1891, Bellingham WA: “A Sign of Civilization”

See what you think…


Lummi woman in Bellingham, Washington, circa 1930 (image credit: Pinterest)

Reported Chinook Jargon, or made-up Chinook Jargon?

sign of civilization

A Sign of Civilization

“Hyas klose,” said a Lummi klootchman, as she gazed into the window of a millinery store on Harris street, yesterday. It was a summer hat that attracted the dusky maiden’s attention, and the remark was made to her escort, another good-looking buck.

“Halo wawa; halo chickamun; klatawa, klatawa,” and seizing the arm of the damsel he hurried her away for all the world just like his white brother, when his best girl looks longingly at a soda water fountain in a drug store, and the young man’s exchequer is depleted and a “stand off” won’t go.

— from the Fairhaven (WA) Herald of August 5, 1891, page 1, column 5

I interrupt this program with the skeptical point that if these two Native people were talking Jargon to each other, they must’ve come from quite different tribal nations, I would think having traditional lands pretty far from each other. In a major Settler town of the Northwest Coast, such as Fairhaven (modern Bellingham, WA), such relationships could and did spring up.

But if these were a local couple, maybe their Chinook is fictitious.

It’s not obviously fake, though; it’s of good quality:

“Hyas klose” (Ø hayas-ɬúsh) ‘it’s very good’, with the “silent it” subject that’s used for inanimate things.

“Halo wawa; halo chickamun; klatawa, klatawa” (hílu wáwa; hílu chíkʰəmin; ɬátwa, ɬátwa) ‘don’t talk; there’s no money; move it, move it’.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?