1904: An invitation to another Uncle Joe Kuhn clambake

As much as Chinook invitations were a Pacific Northwest institution…


The invitee (image source: “Men of the Pacific Coast“, 1903)

…Joe Kuhn could be described that way all by himself. The man appears to have been outgoing, popular, and mythologized as a son of Washington state. (He wasn’t really born here.)

Kuhn’s been seen in articles on my website before; here’s yet another of his colorful compositions.

The Jargon here is out of a book, and is very Settler in its enthusiasm, its English-language influence, and its disregard for some of the grammar of Chinuk Wawa.

I’m not going to deeply analyze this text for you, but I’ll throw in a couple of footnotes as pointers about Chinook mistakes not to make.


“Uncle Joe” Kuhn Arranges for Another Oldtime Clam Bake Over at Port Townsend.

Here’s a polite invitation, in choicest Chinook, requesting the “pleasure of your company” at a clambake to be given under the patronage of “Uncle Joe” Kuhn at Port Townsend, Wash., August 27. Uncle Joe is one of the oldest living white men born in this state, and he is prominent among the Masons, for he was grand master of the ancient fraternity once. He gave these annual clambakes at his own expense for a long time, and now they are run under his auspices. He sent the invitation on a postal card to Judge Henry L. Kennan of the superior court, who was also a grand master of Masonry in this state. 

The invitation, in Chinook, with the accompanying translation in English, follows, and it is an interesting study as showing the simplicity of the Siwash language:

Kla-how-ye Six:

Tahl-kee [1] mika wa-wa nika: Spose mika mamook echt [2] o’na potlatch kah-kwa Siwash mamook ahnkutte; nika pee hyu tillicums charco copo mika illahia; nika wawa mika wawa, nika o-le-man alta. Mika wawa spose hul-o-i-ma [3] mamook kahkwa, mesika charco; nika wawa huloima mika tumtum. Klaska wawa mesika ticky mamook kahkwa mika pee mika Siwash tillicum mamook ahnkutte. Naah, spose mika pee mika tillicum wake charco. Nika pee huloima klonass mamook mesahchie copo mesika, pee mamook piah kopa [4] mika moos-moos house.

Sir — Lately you requested that I give another clambake Indian style, promising that you and your friends would attend. Then I said, “No, I am an old man, now.” You then said, “You ask others to give the bake; tell them we will attend.” I spoke to friends, telling them what you said. They said: “Tell your friends to keep their word.” 

Therefore you are hereby summoned to be and appear near Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend, on August 27, 1904, at 10 a.m., then and there you are commanded to present this writ: failing so to do you will either receive the contempt of the orders giving the picnic, or we’ll set fire to your barn. 

Judge Kennan will send his regrets.

The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), Wednesday Morning Aug 24, 1904, page 7

Those pointers:

Tahl-kee [1] has more of a meaning of ‘yesterday’ than the ‘lately’ seen in the translation. 

It’s unusual, within Chinuk Wawa, to use the word for ‘1’, echt [2], for an indefinite, non-specific referent even though the English counterpart ‘a’ works that way. Also, o’na potlatch ‘clam giveaway’ is understandable, but I’m sticking with with my observation that for fluent CW speakers it was extremely rare to use potlatch as a noun. 

And it’s kind of odd to use the word for ‘other’ as a pronoun ‘another; someone else’, as Kuhn does in spose hul-o-i-ma [3] mamook kahkwa. 

There’s an extraneous preposition kopa in mamook piah kopa [4] mika moos-moos house ‘set fire to your barn’, owing to the pressure of the English wording. 

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?