1893: Newly discovered — more Betseyannspikes

“She” spoke really good Chinuk Wawa, and “Deer Ed.” didn’t need to translate it for his readers.


Bumblebee Flats! (Image credit: Notoriously Morbid)

Here’s a fun twist on a frequent theme here on my website: Betseyannspikes’s eye-dialect spellings of English were even more creative than “her” Jargon orthography.

The former proves “she” was really a very literate White person (probably male), the latter that “she” knew Chinook so well that “she” needed no published guidebook to follow. 

If you’re already a Jargon speaker, you’ll probably have an easier time understanding those parts of Betseyannspikes’s letter to the editor. “Her” English might be tougher going! 

I’ll add comments after you read this newly discovered letter by one of my favorite Chinuk Wawa writers.  

betsy 1
betsy 2
betsy 3
betsy 4

Student of the Old School. 

Gauls Kreek, & Bumblebeeze Flat.

My dear Ed: — It haz been some time since I last skribbled tu yer most valubul papper, (THE MEDFURD MAIL). Uv kourse you no why I’ve bin absent to long. I’ve bin takin lessins in chinucke langage, from Professer Schackmasty Schonschin, who haz purswaded me tu beleave I ort tu be a inturperter fur the red men. Deer Ed, whil my encourse with yer paper haz bin uv a verry plezent and agreeable nature, so fur az my part uv it is konserned, and hope yourze iz the same, sorry ter inform yer with this ishue ends eny further korrispondence at this place frum me. Beore I kloze I want ter say I regret tu haf ter leave this quite naborhood. Where I live iz verry quite, no body in 2 miles of here, aint seen my best feller fur tu weaks. Professer Schackmasty Skonschin wants me ter giv yer a few items in the old Inglish stile, az it was taut by the old Hudsun Bay traders on this koste afore the red man was driven frum its shores by the never ceasing flow uv imigrashun. Now deer Ed., be kare full how yer rede it, Ize goin tu kommence: Mika kumtux chinnucke wawa? Tenas oncotty nika hiack klattawa, copa Medfurd, hi you wawa kopa micika, nika tika momuch Illihee hias skukum muckamuck, hiyou Olalles hias klose, skukum chuck, consic chickaman mika ticky hoahoa okoke cuiton, mika kumtux? Hiyou mowich copa mowentain, hiyou momuch topsue, nika nanage hiyou klutchman, pealta klattawa tenas siyah. Yes they had lots uv children with them, sed thay wuz goin tu the huckleberry patch. I axt them if they had any objeckshuns fur ye kvmin along. They sed they wood like fur ye ter kum, but they woodent promis tu subscribe fur yer paper, bikaze they kant understand the debthe, hithe, lenthe and bridth uv yer wa-wa. They have no use of rail rodes, irigation ditches and minin corporation or nuze paper speckulashens, so Ed., if yer kum, talk uv things komon, natural like you kno. Yours az ever, 


— from “Student of the Old School” in the Medford (OR) Mail of August 11, 1893, page 4, column 3

Now to break down what Betseyannspikes said in Chinook Jargon:

Mika kumtux chinnucke wawa?
= mayka kə́mtəks chinúk wáwa?
so you understand Chinook talk? 

Tenas oncotty nika hiack klattawa, copa Medfurd, hi you wawa kopa micika,
= tənəs-ánqati nayka (h)áyáq ɬátwa kʰapa médfərd* hayu-wáwa kʰapa msayka 
some time ago I hurried over to Medford to do some talking with you folks. 

nika tika momuch Illihee
= nayka tiki mamuk-ílihi 
= I wanted to work the land. [harvest things]

hias skukum muckamuck, hiyou Olalles hias klose, skukum chuck,
= hayas-skúkum mə́kʰmək, háyú úlali-s hayas-ɬúsh, skúkum chə́qw 
there was very good food, lots of berries that were excellent, strong(-running) creeks

consic chickaman mika ticky hoahoa okoke cuiton,
= qʰə́nchi chíkʰəmin mayka tíki húyhuy úkuk kʰíyutən? 
= “how much money do you want to trade that horse?”

mika kumtux?
= mayka kə́mtəks?
= do you understand?

Hiyou mowich copa mowentain, hiyou momuch topsue,
= háyú máwich kʰapa máwntən*, hayu-mámuk-típsu
there were lots of deer in the mountains, eating grass.

nika nanage hiyou klutchman, pealta klattawa tenas siyah.
= nayka nánich háyú ɬúchmən, pi álta ɬátwa tənəs-sáyá.
= I saw a bunch of women, and then went a bit farther.

wa-wa = wáwa = ‘words; what a person says’

A couple of quick notes: 

Betseyannspikes, in a couple of ways, unexpectedly talks like she knows the northern (i.e. mostly British Columbia) dialect of Jargon. “She” uses no word at all to link a verb of motion with a subordinate clause of purpose. (Example: nayka (h)áyáq ɬátwa kʰapa médfərd* hayu-wáwa = I hurried over to Medford to do some talking.) “She” also uses the word máwntən* for the backcountry, same as in BC; “her” spelling of it, mowentain, suggests Native people’s speech. Maybe “she” had spent some time somewhere north of Oregon. 

“She” uses < momuch > + noun pretty freely, in a small extension of the known Jargon mamuk + noun = ‘harvest’ a natural resource. (Thus “her”  mamuk-ílihi ‘work the land ~ gather things’, and hayu-mámuk-típsu ‘eating grass’.) 

“Her” Jargon, like “her” English, is humorous. For instance, “she” tells us “she” hurried over to Medford…but immediately “she’s” lost in a detailed description of all the berry-gathering, sightseeing, and horse-trading “she” did along the way. 

As it happens, the writer’s declaration that this one will be “her” last letter is exactly opposite the truth as we know it; this is the earliest Betseyannspikes letter I know of! Go read plenty more.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?