The Mission Field and “Chinhook” (Part 2 of 6)

Calling all “back-translators” —

the mission field

(Image credit: The Mission Field)

I challenge my readers to crowdsource the job of putting the rest of the quoted conversations below back into Chinuk Wawa!

This is from “Vancouver”, i.e. the island, i.e. the Victoria, BC, area in the early colonial/frontier era.

It’s described as “Extracts from the Journal of a Missionary” who remains unnamed, but who we can presumably track down with a very small research effort.


Issue of August 1, 1860, #194, pages 184-185:


Some weeks since the three principal chiefs of the Saanetch [W̱SÁNEĆ] came all the way from Saanetch [Saanich] to see me, accompanied by about a dozen men and women; their names, as nearly as I can express them in English characters, are Mukmukatan, Talaguoum, and Tsilian. Mukmukatan, the principal of them, is a very old man, who cannot even talk “Chinhook;[chinúk] so one of the young men listened very attentively, and seemingly with great respect, while the old man made a long speech, which he interpreted piecemeal to me in Chinhook, commencing each section with “Okook oloman wawa mika” [úkuk úl-màn wáwa mayka]“This old man says to you.” The burden of his speech was, so far as I could understand it, that he had heard that the talk of the English priest was straight, and that his heart was good to the Indians; that he did good to them, and spoke good words to them, and if I would go and live at Saanetch, he would give me, not for blankets, but (“kaltis”) [kʰə́ltəs] gratis, plenty of good land to build a house upon, and that the Saanetch heart was good to me, and not one of them would steal or do any wrong. They stayed about an hour, and I gave the old man a little bread and a little powder, which they divided amongst themselves, and some of (I suppose) the more favoured young ones. After a most ceremonious leavetaking, and an abundant repetition of “klayowa, [ɬax̣áwya] the Indian salutation both at meeting and parting, they went off to the village near here, where they were going to see some friends. The next day, Mukmukatan sent one of his young men over to me to repeat his offer of land, that now he had himself heard my talk, and heard that it was straight. A few days afterwards, they called again on their way home, and we had much the same scene over again. From all I can see and learn, Saanetch will be the place to commence operations.


One evening we went into a house where we knew the people pretty well, and found them all in a state of great lamentation and weeping, and sitting amongst the others, and looking as sorrowful of them, the eldest son of the family, who, by the by, is married, and has a house of his own close by. I asked them what was the matter, when he told me in a most doleful voice, “My father is dead and my mother’s heart is very sick.” I looked round for the deceased, and not seeing him asked where he was, and where he had died. “My father died one sun since, away at Saanetch at the salmon fishing; my father is dead, and our hearts are very sick.” And so on in the same strain. I went to the widow and said, as pitifully as I could in Chinhook, “Poor woman, is your husband dead?” She at once screamed out, “wake, no;” [wík] and then burst into an indignant torrent of eloquence, how the son, who was sitting there so sorrowful, had just come home from the fort very drunk, had nearly murdered his own wife, and then came into her house and knocked her down and kicked her about the head. The cunning fellow, in the midst of his drunkenness, had the wits to improvise the tale of his father’s death to try and account for the state of sobbing and tears. I went to his own home and found his wife in 

rather a pitiable state. On returning to his mother’s I found him I in a state of great excitement, and brandishing a large knife. I took him by the elbow, told him not to make a fool of himself (wake mika chako pilton) [wík mayka chaku-pʰíltən!], but to come home to his wife. He looked at me with a curious sort of astonishment for a little, and then said, “Good,” and came quietly off. As soon as we got out they made the door fast behind him, and he came peaceably enough with me to his own house, when I told him that a man who beat his wife and mother was not a man but a drunken hog (the strongest expression of contempt my Chinhook supplied me with), and left him. I saw him the next day, and he looked very much ashamed of himself, and after a while asked me if I had seen him the night before. I said, “No, I did not see you, but I saw a hog” (kashaw) [kúshú], “beating his wife and mother.” He told me he didn’t remember anything of what had happened, so I related the whole affair to him, and he seemed very penitent, and said he would never drink rum any more. 

Interesting that this missionary fella didn’t yet know the worst insult would’ve been to call the unruly gentleman a “dog” (kʰámuksh).

Probably lucky for him!

qʷata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?