Pre-1907: An elder’s hypothesis

In a 2000 discussion on our old CHINOOK listserv, founder of modern Chinuk Wawa studies, Dr. Henry Zenk, shared a historical quotation from the Grand Ronde, Oregon, area:


I’m sorry we so often lack photos of the people we discuss, and have to resort to pictures of their graves (image credit:

“From “Indians of Oregon,” by Rev. T. M. Ramsdell (Oregon Historical Society ms 852, dated April 29, 1907). Writing about the epidemics that ravaged western Oregon Native populations during the 19th c., Rev. Ramsdell quotes an “old Indian” as follows:

“Hiyu siwash, ankate, copa conaway illahee, caqua tipso;
pe alta wake siya halo;
wake lele conaway siwash mimeloose.”

háyú s(h)áwásh, ánqati, kʰupa kánawi íliʔi, kákwa típsu,
pi álta wík-sáyá hílu,

wík-líli kánawi s(h)áwásh míməlus(t).

‘There were lots of Natives, in the past, all over the country, like the grass;
but now there are almost none;
soon all the Natives will be dead.’

Ramsdell’s spellings are kind of idiosyncratic, a clue that I always take as suggesting he was writing from personal experience of Chinuk Wawa.

Vermont-born Reverend Thomas Manly Ramsdell (1821-1914) was a French Prairie (Chinuk Wawa heartland) pioneer of 1843-1844, an “Indian War” veteran, and a California gold rusher. These facts too suggest he really knew his Jargon.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?