“Ten Years of Missionary Work…Skokomish” (Part 2 of 3)

More good stuff from Myron Eells’ memoir:

Page 57: “The Potlatch is the greatest festival that the Indian has. It is a Chinook word, and means “to give,” and is bestowed as a name to the festival because the central idea of it is a distribution of gifts by a few persons to the many present who they have invited.” Potlatching is “on the wane” among the Twanas, less so among the S’Klallam, and still vigorous among “the Alaska Indians”.

Page 85: “White people do not usually take kindly to the jaw-breaking Indian names, hence a “Boston” name has generally been given them. (Page 133 tells of taking the 1880 census and asking everyone their “Indian as well as “Boston” names”.)

Page 91:

“The schools have been conducted entirely in English. This is the only practicable plan, for the tribes connected with the school speak three different languages, and it is impossible to have books and newspapers in their languages, while teachers can not be found who are willing to acquire any one of these languages sufficiently well to teach it. It is also the only wise plan. If the Indian in time is to become an American citizen, — and that is the goal to be reached, — he must speak the English language, and it is best to teach it to him while young.”

Page 112: “All of the high contracting parties, we may say, however, are tax-payers of Clallam County and land-owners. Kloshe hahkwa (“good so”).” [The misspelling of kahkwa is in the book.]

Some really interesting statistics come in the chapter on the 1880 census. Almost 30% of the Clallam (S’Klallam Salish) people at that time “could talk English so as to be understood”, about half of these being adults; 10% of the ethnic group could read it and 9% could write it. Three percent were part-white; three percent were medicine-men and -women. Among the Twanas, 26% could talk English and 2.5% were traditional medicine-people.

Page 164 tells of the early 1880s rise of John Slocum’s new Indian Shaker Church (apparently not yet called by that name), and page 165 about the influence of a Skokomish member with the Chinuk Wawa name of Mowitch Man, who also “affiliated somewhat with Billy Clams [another Jargon name, I believe] and his set”. Subsequent pages tell of ensuing enthusiasm for the various new local religions, including Slocum’s “shaking set” (p. 173) a.k.a. “shakers” (p. 184 et al.). Eells incorrectly predicts that the Shaker Church “seems to be dying” (p. 187).

Eells devotes a chapter to John Foster Palmer (1847-?), a Chemakum tribal member who spent much of his youth at sea in “Asiatic Russia”; he “understood four Indian languages: Twana, Nisqually, Clallam, and Chinook jargon, also the Russian and English”, and served as interpreter for Eells (pp. 188-189).

john f palmer

p. 187

On page 195, in the chapter on “Discouraging Cases and Disappointments”, Eells tells of a young Clallam man “F.A.”, who seemed very promising to him, so that the missionary gave him “four written prayers, two Chinook-jargon songs, and a Testament.”

Pages 200-201 discuss a S’Klallam chief, “Lord James Balch”, who in 1875 “was very anxious to obtain religious instruction. All was given to him that I could furnish, which consisted of instruction, a Chinook song or two, and a few Bible pictures.”

When a church was organized at Jamestown (S’Klallam community) in 1882, services were as described here:

“Singing in Clallam and then in English; reading of the Scriptures in English; prayer by Rev. H.C. Minckler, of the Methodist-Episcopal church, the school-teacher; singing in Clallam; preaching in Chinook, translated into Clallam; singing in Chinook; baptism of an infant son of a white church member in English; prayer in English; singing in English; propounding the articles of faith and covenant in English, translated into Clallam, together with the baptism of four adults; giving of the right hand of fellowship, in English, translated into Clallam; prayer in Chinook; singing in Chinook; talk previous to the distribution of the bread, in Chinook, translated into Clallam; prayer in English; distribution of the bread; talk in English; prayer in Chinook, followed by the distribution of the cup; singing in English a hymn in which nearly all the Indians could join; benediction in Chinook.” (Pp. 205-206.)

Chapter XXXVI “Bible Pictures” tells exactly the same story that we always hear from Father Le Jeune of the Kamloops Wawa newspaper up in British Columbia — there was a very strong interest among the Native people in getting hold of pictures of Christian ideas, since there wasn’t yet any widespread literacy in the languages that they understood. (Pp. 227ff.)

Chapter XXXIX discusses “Indian Hymns”. “Our first singing was in English, as we knew of no hymns in the languages which the Indians could understand.” (P. 244.)

Eells’s wife once asked an older Native man why he spent most of the time of the Sunday service walking around outside; he explained that with most of the singing being in English,

“they were very dry and uninteresting to him. Only when the time came for singing the Chinook song was he much interested. That was in 1874, and there being only one such song, which the agent had made previous to my coming; but the want of them, as expressed by that Indian, compelled us to make more. The first efforts were to translate some of our simpler hymns into the Chinook language, but this we found to be impracticable, with one or two exceptions. The expressions, syllables, words and accent did not agree well enough for it; so we made up some simple sentiment, repeated it two or three times, fitted it to one of our tunes, and sang it. In the course of time we had eight or ten Chinook songs. They repeated considerably, because the older Indians could not read and had to learn them from hearing them, somewhat after the principle of the negro songs. Major W[illiam].H. Boyle visited us in 1876, and was much interested in this singing. He took copies of the songs and said he would see if he could not have them printed on the government press belonging to the War Department, at Portland, free of expense; but I presume he was not able to have it done, as I never heard of them again. (Pages 245-246)

[Yet to come: Part 3.]

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