum spose hyue ahncutty Boston tillicum knoamoxt mika okok sun konaway tillicum mitlite.
“Delate nika kloshe tumtum spose okok nika paypa klap mika delate skookum pe youlth tumtum.
(Signed) “WILLIAM McCLUSKEY.”
The translation follows:
“I saw in the Bellingham Herald your letter to the white chief Ed Benn in Tacoma, asking him to come to our convention at Bellingham and bring the old timers with him to help us make our plans to get what we are after.
“I have told the Indians here about your letter and they feel kindly to you. They have just found out that they have such a good friend in Bellingham. All the Indians will be very proud if you and the other old settlers meet them on June 9 at Bellingham.
“I will be very glad if this letter makes you understand how we appreciate your good will.
— from the Bellingham (WA) Herald, May 29, 1923, page 2, courtesy of Alex Code
Now the deep dive:
“HUGH HIYU TILLICUM” is average Settler Chinook for the post-frontier era. It’s out of practice. The literal meaning is ‘Hugh is a lot of people’, or ‘Hugh is a lot of friends’! Surely that wasn’t what was intended. Pacific Northwest Settlers took “hiyu” into their English, using it often in a new meaning ‘big’ due to confusion with another Jargon word, “hyas”. In today’s headline you see Settlers doing this Anglophone-literacy-influenced thing of further stretching the meaning of “hiyu” to the metaphorical ‘great’. (My sense of actual fluent Chinook Jargon is that folks instead said “kloshe tillicum“, a ‘good friend’, just as McCluskey does at the start of his letter.)
The word “klosha” in the sub-headline is a typesetter’s misspelling of “kloshe”, i.e. ‘well; good’.
Now for the letter, with my own interpretive information put up against the newspaper’s supplied translation; “DDR” indicates my own translation.
Kloshe  Tillicum Hugh:
ɬúsh tílixam hyú*:
good friend Hugh:
DDR: ‘Dear friend Hugh:’
Nika Nanich copa paypa “Bellingham Herald” iktah mika delate klosh wawa copa ikt Tyee
nayka nánich kʰupa pípa “bélingham* hérəld*” íkta mayka dlét ɬúsh wáwa kʰupa íxt táyí-
I see in paper Bellingham Herald what you really well say to one chief-
DDR: ‘I saw in the paper “Bellingham Herald” what you really said well to a certain boss’
‘I saw in the Bellingham Herald your letter to the white chief’
Boston-man Ed Benn copa Tacoma, pe spose  yaka mamook kumtux  konaway ahncutty Boston
bástən-mán éd* bén* kʰupa təkʰóma*, pi spus yaka mamuk-kə́mtəks kʰánawi ánqati bástən-
American-man Ed Benn in Tacoma, and if he make-know all oldtime American-
DDR: ‘White man, Ed Benn, in Tacoma, and (said) for him to inform all the oldtime White’
‘Ed Benn in Tacoma, asking him to come to our convention at Bellingham and bring the old timers’
tillicum chacho yahkwa illahe,  pe claska help klahowyum tillicum copa ikta klaska tikeh mamook
tílixam cháku yakwá-ílihi, pi ɬaska hélp* (k)ɬax̣áwyam tílixam kʰupa íkta ɬaska tíki mámuk
people come here-place, and they help pitiful people with what they want do
DDR: ‘people to come over here, and they can help some pitiful folks with what they’re wanting to do’
‘with him to help us make our plans to get what we are after.’
copa Bellingham. Nika mamook kumtux hyue tillicum copa yahkwa  Swinomish  ikta mika wawa
kʰupa bélingham. nayka mamuk-kə́mtəks háyú tílixam kʰupa yakwá swínəmish* íkta mayka wáwa
at Bellingham. I make-know many people at here Swinomish what you say
‘at Bellingham. I let a lot of people know over here at Swinomish what you said’
‘I have told the Indians here about your letter and they’
copa Paypa, pe klaska Oh! delate massee tumtum  copa mika. Chee klaska kumtux mitlite ikt
kʰupa pípa, pi ɬaska, ó!, dlét mási-tə́mtəm kʰupa mayka. chxí ɬaska kə́mtəks míɬayt íxt
in paper, and they, oh!, really thanks-heart to you. newly they know exist one
‘in the paper, and they, oh, they were really thankful to you. They’re finding out just now that there’s a certain’
‘feel kindly to you. They have just found out that they have such a good friend in Bellingham.’
Boston-man copa illahe delate tyee,  klosh tumtum, copa klahwoyum tillicum.
bástən-mán kʰupa ílihi dlét táyí, ɬúsh-tə́mtəm, kʰupa ɬax̣áwyam tílixam.
American-man in land really chief, good-heart, to pitiful people.
DDR: ‘White man in the place who’s a real chief, good-hearted to pitiful folks.’
Alke claska onaway delate youlth tumtum spose hyue ahncutty Boston tillicum knoamoxt
áɬqi ɬaska kʰánawi dlét yútɬiɬ-tə́mtəm spus háyú ánqati bástən-tílixam kʰánumákwst
eventually they all really glad-heart if many old.time American-people together
DDR: ‘All of them will be really glad if a lot of oldtime White people are together with’
‘All the Indians will be very proud if you and the other old settlers meet them on June’
mika okok sun konaway tillicum mitlite. 
mayka úkuk sán kʰánawi tílixam míɬayt.
you that day all people be.there.
DDR: ‘you that day that all of the people are here.’
‘9 at Bellingham.’
Delate nika kloshe tumtum spose okok nika paypa klap  mika delate skookum pe youlth tumtum.
dlét nayka ɬúsh-tə́mtəm spus úkuk nayka pípa t’ɬáp mayka dlét skúkum pi yútɬiɬ-tə́mtəm.
really I good-heart if this my letter find you really strong and glad-heart.
DDR: ‘I’m really happy if this letter of mine finds you’re really healthy and in good spirits.’
‘I will be very glad if this letter makes you understand how we appreciate your good will.’
DDR: ‘Your friend…’
There’s a number of typical Northern dialect features in today’s reading that I feel I’ve already harped on enough in previous posts.
Here’s some other stuff:
Kloshe  Tillicum Hugh: This means not just ‘good friend Hugh’ but also replicates standard written English letters’ opening, ‘dear friend Hugh’. Chinook Jargon letters use kloshe this way quite a lot.
…iktah mika delate klosh wawa…, pe spose  yaka mamook kumtux…: This right here is a little bit tricky to interpret. I don’t feel it’s the kind of thing we’d spontaneously say out loud in a Chinuk Wawa conversation. ‘…what you really said well, and (said) for him to inform…’ That’s just weird. Don’t try it at home. This particular part of the letter is evidence that Mr. McCluskey was familiar with letter-writing, and knew that letters (in English) use a different style of language from informal talk.
…mamook kumtux  konaway ahncutty Boston tillicum: my experience of the Jargon suggests it’d be more usual to hear someone say mamook kumtux kopa konaway ahncutty Boston tillicum. The latter is, literally, ‘make-known to all the oldtime American people’. Without the kopa, the expression sounds like ‘teach them how to come over here’.
Yahkwa illahe (‘here-place’) is a common northern-dialect Chinook Jargon expression for ‘this area, this place here’, etc.
A related expression is copa yahkwa  , literally ‘at here’. This is another common northern-dialect expression, meaning generally ‘over here’.
Just plain Swinomish  is used here to mean ‘at Swinomish’. It’s a perfectly fluent example of Chinuk Wawa’s option to leave out preposition. More accurate is to say that you can leave out the generic preposition kopa. The few other prepositions, having more specific meanings (e.g. konamoxt ‘(together) with’), can’t easily be left out when you speak Jargon.
Somehow massee tumtum  evokes the Indian Shaker Church for me. That organization has a pretty strong historical presence around Puget Sound, including the Bellingham area. At any rate, it’s not a terribly common expression, and I believe I’ve only found it in the northern dialect of the Jargon.
The expression Boston-man copa illahe(,) delate tyee,  klosh tumtum… works best for me when I understand it as a noun phrase (‘American man in this place’) followed by two relative clauses (‘who is a real chief’ and ‘who is good-hearted’). Your mileage may vary.
Notice how McCluskey doesn’t bother expressing an acculturated calendar date (“June 9”) in Jargon. Instead, , he uses the common expression okok sun ‘(on) that day’ (in time-of-occurrence expressions, Chinuk Wawa often uses no preposition kopa). He specifies further with a plain relative clause, konaway tillicum mitlite ‘that everyone is here’. All of you who have been discussing the oddly hard task of expressing ‘when’ in northern CW, take note — here’s one more way, albeit a rare way, to do that.
Another phrase that obviously reflects Mr. McCluskey’s acquaintance with Settler letter-writing customs is spose okok nika paypa klap  mika delate skookum pe youlth tumtum: ‘if this letter of mine finds you really healthy and in good spirits’. There are a couple-three problems with that, from the standpoint of normal spoken Chinuk Wawa. (A) Inanimate things like letters don’t “find” people in CW, even though letters in English often phrase stuff that way. (B) We might charitably interpret klap in its other known sense of ‘to reach (a place)’, but that expression, too, needs a subject that acts more or less under its own volition/power (e.g. a person, a horse, an automobile). (C) The Jargon has no equivalent for the English idiom ‘find O Adj’, where O = the direct object and Adj = a predicate adjective being used in a more adverb-like sense, ‘in a state of Adj’.
My takeaway from this letter of Willie McCluskey’s is that it’s a treasure, it’s good Jargon, but it has features I wouldn’t advise anyone ever to imitate.
The majority of old letters in Chinook Jargon, many dozens of them, differ from today’s in that they just write as people spoke. And they’re easier to understand because of that. My vote is for us to avoid being influenced by foreign styles when expressing ourselves in CJ.
(That said, I’m looking forward to “Chinook Haiku” day in one of our next Saturday morning Snass Sessions. Contact me if you want to join that Zoom meeting!)