1888, Umatilla: A Polyglot Court

This may have taken place in Portland, Oregon, with a Native defendant from the Umatilla area of northeast Oregon, in the late frontier period.


Powell Janulus (on the right) is another BC court interpreter of note, having conversational fluency in 41 languages (image: PowellJanulus.com)

Judge Matthew Paul Deady (1824-1893) is already known to us as a Chinuk Wawa speaker in court. He was an Oregon Trail pioneer.

And we’re told that the 2 absent court officials were regular interpreters of that language. Lamson was anohter pretty early pioneer, and Frush had worked in the Astoria area of northwest Oregon previously. Both facts would provide the conditions for learning good Chinook.

Also, from other evidence previously seen, the Jargon was still in active use in the Umatilla area in 1888.

Without further comment from me, have a read of some quite good early-creolized (i.e. southern dialect) Chinuk Wawa:

polyglot court 1

polyglot court 2

A Polyglot Court.

The other day Oweho, an Indian, was convicted of horse stealing in Judge Deady’s court, and it became necessary to sentence him. He could not cumtux Boston wawa, and Clerk [Roswell B.] Lamson [1838-1903] and Deputy Marshal [Charles W.] Frush, who usually act as interpreters, being absent, the court was thrown on its own resources. The judge proved equal to the occasion, and the culprit having been ordered to stand up, the judge pronounced his sentence in classic Chinook as follows: “Mika capswalla Siwash cuitan. Mika hyas mesatchie. Mika clatawa copa Umatilla skookum house, mitlite yawa sitcum snaw. Potlatch ict dollar.” The prisoner understood that he was to go to Umatilla county jail for six months and pay a fine of one dollar. The sentence was entered on the records in English. 
— [Oregonian.

— from the Tacoma (WA) Daily Ledger of January 29, 1888, page 5, column 2

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