Cashman 1900 [1899] and Ahtna Chinuk Wawa / Pidgin English

In south-central Alaska, Ahtna Athabaskan people’s Chinook Jargon (Chinuk Wawa) was as mixed with English as we’ve seen in previously known sources. {Clickable link there.}

Stick Indians (Ahtnas), Plate 122 of the Report

This dynamic is surely due to the fact that both CW and English were brought to this area at about the same time.

Thus we find a linguistic outcome that’s distinct from the effects of CW’s earlier introduction into Southeast Alaska, well before significant numbers of English-speakers arrived seeking gold.

It’s also a case distinct from that of northeastern Alaska, the northern Yukon, and adjacent NW Territories areas, where Métis speech {clickable link there} in the form of MFrench and the pidgins Loucheux Jargon, Slavey Jargon, etc. came into use well before English did.

Today I’m looking into a published report, “Alaska 1899: Copper River Exploring Expedition{that’s a clickable link to go read the whole report for free!} (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1900).

The “Subreport of Edward Cashman”, who the report calls a “quartermaster’s employee” and/or “cook”, is the section that’s of the greatest interest to us Chinookers. This person wrote rather informally, close to how he would’ve actually spoken. Perhaps this is why he notes details from Native people’s speech that may have escaped the other report-writers in this document.

Page 162 — a typical indication of the tenuous grasp Copper River folks had on Chinuk Wawa is the phrase “High you Chief”, meant as ‘big chief’ (hayash tayi) but mistakenly expressed as ‘many chiefs / a whole lotta chief’:

high you chief

Page 163: Local people hardly know English any better, except for one man who has worked in town among Settlers; “Klutch” is the shortening of CW ɬúchmən ‘woman’ when borrowed into English:


Pages 163-164: more use of hi you as a generic intensifier, plus pot latch him, the CW verb for ‘give’, looking like Pacific Pidgin English due to the notorious “-um” transitive suffix:


Page 164: a quote mainly in Chinuk Wawa, again using hayu indiscriminately for both ‘many/much’ and ‘very’…


That’s “White man ha-low muck-a-muck. Indian high-you muck-a-muck. One moon high-you cold white man no muck-a-muck. Indian pot latch hi-you muck-a-muck. In one moon high-you cold, high-you wind, white man die.” This is left untranslated by the witness! Did you understand it?

Page 166 has a CW phrase, “ha-low sleep” for ‘no sleep(ing)’, partaking of the customary North American Native measure of distance by nights of sleep needed. Us linguists will nerd out over whether sleep here is a noun or a verb 😀 I can assure you this word sleep is the usual Chinuk Wawa word in the northern dialect, being incredibly common in British Columbia as the verb equivalent to older/southern CW musum.

halo sleep

Page 168 — further variations on the CW-loaned word for ‘woman’: Klutch woman & Klutchers:


qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?