1930: Willie McCluskey and the fair
William “Willie” McCluskey (1862-1939) was a Swinomish Reservation (La Conner, Washington) man who wrote a number of fine Chinook Jargon letters in the post-frontier era.
Telegraph vs. Cyclone at the first Puget Sound Indian Fair in 1930 (image credit: AnacortesWA.gov)
We’ve looked at a couple of them previously; now here’s a fourth, thanks to reader Alex Code’s assiduous research.
Coming such a long time after most folks used Chinuk Wawa in their daily lives, this one had to be supplied with a translation by its addressee.
The newspaper editor, who in past times was the person to provide that service as needed, probably didn’t understand the language himself.
I’ll show you the original article, then do a deep dive into the Jargon of it.
INDIANS TO EXHIBIT
Bellingham Gets Chinook Invitation to LaConner
In the best chinook style, William McCluskey has written to Postmaster Hugh Eldridge, calling attention to the Puget Sound Indian fair, which will be held at LaConner next Fridayj, Saturday and Sunday. The program calls for a baseball game and a canoe race each day.
Signing himself “The Man Who Is Looking After the Fair,” McCluskey writes as follows to Mr. Eldridge, according to Eldridge’s translation:
“Say, Friend Mr. Eldridge:
“I am writing you this letter so that you will understand what we are doing down here at Swinomish.
“All of my Indian friends are making things for the fair. They are doing everything they can to make this fair good. They call it Puget Sound Indian fair. At the fair everything is going to be good. Any white people that come to see it will be very proud of what we are doing when they see the fair. It lasts three days and there will be lots of fun every day and every hour.
“I wish you would do me a favor. I want you to see the reporter for the Bellingham Evening Herald and ask him to put in a good strong piece in his paper telling all of the white people to come down and see the fair. We will be very glad to see you and a lot of the Belliingham people down here.
“Your true friend,
In Chinook, McCluskey’s letter reads:
“Na Sheeks Mr. Eldridge:
“Nika mamook tzu mpapah [sic] kopa mika spose mamook kumtux mika iktah nesika mamook kopa ocoke Swinomish illahe.
“onaKway [sic] kah tilacum mamook delate ikt skookum tumtum spose mamook delate hyas fair, claska mamook name Puget Sound Indian Fair.
“Kopa ocoke fair konaway iktah delate kloshe iktas alkie mitlite spose tilacum nanich, konaway Tekope tilacum alkie delate youlth tumtum spose claska nanich ocoke fair.
“Delate klone sun ocoke fair alkie cooley pe konaway sun pe tintin alkie hyue hehe.
“Nika tickie spose mika mamook klahowyum nesika pe mika wawa Boston Lalang konamoxt News-Papah-man ‘acoke man cooley Bellingham Herald tenas polakly papah’ pe yaka mamook delate skookum wawa kopa yaka papah, kahkwa alkie konaway Tekope tilacum iskum kumtux ikta delate closh nesika mamook kopa ocoke illahe.
“Nesika alkie delate youlth tumtum spose nanich mika chako konamoxt hyue mika tilacum nanich nesika Fair.
“Mika kwonesum delate sheex,
“Man Klosh Nanich Fair.”
— from The Bellingham (WA) Herald of Aug 16, 1930, page 5
Having a closer look into this Chinuk Wawa text, to learn more from it:
My own translation is marked “DDR”.
Na Sheeks Mr. Eldridge:
ná, shíks, místa* éldridj*:
hey, friend, Mister Eldridge:
DDR: ‘Oh friend Mr. Eldridge:’
‘Say, Friend Mr. Eldridge:
Nika mamook tzu mpapah [sic] kopa mika spose mamook kumtux mika iktah nesika mamook
nayka mamuk-t’sə́m pípa kʰupa mayka spus mamuk-kə́mtəks mayka íkta nsayka mámuk
I make-written paper to you in.order.to make-know you what we do
DDR: ‘I’m writing a letter to you to inform you what we are doing’
‘I am writing you this letter so that you will understand what we are doing’
kopa ocoke Swinomish illahe.
kʰupa úkuk swínəmish-ílihi.
in this Swinomish country.
DDR: ‘at this Swinomish reservation.’
‘down here at Swinomish.’
onaKway [sic] kah tilacum mamook delate ikt skookum tumtum spose mamook delate hyas fair,
kʰánawi-qʰá-tílixam mámuk dléyt íxt skúkum-tə́mtəm spus mámuk dléyt háyás fér*,
all-where-people make really one strong-heart in.order.to make really big fair,
DDR: ‘People all over are making really one strong heart to make a really big fair.’
‘All of my Indian friends are making things for the fair. They are doing everything they can to make this fair good.’
claska mamook name Ø Puget Sound Indian Fair.
ɬaska mamuk-ním Ø pyúdjət-sáwnd índiyən fér*.
they make-name it Puget Sound Indian Fair.
DDR: ‘They call it the Puget Sound Indian Fair.’
‘They call it Puget Sound Indian fair.’
Kopa ocoke fair konaway iktah delate kloshe iktas alkie mitlite spose tilacum nanich Ø, konaway
kʰupa úkuk fér* kʰánawi-íkta dléyt ɬúsh íkta-s áɬqi míɬayt spus tílixam nánich Ø, kʰánawi
in this fair all-thing really good thing-s eventually be.present in.order.for people see it, all
DDR: ‘At this fair all kinds of good things will be there for people to see, all of’
‘At the fair everything is going to be good. Any’
Tekope tilacum alkie delate youlth tumtum spose claska nanich ocoke fair.
tk’úp-tílixam áɬqi dléyt yútɬiɬ-tə́mtəm spus ɬaska nánich úkuk fér*.
white-people eventually really proud-heart if they see this fair.
DDR: ‘White people will be really glad when they see this fair.’
‘white people that come to see it will be very proud of what we are doing when they see the fair.’
Delate klone sun ocoke fair alkie cooley pe konaway sun pe tintin alkie hyue hehe.
dléyt ɬún sán úkuk fér* áɬqi kúli pi kʰánawi sán pi tíntin áɬqi háyú híhi.
really three day this fair eventually run and all day and hour* eventually much fun.
DDR: ‘Actually this fair will run 3 days, and every day and hour there will be lots of fun.’
‘It lasts three days and there will be lots of fun every day and every hour.’
Nika tickie spose mika mamook klahowyum nesika pe mika wawa Boston Lalang konamoxt
nayka tíki spus mayka mamuk-ɬax̣áwyam nsayka pi mayka wáwa bástən-laláng kʰánumákwst
I want in.order.that you make-pitiful us and you talk American-language together.with
DDR: ‘I want you to have pity on us and for you to talk some English with’
‘I wish you would do me a favor. I want you to see the’
News-Papah-man ‘acoke man cooley Bellingham Herald tenas polakly papah’ pe yaka mamook
nyús-pípa-mán (úkuk mán kúli bélingham hérəld* tənəs-púlakʰli-pípa) pi yaka mámuk
news-paper-man (that man run Bellingham Herald little-day-paper) and he make
DDR: ‘the newsman (that man who runs the Bellingham Herald morning paper) and he’ll put’
‘reporter for the Bellingham Evening Herald and ask him to put in’
delate skookum wawa kopa yaka papah, kahkwa alkie konaway Tekope tilacum iskum kumtux ikta
dléyt skúkum wáwa kʰupa yaka pípa, kákwa áɬqi kʰánawi tk’úp-tílixam ískam kə́mtəks íkta
really strong words in his paper, that.way eventually all white-people receive know what
DDR: ‘nice strong words in his paper, so all the White people will find out what’
‘a good strong piece in his paper telling all of the white people to come down and see’
delate closh nesika mamook kopa ocoke illahe.
dléyt ɬúsh nsayka mámuk kʰupa úkuk ílihi.
really good we make in this country.
DDR: ‘really good things we’re doing in this place.’
Nesika alkie delate youlth tumtum spose nanich mika chako konamoxt hyue mika tilacum
nsayka áɬqi dléyt yútɬiɬ-tə́mtəm spus nánich mayka cháku kʰánumákwst háyú mayka tílixam
we eventually really proud-heart if see you come together.with many your people
DDR: ‘We will be really glad to see you come with many of your people’
‘We will be very glad to see you and a lot of the Bellingham people’
nanich nesika Fair.
nánich nsayka fér*.
see our fair.
DDR: ‘to see our fair.’
Mika kwonesum delate sheex,
mayka kwánisəm dléyt shíks,
your always real friend,
DDR: ‘Your always real friend,’
‘Your true friend,’
Man Klosh Nanich Fair.
mán ɬúsh-nánich fér*.
man well-watch fair.
DDR: ‘The man who takes care of the fair.’
‘The Man Who Is Looking After the Fair.’
Instead of a lot of detailed comments, I want to just say that the uses of < cooley > in this letter are among the few reflections of English-language influence. Fairs ‘run’ for a certain time, and people ‘run’ businesses, in English but not in any Chinuk Wawa or Indigenous language that I’ve come across. (That said, in Kamloops Wawa’s BC way of talking, you do ‘run’ (through) your prayers or a written text that you’re reading aloud.)
The one other oddity above is the expression < iskum kumtux > for ‘find out; learn about’ and so forth. (That’s literally ‘take-know’, using the verb ískam, which means ‘to intentionally pick something up; to choose something; to collect/harvest things; to accept something’.) I literally have put many hours of research over the years into checking whether this expression ever existed in spontaneous, fluent Chinook Jargon. I’ve seen it only a couple times, and only from Settlers, always well past the frontier era. The absolute usual expression is chaku-kə́mtəks, which would be < chako kumtux > for Mr. McCluskey. Oddly enough, I was just about to write an article declaring the existence of < iskum kumtux > a rumor… Now this comes along! But we know Willie McCluskey was tight friends with some Settlers who natively spoke English, and his Jargon was influenced by that. So I’m still going to double down my on my bet 💲😎 that < iskum kumtuks / iskum kumtux > is an expression you ought not to copy.
The remaining 95% of Willam McCluskey’s letter is really good learning material, so study it and imitate it!
And go read his other stuff!