Discoveries in Edward Huggins’s “Reminiscences of Puget Sound”

How would you like to read the firsthand memories of someone who served at the HBC’s / Puget Sound Agricultural Co.’s farms in the frontier era?


Image credit: Wikipedia

And some Chinook Jargon discoveries?

These are in the Northwest Room of the Tacoma (WA) Public Library, and they’re an enormous, deeply detailed set of recollections that will teach you much more than you ever knew about daily life around a fur-trade era post.

They’re collected into a document titled “Reminiscences of Puget Sound by Edward Huggins: Writings of Edward Huggins as published in Pacific Northwest newspapers and other locations collected by Gary Fuller Reese” (Tacoma: no publisher, 1984).

Huggins was “the last factor or agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company on Puget Sound” (page [i] of Introduction). We’re told Huggins, born in London, England in 1832, arrived out here in 1850 to work for the HBC, having already become the first person to buy a tract of Vancouver Island land from the Company in a British settlement plan reminiscent of the Red River Colony three decades earlier. “On arriving at Port Victoria, Mr. Huggins was engaged by Governor [Sir James] Douglas, who sent him over to Fort Nisqually, located about six miles from Steilacoom…” Huggins ran the now-extensive farming operations that had been begun in 1833 by the Company, eventually being the official who signed the HBC’s US properties over to the American government in 1870. He’d become a citizen by then, and with his wife Letitia (née Work, daughter of John & the Spokane métisse Suzette La Gase Work) remained settled in Washington Territory thereafter. Huggins died in 1907, a renowned and accomplished member of his county community.

On page 3 Huggins tells us that from 1850-1852 he was kept extremely busy as chief trader at Nisqually, because the Native people “between Port Townsend and Olympia” traded (with newcomers) almost nowhere else, except at a small store in Olympia. He must have rapidly learned Chinuk Wawa, given this lack of Settlers who might have tipped the balance in favor of English-language use — plus, his direct boss was Dr. William Fraser Tolmie, a heck of a PNW polyglot. (Page 289 mentions Tolmie’s knowing good southern Lushootseed and, from his Fort Vancouver years, Klickitat, for instance.) Huggins most likely also picked up quite a bit of Txʷəlšucid a.k.a. Southern Lushootseed Salish; he records lots of local people’s and place’s names in the tribal language, which possibly haven’t been preserved elsewhere.

Page 10 of Huggin’s collected memoirs mentions the farm “of Henry Murray of Sohalie or (high or upper) Muck” in the Nisqually area. Nice, we have too few examples of Chinook Jargon place names. This is sáx̣ali Muck. No connection with “high muckymucks”! I’d guess Muck is a Lushootseed Salish name.

On page 43 we hear of a visit by a settler to Nisqually informing Tolmie and company that a small number of people had just taken up land, intending to lay out a town, at Alki Point “about thirty miles down the sound”. That’s of course áɬqi ‘in the future; some day; eventually’.

Another Chinuk Wawa connection is page 43-44’s mention that Huggins’ wife had made a trip in 1853 in the company of Theodore Winthrop, whose 1863 book is a Jargon classic.

Mrs. Huggins figures importantly on pages 53-54, where the author tells us he never heard Mt. Rainier called “a name of any kind other than the “Lamonti,” the Chinook word for mountain (lamətáy). He adds that his wife, “born in this country” and conversant in 3 or 4 Native languages, heard from Indigenous people that it is indeed known as “Tacoma” and variants thereof. She was told that any large mountain covered in snow is called this, and that it signifies “nourishing breast, etc.”

A minced oath, I think, comes up on page 55; I haven’t yet figured it out what cuss word is bleeped out here — can you? A Native friend of Huggins’ known as Bill has been whipped by an Indian agent for misbehavior, unwisely in Huggins’ eyes. We’re told “He gave no sign whatever that he felt the severe pain and a G____l was wielding the savage whip.”

Page 55 also reports that Bill “firmly believed that his child’s sickness and subsequent death was the work of a Snohomish Tamanuous, or Medicine man”, who Bill went on to kill with the help of a man known as Shooltun or Lame John. (Page 204 has this word again, spelled tamanowous. That’s t’əmánəwas ‘spirit power’. I believe Huggins is telling us this person was a t’əmánəwas-màn: see “Utilcut, or Tallman” and “big tamanwous man (medicine man)” below.)

Of the latter’s subsequent disappearance we’re told (page 56) that “no doubt he was killed by Bill’s tillicum or people.” (On page 120 Huggins uses this Jargon word tílixam again, speaking of a dead wolf whose carcass had evidently been picked clean “by its own tillicums (people).”)

Interesting to hear, on page 67, the firm contradiction of our modern rampant folklore that sea otters were a big trade item in the Oregon country. “Until 1862 or 1863, we obtained no sea otters at Fort Nisqually and only perhaps five or six yearly were traded at Fort Vancouver.” This bolsters my previous writings to the effect that we hardly know of any actually used word in Chinuk Wawa for this animal.

The following pages tell of an 1863 visit Huggins made to the mouth of the Chehalis River and Point Grenville nearby; several Lower Chehalis tribal people are mentioned.

On page 84 Huggins talks like someone who’s been in Chinook Jargon-speaking country for a long time when he says of a place, “I think its American name is Damon’s Point”.

A scrap of the Jargon, in misprinted form, comes on page 98 where Huggins, who was operating a temporary sea otter skin trading store apparently at Point Grenville in Quinault country, says he and Chief John, “despite the lum” (lám ‘alcohol’) the latter was fond of, were ” ‘feloshe-tum-tum,’ good friends”. Interesting how often frontier-era Settlers equated ɬúsh-tə́mtəm (literally ‘good-heart’, and functionally ‘happy; in a good mood’) with ‘friendly’ and with the noun ‘friends’.

Page 99 mentions a Quinault (I think) man known as “the Sickman (so named because of his thin, tall, and fleshless appearance”. This is a Chinuk Wawa name, sík-màn, that we were unaware of until reading this.

Pages 108 and following have observations of Huggins’ experiences with “French-Canadians”, for example as bateau crews on the Cowlitz River. These of course are mostly Métis.

An opportunity for some back-translation into Chinuk Wawa comes on page 110 with an 1852 memory of a confrontation with some Snohomish bad hombres.

Page 116 Dr. William Fraser Tolmie was known for his special ability to communicate with all tribes between the Rocky and Cascade Mountains; he was married to a Kalispel woman.

Page 129 Angus McDonald of Fort Colvile, who was married to either a Nez Perce or a Kalispel, “could talk several Indian languages…was a good French linguist, but his native language was the Gaelic of the Scotch Highlands”; the latter language was understood but not spoken by Dr. Tolmie . On page 142 “his ability to talk to the Indians in their own language” is credited with his safe passage among warlike Washington tribes.

Page 139 recalls “Canadians” who were watching a footrace that their favourite was losing ” ‘Sacreeing’ and other demoralizing French expressions”. Huggins also discusses the numerous Métis families living in the region, fond of dancing, especially the “jig”, which he describes. On the next page he also tells of persuading the 10 or so Kanakas (kʰanákʰa) employed locally to perform some of their native (Hawai’ian) dances and chants, “and sometimes it seemed to me to be an unseemly performance in the presence of ladies”!

An older Canadian is mentioned on page 141 who knew just enough English to be literally rolling on the floor laughing at a Punch & Judy puppet show given by a son of Thomas Dean.

Here’s a really wonderful Chinuk Wawa discovery, a phrase for the chief factor’s home: the newly built Huggins residence replaced the old “Tyee House or chief’s house” where the Tolmies had lived; this is told to us on page 146 and referenced again on page 152. It was located on the edge of Boston Plain a.k.a. American Plain, so named for the presence of US soldiers. A fair amount of description of Tyee House (táyí-háws) follows. Check out how this is yet another example of the fairly common “inalienable possession” construction in Chinuk Wawa, where you could say literally ‘chief-house’ rather than the more broadly usual possessive construction (tayi yaka haws ‘chief his house’).

This seems to stir up more Jargon in Huggins’ recollections; he refers on page 147 to how “the Hudson’s Bay Servants were called King George tillacum (King George people or Englishmen)”. Nice to have an explicit CW definition there, and it’s one that’s perfectly clear in a local setting on the US side of the border! (This is kʰinchóch-tílixam.)

The killing of a popular local Native man known as Cush takes up a number of pages of detailed narrative, so on page 153 we learn that this fella “had a way of speaking broken English, which was irresistibly funny”. Hm!

A story of “Old Jimmie” Scarth being violently robbed of some liquor in the summer of 1854 at the beach near Fort Nisqually has Huggins hearing “loud talking and swearing in English and Indian”, understanding the latter.

An included message from Dr. William Fraser Tolmie to the citizens of Washington Territory recounts the great efforts he made to facilitate peaceful coexistence in 1855 despite the great confusion around the treaties of that year between the Puget Sound Natives and the US government. This section contains some superb material for back-translation to Chinook Jargon, such as his information that the chiefs of almost every tribe in the region, including some Tolmie had not seen for years, came to visit him at Nisqually to ask “whether the evil consequences so much dreaded, namely banishment to an imaginary sunless country, were really to follow the sale of their lands.” Tolmie tried to talk the Native people out of this understanding of things, and out of making war on the Settlers. (Pages 161ff.)

Tolmie tells us a Native man’s Chinuk Wawa name; he was known commonly as “McLean’s friend or shikhs” (page 163). That’s shíks in the modern CW dictionary.

On page 176, back to Huggins as narrator, we’re told his memory that HBC goods were always superior to American-made ones in early PNW frontier days; “the Indians would always prefer King George’s goods to those of Boston manufacture”.

Huggins devotes a paragraph on page 183 to the important fact that the earliest non-Native settlers on Puget Sound came in 1845-1846; he names several by name, and these tend to be known excellent speakers of Chinuk Wawa including Michael Simmons of Tumwater (tə́mwáta ‘waterfall’). Page 188 mentions that still in 1850 “the only settler north of the Squally [Nisqually] River was an American named Collins” and his family; New York Alki (Seattle) had not yet been founded, and in fact in 1853 Collins moved to its vicinity.

A typical code-switching, for the Nisqually area, involving southern Lushootseed and early-creolized Chinuk Wawa occurs in page 194’s anecdote of an early day trip to Olympia with a young Native man known as Sweiliqualth, who Huggins quotes as saying of the flooding Squally River, “Cullum chu (bad): Hyas sohalie t’suck (very high water”. That cullum is qə́ləb in the modern Lushootseed dictionary, meaning ‘bad’; I haven’t yet figured out the chu — it doesn’t seem to be a known way of saying ‘very’ — can you decipher it? The Jargon phrase is a nice example of the /ts/ pronunciation of the word you might know as chuck.

Page 204 has another southern Lushootseed quotation, from quite early in Huggins’ PNW years, September 5, 1850: “Naut-tze, Naut-tze! Siam’ (Look, look, master or chief)”; the speaker isn’t specified, but Huggins’ attention was being directed to the aforementioned Cush. I’ve not yet found a modern correspondent to the first word in the 1994 dictionary, but the second is obviously the modern siʔab ‘dear one’ (as I recall Vi Hilbert often translating it) or ‘chief; noble person’. Can you figure out the first word?

Still talking of that same time, page 204 valuably informs us that “the Indians called Tolmie the tenass (small) “doctain”, as distinguished from Dr. [John] McLoughlin”. Mention is made of a French-Canadian employee Jean-Baptiste Lapoitree known as “Puss” for his perceived resemblance to, and imitations of, a cat — a Chinook Jargon name (p’us)? Huggins rides a horse having, typically of these earlier frontier days, a French(-Canadian) name, Garçon (‘boy’). On page 209, Huggins showers this horse with petting “and calling him all manner of pet names, and in Chinook too”, for having saved his life from a dangerous river.

Also from page 204: “I had been in the country only about six months, but could speak Chinook [Jargon] fluently, and from constantly trading with the numerous Sound Indians, was beginning to master the Nisqually Indian language which I found very difficult.” It’s important to recognize how important Nisqually (southern Lushootseed) was in this time and place where Indigenous people vastly outnumbered and out-influenced the newcomers! Lushootseed, whether or not it was functioning as a lingua franca, was the main language of Native communities from southern Puget Sound up along the islands and eastern shores to nearly the Fraser River.

Pages 224-225 list the few (roughly 60) Settlers in the Nisqually area between 1846-1848, a useful census of known and probable Chinuk Wawa speakers! Their backgrounds are quite varied, including Métis, African-American, and others.

231 the “Skookum T’Zuck, or Chuck” River…233 “which is Chinook for swift-running river” — the first spelling matches the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes’ dictionary form, tsə́qw. 

On page 237 is one of the very few highly specific attributions of any Métis person of Huggins’ acquaintance, “a Red River halfbreed named Marcel Benier”.

A memory of a “drunken orgy” of 1853 leads to Huggins mentioning “an Indian named Utilcut, or Tallman“. I would infer, by the usual rules of Chinook Jargon’s grammar, that this means he was known as Utilcut Man, but a paragraph or two later, he’s referred to as simply Utilcut. (This is yúɬqat ‘long; tall’. See “Tamanuous, or Medicine man” above.)

Page 275 has an anecdote of a Captain Brotchie’s experiences at Dungeness, in the area of modern Port Angeles, Washington. He persuaded a number of local Native people, S’Klallam Salish I reckon, to cut and haul to the shore a huge new spar for his sailing vessel. “Sometimes the log would be stopped by an obstruction in the road. Then a rest and a long, strong pull altogether, ‘Nah! Skookum Kanawah’ (Strong, altogether) from Brotchie or perhaps Bolton who had by this time master[ed] enough jargon to order the natives about their work…”

We hear of a newcomer of advanced age, a Mr. Dean, on page 290, who quite unusually for a Washington Territory Settler in 1856 “could not master the Chinook jargon, and the Indian language was a sealed book to him. He could not pronounce Indians [sic] words correctly to save his life. A young man more readily masters both the jargon and native language, and I have known some of the company’s younger servants to master Chinook in a few months and learn enough of the native Indian language to fit them for plain trading.” To this I can only append the note that gender doesn’t matter; virtually everybody under 30 who I’ve seen trying to learn Chinuk Wawa saw their applied efforts rewarded very soon. Anyhow, on page 317 another non-CW-speaking Settler, named Packard, is also remembered as being in real danger of harm from Indigenous folks due to his lack of language skills.

Another back-translation opportunity is on page 306, where a Mr. Glasgow got into a violent confrontation with Nisqually Native people. “One of the relatives of the man he had maltreated spoke up [obviously in Chinuk Wawa] and charged him with murdering his relative, and calling him a very bad Boston man, who had not only killed a harmless tillicum, but stolen and locked up all of Dr. Tolmie’s goods.”

Pages 314-315 mention an 1857 “sort of a religious craze among the Indians…Every evening…we would hear them burst into song in Chinook.”

Page 319 — Huggins overhears some Native people talking, and understands enough of their Lushootseed to realize what they’re planning to do to Packard, mentioned above.

We find on page 321 just one of the various disturbingly common occurrences of Settlers placing “spring guns” (shotgun booby traps) for pest control; in this case, a Native boy is killed by a trap set by a man named Packard. The enraged father’s words, quoted in English from an apparent Chinook Jargon original, are more material that’s highly suited to be back-translated to CJ. Packard is remembered as, regrettably, “like a good many more decent Americans with whom I became acquainted in those days, he seemed not to place much value upon the life of an Indian”. Page 343 recalls another Settler, a Southerner named Burt, “who looked upon an Indian as he would a dog”. Yikes.

Another useful bit of socio-economic background is that “Northern” Natives, from the central coast of BC, were rarely seen in Puget Sound before 1852 (page 341). Apparently when chief factor John Work left Fort Simpson in that region, Natives fond of him began traveling to Fort Victoria to look him up. Then they discovered Fort Nisqually and the fact that some of their female relatives who had married HBC workers were in this area, as well as the fact that Indigenuos labor was in high demand here. Thus, 1852 may have been a milestone in terms of Tsimshians and Haidas (both mentioned by Huggins), and others, beginning to learn and use Chinuk Wawa.

Page 344 mentions a Snohomish tribesman, Och-uch-kul-myne, who was a “big tamanwous man (medicine man)”. He was killed, with no more attention given by Settler authorities than the killing of a “kultus dog” would receive.

Another excellently defined Jargon word is page 349’s “a man of prominence, a Tyee“.

Bonus fact:

You can also read Huggins’ original “Muck Station Journal 1858-1859“.

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