A phrase in Jargon from Grand Ronde that I’ve been meaning to point out has real deep roots… táyí-màn (literally, ‘boss-man’) can be said to be the proper way to refer to a Native chief.

By itself, táyí has a fairly generic sense of being a ‘boss’.

As the first element in a compound word, táyí expresses the most ‘important’ thing of a kind.

You can refer to a human (usually an adult male) as a táyí; that’s not wrong.

But there’s an old & well-established expression, known to us from really ample evidence, that’s more fitting to refer to a ‘chief’ in a respectful way in Chinuk Wawa.

That’s our táyí-màn. This term has turned up a couple of times previously here on my site.

It also exists in an “Augmentative” form, hayas(h)(-)táyí-màn ‘big chief’.

These seem to have been overlooked in the existing reference works, a sort of thing that happened more often with this language than with most others. The kind of folks who made “Chinook dictionaries” were prone to shared Euro-American cultural assumptions about this language’s smallish count of morphemes implying it had few words. (I refer you to their contemporary ideas about the simplicity of Chinese.) The resulting skeletal Jargon handbooks were a truly poor guide to actually speaking it, as we keep on finding when someone tries to translate into this language without studying its grammar and history.

And yet “tyee man” shows up across several decades of Chinuk Wawa use in many locations all over the Pacific Northwest…

So here’s a visual stroll through quite a few more instances of this expression, which I think you ought to add to your personal Chinook Jargon dictionary.


taiyiman” on p. 22 of “Chehalis Area Traditions” by Jay Miller, Northwest Anthropological Research Notes 33(1):1-72 (Spring 1999)

tyee man quinault

“the ‘Tyee’ man” in “Killing the Sea Otter”, New Haven (CT) Morning Journal of June 6, 1890, page 1, column 4

tum water tyee man

“Tyee man” (referring to a Settler government official) in The Dalles (OR) Daily Chronicle of May 6, 1892, page 3, column 1

earl ohmer tyee man

“hyaz tyee man” (big chief) in the Petersburg (AK) Alaskan of March 23, 1923, page 3, column 3klahuse tyhee man
“tyhee man” in “Totem Poles” by Marius Barbeau (1950), page 731

tiee man potlatch

“Iyas tyee man” in “Dust Devils in the Great Desert: A Study of the Impress of the Frontier in Traditional Anecdotes…from the Inland Empire of the Pacific Northwest” (1969 dissertation)

tyeeman name

The surname Tyeeman in the USA

quinault tyeeman

The surname Tyeeman among the Quinault tribe of Washington state

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?