t’əmánəwas-mán, a discovery

George Gibbs uses quite a number of Chinuk Wawa phrases in his amazing ethnography from 1877…


From Surrey, BC (image credit: CascadiaBioregion.com)

The title is “Tribes of Western Washington and Northwestern Oregon“, and on page 207 I found this:


Besides the regular practice of the tamahno-ūs men, who may be considered the faculty, the Indians used a number of plants as medicines, somewhat as herb doctors intrude their nostrums in the States.

And there, in print, we seem to have the first documentation of what was actually a common CW phrase for what I’ve heard living elders call the “medicine man”.

I reckon this is a “discovery” because nobody’s previously added this phrase to the Jargon dictionaries.

It’s mildly challenging to research old occurrences of t’əmánəwas-man (literally ‘spirit.power-man’) because spellings of the first word varied a whole lot.

It never settled into a tacitly accepted, standardized written form the way words such as “skookum”, “siwash”, and “cultus” did.

The splendid 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary of CW has quite a similar term from the 1870s: t’əmánewas-dakta.

I bet you can figure that one out!

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?