1892: nuučaan’uɬ “Indians Afraid of Smallpox”

No vaccine deniers in this bunch!

queen victoria

Image credit: “The Mediterranean of the Pacific” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, September 1870, page 485
“Queen Victoria” with her husband (image credit: Wikiwand)

Whole families of Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h’ First Nations Nuučaan’uɬ people of Kyuquot Sound on Vancouver Island, like Native folks all along the British Columbia coastlines, routinely traveled to work in Settler industries such as US hops-picking and Washington/BC salmon canneries.

Sensible people, they responded with caution when alerted that a smallpox outbreak was happening at their destination.

The information was transmitted via the Chinuk Wawa telegraph!

Screenshot 2022-11-07 082040


Kuyoquots on the Way to the Fraser River Canneries Turn Back.

Port Townsend Leader, June 1.

A party of Kuyoquot Indians, numbering fifty men, women and children, belonging to the west coast of Vancouver Island, north of Nootka, have been camped on the beach at Port [Point] Hudson [Port Townsend] since Friday last. Some of them have been at work up Sound. [I.e. in southern Puget Sound.] They are all bound to the Fraser River canneries. On their arrival here they learned of the smallpox at Vancouver and New Westminster, and fearing to run the risk of contagion, at the same time wishing to work at the canneries, they request Judge [and Chinook Jargon expert James G.] Swan to write to Colonel [Arthur Wellesley] Vowell, Indian commissioner, Victoria, for advice. A letter was accordingly sent on Saturday last. Yesterday morning a reply was received from M.H. Moffatt, chief clerk of the Indian office, the Indian superintendent being absent, in which he says: “There are several cases of smallpox at Vancouver and New Westminster, and one case was discovered in this city (Victoria) today. Under these circumstances I would strongly recommend that the Kuyoquot Indians at Port Townsend be advised not to to proceed to those places until all fear of infection is passed, as should any of them catch the disease there is no knowing where it would stop. Would you, therefore, kindly notify them to this effect? Judge Swan immediately went to the Indian camp, and all gathered around him. He then interpreted Mr. Moffatt’s letter to them, and advised the whole party to do as Mr. Moffatt writes and keep away from the canneries until it is officially reported that all danger has passed. The Indians promised that they would.

Should any of them, however, recklessly go among the contagion and take the disease and carry it to their homes, it would spread like wildfire among the Coast tribes, as the smallpox seems to have an affinity for Indians and is fearfully fatal among them. 

A number of Clallam Indians rsiding here and at Scow bay were present and listened to Judge Swan’s remarks. When he had finished, Queen Victoria, the [hereditary S’Klallam Salish chief and Chinuk Wawa speaker] Duke of York’s widow, made an energetic speech, in which she urged the Kuyoquots to go home at once and not go among the smallpox. “You King George Indians mustn’t come here and bring sick. Klose konoway mesika clattawa.” The queen did not want them to stand upon the order of their going, but go at once. Some of the canoes started for home; others lingered for the purpose of indulging in an indefinite number of buckets of beer to drown their disappointment and brave them up for a good start for their distant wigwams on the coast. Judge Swan deserves credit for his humane interest in the Indians and protecting them from the scourge that portended their departure to the British side.

— from the Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer of June 3, 1892, page 4, column 5

The Chinook Jargon uttered by Queen Victoria must have been approximately

“hílu ɬúsh pus msayka kʰinchóch sáwásh cháku yákwá lúlu sík. ɬúsh kʰánawi msayka ɬátwa.” 

We can only imagine that other Jargon interactions that we can tell took place in this episode.

Bonus fact:

Chetzemoka, a.k.a. the Duke of York, was and is known to the Nuučaan’uɬ as čuk̓ʷiyɔɔk. Get it?

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
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