Howay [Haswell, Boit, Hoskins] “Voyages of the Columbia” (Part 4 of 5)

I’m still asking, can you find evidence of Chinook Jargon in our tally of the described communications in these old journals?

I can’t.


Maritime fur trade, circa 1790-1840 (image credit: Wikipedia)

And that’s despite the following record including visits in Lower Chinookan and Lower Chehalis country.

A note about John Boit, from Wikipedia:

John Boit Jr (15 October 1774 – 8 March 1829) was one of the first Americans involved in the maritime fur trade. He sailed as fifth mate under Captain Robert Gray on the second voyage of the Columbia Rediviva, 1790–1793. During the voyage he wrote a short but important journal in which he described the discovery of the Columbia River.

Part 4:

John Boit’s log of the 2nd journey of the Columbia:

Page 369: the voyagers have reached NW America between Nootka and Clayoquot, in Nuuchahnulth country, on June 4, 1791. On June 5 (same page) is mentioned “a root call’d Isau or Isop by the natives and much resembling a small onion”.

On page 371, the Native people of “Columbia’s Cove” in Chickleset Sound “appear’d much the same as those at Coxes harbour and talk’d their language.” (June 20-26, 1791.)

June 28, same page at the “Village of Nittenatt” (Nitinat/Ditidaht): ” ‘Twas evident that these Natives had been visited by that scourge of mankind the Smallpox. The Spaniards as the natives say brought it among them”.

Note that Boit’s journal, like Haswell’s of the second journey of Columbia, tells us comparatively little about communications between Native and newcomer. Sometimes he remarks that the Indigenous people “appear’d…pleased” at the ships’ presence, etc. He devotes more energy to telling us about locations where the Natives and newcomers met and had sex.

Page 374: “The Natives on the Main[land] speak a language different from those on the Islands.” (July 28, 1791.) This is an accurate observation that Sm’algyax Tsimshian and Haida are completely unrelated languages.

Same page (July 30), in Haida Gwaii, “Some Canoes full of Indians boarded us from the Isles. They inform’d us that sevrall English vessels had visited not long since.”

Approximately September 8, 1791, Clayoquot area of Vancouver Island (p. 379): “these Natives miss’d Mr. Caswell, and it was thought proper to inform them that he had died (a natural death).”

Page 382, October 13, 1791: “Wickananish, high Cheif, came on board, with sevrall of the Royall family. he inform’d that his winter village was a great way off, which occasion’d his visiting us so seldom.”

Page 383, October 14: “We was inform’d this day that Capt. Crowell in the Brig Hancock was at Juan de Fuca straits.” October 27, same page: “Heard of three Spanish Ships being at Nootka…These Indians were very enquisitive for to know the cause of thunder and lightning, but we cou’d not make them understand the real cause, but much suppriz’d them by saying there was a man in our Country that made both. [DDR: Is this Benjamin Franklin?] They suppose thunder to be occasion’d by an Eagle carrying a whale into the air, and Lightning, the hissing of a Snake, which are exceeding large in this country…We have never been able to gain much information as resepects their Religion, but they certainly pay adoration to the Sun, and Moon, and beleive in Good and evil Spirits.” There follows the anecdote, already told in previous installments of this mini-series, of Captain Gray’s visit to a Native village “for to look at Cheif, said to be very sick.”

Page 386, January 6 of 1792: “This day one of the Cheifs of Juan Defuca Straits came on board. He was upon a visit to Wickananish, and indeed had married his sister, inform’d us there was a Spanish Ship in the Straits”.

January 18, 1792, same page: “In the morning early observ’d most of the Men bathing on the Beach     On enquiring the cause, was inform’d that this day the King was going to give his Eldest son the name of Wickananish, and take another upon himself, upon which acc[oun]t, there was to be great rejoicings.”

On page 387 (January 18th), the claim is again made that “We understood from the Natives that they sometimes made Human sacrafices, and shocking to related, that they eat the flesh of such poor victims.”

The same page tells us, “This day sevrall cheifs came on board, one of which we found was busily employ’d talking with our Sandwich Island lad. Their conversation was soon put a stop too, and the Lad examin’d, but he denyd that the Cheif ask’d him any improper questions.” The following page continues this thread: “the Sandwich Island lad made a Confession to his Master, (as follows). He said Tatoochkasettle, (the Cheif) told him, that Wickananish was about to take the Ship and Massacree all the Crew, and said he shou’d be a great man, if he wou’d wet our Musketts, and steal for him some Bulletts. He said they shou’d come that night or the next, and told him to come over to them when the fray first began.”

Page 389 reports, “The Cheifs had been telling us for some time that they was going to war with a distant tribe and wish’d for us to lend them Musketts and Ammunition, which some of these fellows used as well as ourselves.”

March 4, 1792, same page: “The Kings Mother came along side and brought some Otter Skins which we purchas’d. She told Captain Gray that the Moon inform’d her Son if he come to the Ship, he wou’d be kill’d.”

Page 391, the 10th of April, 1792, off the mouth of the Umpqua River in southwest Oregon: “Hove too for some canoes that where coming off     these Natives talk’d a different language from any we have before heard.” This again seems an accurate observation, referring to some such language as Siuslaw, Quuich, et al.

Page 392 (April 22, 1792), off Shoalwater Bay / “Willapa Harbor” in far southwest Washington, thus Lower Chehalis Salish and/or Lower Chinookan people: “The Natives frequently came along side and brought Otter skins and fish. their language to us was unintelligable.”

I would remark on page 393’s mention of visiting “a Village, call’d by the Natives Kenekomitt, which was situate on a small Hill just back of the Beach.” Editor Howay considers this to be in Quileute territory near “Teakwhit” (Teahwhit) Head, and connects it with a stream there having “the Indian name Kenehenwhitt”. Against that analysis, we have to take Boit seriously when he says “these Indians spoke the same language as those in De fuca straits”, i.e. Southern Wakashan. Isn’t there a place called “Kydicabbut” (spelling?) in Makah territory?

May 6, 1792 (page 394) — visiting a place whose residents say is called “Goliew” (Quileute), i.e. La Push, Washington.

Heading farther south to Grays Harbor, Washington (Lower Chehalis Salish territory), the mariners find it abundantly clear that they are the first non-Natives to visit here. “their language was different from any we have yet heard.” — again a true observation.

Page 395, same location, May 9th, after a nighttime confrontation in which the ship’s guns kill several Native men: “many canoes came along side from down river, and brought plenty of Skins, likewise some canoes from the tribes that first visited us, and their countenances plainly show’d that those unlucky savages who last Night fell by the Ball, was a part of the same tribe for we cou’d plainly understand by their signs and gestures that they where telling the very circumstance to their Acquaintances from down River, and by Pointing to the Cannon, and endeavouring to explain the noise they made, made us still more certain that they had no Knowledge of fire arms previous to our Coming”…

Page 397, on May 12, 1792, the ship enters the Columbia River, another place where it’s obvious “we was the first civilized people that they ever saw.” This was Lower Chinookan (mixed with Lower Chehalis Salish) territory. “We observ’d some of the same people we had before seen at Gray’s harbour”. Boit makes the interesting comment that “These Natives talk’d the same language as those farther South, but we cou’d not learn itt.” This should mean Chinookan, as if the mariners had already met Clatsop Lower Chinookan speakers on the Oregon coast. It’s clearly not Chinuk Wawa, which I’ve previously shown couldn’t have existed until 1794 at the earliest — and which Boit and company would’ve easily learned a good deal of. This first visit by Euro-Americans lasts 9 days.

Page 398 (May 18th) is the first known mention of “Chinook” by a non-Native: “the Village Chinoak, command’d by a cheif name Polack.

Pages 403-404, June 8, 1792, perhaps at Beaver Harbor, Vancouver Island in Kwakwak’wakw territory (near modern Port Hardy) — “a few canoes with Indians came off, who talk’d the Nootka language”, which wouldn’t have been their native language. “they inform’d us that in two days through the woods they cou’d reach Nootka Sound”.

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The Columbia attacked by Indians (page 457)

On June 9 (following page), About Noon 20 large War Canoes hove in sight…the freindly Indians that was trading along side told us these people had come to fight, and belong’d to the tribe we had fir’d att two days before”. A confrontation ensues. “They then made a precipitate retreat, and the trading Indians, who had kept at a small distance, viewing the transactions, again recommenced their trade with us. They inform’d us these Indians, who meant to attack us, was of another tribe with them.”

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