1914: CM Buchanan’s speech at launch of steamer Suquamish (Part 1 of 2)

A typewritten archival document preserves a rare treat for us!


CM Buchanan (image credit: FindAGrave)

Any kind of text (by which us linguist folks mean a sequence of sentences) in Chinuk Wawa is a precious treasure. It’s items like this that tell us most of what we know about how to really talk Chinook

(As rare as CW texts are, I want you to realize that there’s far more known material of this kind in the Jargon than there is in any other pidgin language, and more than we have of many creole languages.)

Also noteworthy is that the piece I’ll show you today is the only Chinook Jargon we have from Charles Milton Buchanan, MD (1868-1920). We’ve had only indirect evidence of his Jargon knowledge:

This is why it’s so wonderful that Dr. Sean Fraga of Princeton University was so generous as to send me the document in Chinook that we’ll look at today. Here we have Buchanan himself talking the language — to a great big crowd of people, no less!

A third reason I’m happy about this document is the linguistic information that it contains.

  • A biggie is its confirmation that the famous “Old Man House” is a Chinuk Wawa name, as I’ve long suggested.
  • Another is its reference in English to railroad trains as “steam cars”, a now-obscure phrase that was the usual interior British Columbia CW term for the same thing.
  • And Buchanan, like a number of other Settlers of the Seattle area, interlarded Dxʷləšucid (local Lushootseed Salish) words into his Chinook Jargon; this was evidently a strong tendency in the vicinity of this first “pioneer” town in northern Puget Sound. Plus, Buchanan was Indian Agent of Tulalip Reservation, which a lot of my readers know is nowadays a center of revitalization of this heritage tribal language. I show Lushootseed stuff in underlined orange text below; it’s predictably a mix of names, fill-ins for Jargon words not common in northern CJ, and important facets of tribal culture. Worth noting is that Buchanan’s Lushootseed pronunciation is somewhat old-fashioned even for 1914, containing both the /m/ sound and /b/, which had by then replaced the former wholesale in Native speech. (A solid inference is that he picked up his Lushootseed at the time when that sound change was in progress, a fact we know from much other evidence.)

The typescript, which to judge from some misspellings such as < por >, must be a copy from a handwritten original (which probably had < pos >), is labeled this way —

“An Address in Chinook delivered at the launching of the Steamer SUQUAMISH, Seattle, Washington, April 23rd, 1914, delivered by Dr. Charles M. Buchanan to the assembled guests composed of citizens of Seattle (named after the chief of the Suquamish) and to members of the Suquamish tribe itself as well as lineal descendants of Chief Seattle himself.”

It’s cited as microfilm reel 2, Dr. Charles Milton Buchanan papers, Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries. (It would appear not to be the supposed lessons in Jargon mentioned above; let’s try to find those.) (Reader challenge time again!)

Buchanan was born and raised in Virginia, presumably speaking the English dialect of that region, which affects how I reconstruct some of his possible pronunciations below (tagged with asterisks). For instance, since he spells the well-known Jargon verb másh ‘leave, etc.’ as < marsh >, I infer that his pronunciation of < government > may have been gə́vənmənt*.

Briefly — the ‘American chief Gazzam’ referred to below is Warren Lea Gazzam (1863-1961), president of the Kitsap County Transportation Company. And here’s a HistoryLink article on the launch of the Suquamish.

The speakers’ Chinook Jargon is definitely Northern-Dialect.

It’s got the usual Settler pronunciations, such as < tillicum, mox, klosh >.

It’s also got the Settler’s usual English-language influences deforming the grammar, prominently an uncertainty over when to use & not to use pus, which in standard fluent Northern CJ boils down to a marker of anything hypothetical. The generic CJ preposition < kopa > keeps getting used here to reflect the English-language possessive structure with “of”, which the Jargon actually lacks. Buchanan uses yaka for inanimate 3rd-person subjects (“it”), which are actually “silent IT” in fluent Jargon of all dialects. He’s very Settler also in using certain CJ adverbs as if they were English-like in also being prepositions, e.g. ‘after’.

All of these facts mean that I consider the following precious speech as an immense learning opportunity. Don’t try to talk exactly like this speaker, please.

But, as you learn fluent Chinuk Wawa from my Saturday morning Zoom classes…

(contact me: spokane ivy @ g mail . com)

…or from Lane Community College and other Grand Ronde Tribe-supported courses, do think about how you could improve the following words a bit!

Nah, konaway nesika shiks pee konaway nesika tillicum — Boston pee Shewass,
ná, kʰánawi nsayka shíks pi kʰánawi nsayka tílixam — bástən pi shawás*,
hey, all our friend and all our people — American and Native,
‘Howdy, all of our friends and all of our relatives — White and Native,’ 

konaway mox mesika!
kʰánawi mákws* msayka!
all two you.folks!
‘both of you!’

Yutl nika tumtum por nanitch mesika, yutl nika tumtum por mitlite kenamux mesika
yútɬ* nayka tə́mtəm pus nánich msayka, yútɬ* nayka tə́mtəm pus mítɬayt kʰánamákws* msayka
glad my heart in.order.to see you.folks, glad my heart in.order.to be.here together.with you.folks
‘I feel glad to see you, I’m glad to be with you’

yahkwah ocoke sun. Klosh spose kawkwah!
yákwá úkuk sán. kɬúsh spus kákwa!
here this day. good if like.this!
‘here today. It’s a good thing!’

Boston Tyee Gazzam, tyee kopa ocoke piah ship mamook, ticky nika mamook tenas
bástən táyí gǽzəm*, táyí kʰupa úkuk páya-shìp-màmuk, tíki nayka mámuk tə́nəs*
American chief Gazzam, chief for this fire-ship-work, want me make little
‘The White boss Gazzam, chief on this steamboat job, wants me to make a little’

wawa kopa mesika alta. Yahka ticky nika mamook tenas Chinook wawa kopa
wáwa kʰupa msayka álta. yaka tíki nayka mámuk tə́nəs* chinúk wáwa kʰupa
talk to you.folks now. he want me make little Chinook talk to
‘speech to you now. He wants me to do a bit of Chinook talking to’

mesika, kawkwah spose ahnkutty. Spose mesika ticky weght kawkwah, klosh kawkwah!
msayka, kákwa spus ánqati. spus msayka tíki wə́x̣t kákwa, kɬúsh* kákwa!
you.folks, as if long.ago. if you.folks want also like.that, good like.that!
‘you, as if this was the old times. If you also want that, all right!’

Alta nesika illahee, nesika Government, United States, delate hyas pee delate skookum —
álta nsayka ílihi, nsayka gə́vənmənt*, yunáytəd* stéyts*, dléyt háyás pi dléyt skúkum —
now our land, our government, United States, really big and really strong —
‘Nowadays our country, our government, the United States is very big and powerful –‘

elip kopa konaway! Ahnkutty wake kawkwah. Ikt spuh-kwahtchee pee kwinnum tahtlum
iləp kʰupa kʰánawi! ánqati wík kákwa. íkt* sbək’wachiʔ pi qwínəm-táɬlam
ahead from all! long.ago not like.this. one hundred and five-ten
‘more than any! It didn’t used to be this way. It was a hundred and fifty’

cole kopa ocoke sun nesika Government wake mitlite, pee wake mitlite ikt Boston
kʰúl(,) kʰupa úkuk sán(,) nsayka gə́vənmənt* wík mítɬayt, pi wík mítɬayt íkt* bástən-
winter on this day our government not exist, and not exist one American-
‘years, on this day, our government didn’t exist, and there wasn’t a single American’

man kopa konaway Hwulch illahee. Kopet Shewass tillicum, mesika tillicum, mitlite
mán kʰupa kʰánawi x̣wə́lch ílihi. kʰəpít shawás*-tílixam, msayka tílixam, mítɬayt
person in all Puget.Sound country. only Native-people, your.folks’s people, be.here
‘person in the whole Puget Sound country. Only Native people, you folks’s people, were here’

kopa Hwulch illahee, konaway kah. Kopa ocoke delate ahnkutty wake mitlite
kʰupa x̣wə́lch-ìlihi, kʰánawi-qʰá. kʰupa úkuk dléyt-ánqati wík mítɬayt
in Puget.Sound-country, all-where. in that really-long.ago not exist
‘in the Puget Sound country, everywhere. In that real old time there were no’

piah tsik-tsik (“fire wagon” or steam cars), piah ship (“fire ship” or steamers), wake
páya-t’sìkt’sik                                             , páya-shìp                                        , wík
fire-wagon                                                   , fire-ship                                           , not
‘trains                                                           , steamboats                                     , no’

siah-wawa (“far-talk”) telephone pee telegraph, pee wake mitlite electric light. Nesika
sáyá-wáwa                   téləfon* pi téləgræf*, pi wík mítɬayt iléktrik* láyt*. nsayka
far-talk                          telephone or telegraph, and not exist electric light. we
‘far-talking                    telephones or telegraphs, and there wasn’t electric light. We’

koley kopa tsik-tsik, kopa kuitan, pee kopa sail-ship. Kopa polukly nesika nanitch
kúli kʰupa t’síkt’sik, kʰupa kʰíyutən, pi kʰupa síl-shìp. kʰupa púlakʰli nsayka nánich
travel by wagon, by horse, and by sail-ship. at night we see
‘traveled by wagon, by horse, and by sailing ship. At night we saw’

konamux la chandelle pee konamux lagleese lamp. Alta chahco delate hulloima
kʰánumákws* lashandél pi kʰánumákws laglís-læ̀mp*. álta cháku dléyt x̣lúyma(,)
together.with candle and together.with grease-lamp. now become really different,
‘along with candles and with grease lamps. Now it’s gotten much different,’

kawkwah mesika alta nanitch.
kákwa msayka álta nánich.
like you.folks now see.
‘as you can now see.’

[handwritten by the next paragraph:] Kwinnum

Nesika Government wake ticky kwannisum pight. Yahka mamook pight — mox hyas
nsayka gə́vənmənt* wík tíki kwánəsəm pʰáyt*. yaka mámuk* pʰáyt* — mákws háyás
our government not want always fight. he make fight — two big
‘Our government doesn’t want to always fight. It’s made war — two big’

pight pee mox tenas pight. Ocoke elip ikt pight yahka mamook skookum pight kopa
pʰáyt* pi mákws tə́nəs* pʰáyt. úkuk íləp-íkt* pʰáyt yaka mámuk skúkum pʰáyt kʰupa
fight and two little fight. that first-one fight he make strong fight to
‘wars and two small wars. That first war it made was a rough fight with’

yahka mama King George Illahee, pee yahka tolo — nesika Government chahco
yaka mámá kʰinchóch-ílihi, pi yaka túlu — nsayka gə́vənmənt* cháku
his mother English-country, and he win — our government come
‘its mother England, and it won — our government came into being’

kawkwah. Tenas kimtah nesika tolo kopa ocoke hyas pight konamux King George
kákwa. tənəs-kimt’á nsayka túlu kʰupa úkuk háyás pʰáyt kʰánumákws kʰinchóch-
like.that. little-after we win in that big fight together.with English-
‘that way. A little after we won in that big war with England,’

Illahee ikt Shewass klootchman kopa ocoke illahee clap tenas, yahka tenas man pee
ílihi(,) íkt sháwás* kɬúchmən* kʰupa úkuk ílihi t’ɬáp-tənás, yaka tənəs-mán pi
country, one Native woman in this place receive-child, he little-man and
‘a certain Native woman in this place had a baby, he was a boy and’

yahka Shewass mama potlatch klosh nem kopa yahka — ocoke nem SE-AT-TLH.
yaka sháwás* mámá pátɬach kɬúsh* ném kʰupa yaka — úkuk ném siʔáɬ.
his Native mother give good name to him — that name siʔáɬ.
‘he Native mother gave a good name to him — that name was Seattle.’

Come back for Part 2!

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?