1863: Jargon in Malheur country and in Idaho

Here’s the sequel to a previous post of mine about the same book.


G.A. Waggoner (image credit: Find A Grave)

This is the remaining Chinook Jargon from the 1905 book “Stories of Old Oregon” by the aptly named George A[ndrew]. Waggoner (Salem, OR: Statesman Publishing Co.).


Waggoner was a pioneer of 1852, as they used to say, having arrived from Iowa at The Dalles on his 10th birthday; he lived to 1916 in the Lebanon-Brownsville area of Linn County, south of Salem.

These facts suggest he would be a decent speaker of early-creolized Chinuk Wawa.

This particular anecdote also appeared in an earlier article: Waggoner, G.A. 1900. “How Captain Dobbins was promoted: A scrap of Idaho history”. Oregon Native Son 2(5):241-248.

Pages 245-246 of that article / pages 160-161 of the book, with a rare quotation from 1863 of CW conversation in the eastern Oregon/Idaho border country, in which Bob Fitzhugh is doing the remembering.


— from the Ontario (OR) Argus of February 24, 1910, page 2, column 5

Finding the above advertisement for Robert Fitzhugh’s blacksmith shop in Ontario, Oregon (Malheur River region) leads me to infer that he, too, was likely to have been an early Oregon pioneer.

Once, when employed by the government, I scouted with a Warm Spring[s]
Indian. We came to a place near the head of the Malhuer [sic, for Malheur] River where
some travelers had camped. I looked the spot over and said ‘two Indians
camped here to cook their dinner yesterday.’ The Indian shook his head and
said, ‘Siwash wake mitlite citcum sun’ — Indians don’t stop at noon…I
[said], ‘Yes…but I think it was Indians camped here. See they make [sic]
a small fire.’ He rejoined, ‘Wake Siwash. Uckook Bos[ton’] — No
Indians. They were white men who camped here…I was beaten again, but
when the scout said, ‘Uckook mysika tilicum clatawa nanitch siwash. Lacket
sun nanitch copa Salmon Falls’ — they are scouts, our friends. In four
days we shall see them at Salmon Falls — I was completely nonplussed…

And that’s all perfectly decent Jargon. Here’s a rundown, with “DDR” indicating my own translation:

Siwash wake mitlite citcum sun
sáwásh wík míɬayt sítkum-sán
Native not stay mid-day

DDR: ‘Natives don’t stand still in the middle of the day.’
‘Indians don’t stop at noon.’

Wake Siwash. Uckook Bos[ton]
wík sáwásh. úkuk bástən.
not Native. that American.
DDR: ‘It’s not Natives. That’s Americans.’
‘No Indians. They were white men who camped here’

Uckook mysika tilicum clatawa nanitch siwash. Lacket sun nanitch copa Salmon Falls’
úkuk msayka tílixam ɬátwa nánich sáwásh. lákit sán nánich kʰapa sámən-fáls*.
that you.folks’ people go see Native. four day see [them] at Salmon Falls.
DDR: ‘That’s you folks’ people going to visit Natives. In four days (we’ll) see (them) at Salmon Falls.’
‘they are scouts, our friends. In four days we shall see them at Salmon Falls’

Bonus fact:

On page 123 of the book, somewhere on the Lolo Trail between Elk City and Oro Fino (now Orofino) in Idaho, apparently also circa 1863, there’s a genuinely charming episode:

Our little gulch claim was soon worked out, and the snow having disappeared from the hills, I again set out for the old camp at Elk City in company with a friend, carrying our blankets and provisions on our backs. Following the old Lolo trail, a day’s tramp brought us to the stream of that name. Here we found an enterprising Nez Perce Indian. He had built a large bridge, on which pack animals could cross, and was collecting toll. He charged $1 per head for mules and horses, and insisted on making us pay the same, declaring in the best Chinook he could command that we were heavier loaded than any animals which had ever crossed his bridge. How we all love praise! We paid that dollar more cheerfully because an Indian said we were very strong young men, and our loads felt lighter when remembering that word of praise.

— Anyone feel like back-translating that compliment into Jargon?

Another excellent tidbit for you: the Malheur (French for ‘bad luck’) River was named by Canadian/Métis fur trade employees whose cache of food had been stolen somewhere along its course, according to Lewis A. McArthur’s authoritative book on Oregon place names.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?