Boas 1892: Many discoveries in a short article (Part 7: ‘to give present’)

Franz Boas’s single-page but very important 1892 article “The Chinook Jargon” reports a newly noticed Chinook Jargon word < kʻoè´ᴇn >… 

to give present

He translates this into English as ‘to give present’.

That’s evidence that this word was presumably defined to him in Chinuk Wawa, as were many others by the Bay Center speaker Q’ltí (Charles Cultee).

Q’ltí, I infer, explained this word as kʰə́ltəs pá(t)lach, the established CW expression for ‘giving a gift’. That’s literally

  • kʰə́ltəs (‘for no purpose’, that is, not expecting a return gift or trade) and
  • pá(t)lach ‘to give’.

This < kʻoè´ᴇn >, when we see past the typesetter’s errors (I believe Boas must’ve written < k’oē´’ᴇn > in his usual phonetics), is clearly from Lower Chehalis Salish. There are similar but not quite matching verbs in the other SW Washington Salish languages.

This is a well-documented inflected verb in Lower Chehalis:

  • k’ʷíʔ-ən ‘(s)he is giving a gift / they are giving a gift’, and/or
  • k’ʷíʔ-ən-Ø ‘(s)he gave it as a gift / they gave it as a gift’.

So we can write this in Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa’s alphabet as k’ʷíʔən.

We also have in our database on that language a close relative of that second form, k’ʷíʔ-ən čən ‘I gave it as a gift’.

This word didn’t show up in any of the classic old dictionaries, but JK Gill out of Portland, Oregon did include another close relative of it in his Chinook Jargon dictionaries: < quitz > ‘give’. This is from Lower Chehalis, too. Gill has more Low. Cheh.-sourced words than anyone, until the 2012 Grand Ronde dictionary, although he doesn’t consistently tell us whether to take them as Jargon or as having etymological interest only. In any case, the truth is that quite a number of Low. Cheh. words are preserved only in CJ documents. Morpho-phonemically, this one is k’ʷíʔ-əc-Ø ‘(s)he gave (it) to me as a gift’. (Another logical possibility is that it can mean ‘(s)he gave me as a gift (to someone)’! Perhaps in the days of traditional Native slavery someone would’ve said this.)

Boas’s k’ʷíʔə very much part of a larger pattern, in that it’s apparently a later addition to Chinuk Wawa’s lexicon, and has a more specific meaning than any single previously existing word had had. I remind you that prior to the use of this word (and in the CW dialects that never took this word in), you had to use a 2-word phrase kʰə́ltəs pá(t)lach to say the same idea!

Bonus fact:

ceded lands wa or

“B” is the area ceded by lower Columbia tribes in the unratified Tansy Point treaties
(image credit: C.F. Coan, “The First Stage of the Federal Indian Policy in the Pacific Northwest, 1849-1852“)

A word about why so very many Lower Chehalis words came into reservation-era Chinuk Wawa:

The Grand Ronde Tribes’ website tells us that, included in the mix of dozens of bands & tribes that came together in forming their community, there were southwest Washington groups. These were among the several with whom Anson Dart made treaties at Tansy Point in 1851.

We know that this, more or less by definition, means linguistically and ethnically mixed Salish and Chinookan tribes, from both sides of the far lower Columbia River. “Chinooks” and Kathlamets/Clatsops both knew Lower Chehalis Salish, and lived in places whose names come from that language. (Much as the Tillamook Salish and the neighboring Chinookans must’ve lived in close proximity or intermixed, judging from the fact that “Tillamook” and various place names in Tillamook territory are Chinookan.)

The Tansy Point treaties, not all of which were preserved in writing (!), were negotiated in early-creolized Chinuk Wawa, which Dart said all these tribes spoke.

But they never got ratified by the US Congress. In consequence, Settlers overran all of these tribal territories, and for some of the lower Columbia River Natives, whose communities had been decimated by pandemics, moving to the new Grand Ronde Reservation in 1855 and following must’ve seemed a chance at physical and cultural survival.

So that’s a sketch of what I understand: for Lower Chehalis Salish to have had such a prominent influence in the formation of Grand Ronde’s “re-creolized” Chinuk Wawa, a significant cohort of Lower Columbia River Chinookans has to have participated in the founding of the G.R. reservation.

These folks were not numerous, but neither were the survivors of most other tribes in the area.

The research of Henry Zenk, the great scholar of Grand Ronde CW, has shown that Chinookans were seen at GR as speaking the “best” Chinuk Wawa — and in principle this could well have meant that any Lower Chehalis words they used in CW (due to being accustomed to using Low. Cheh. with non-Chinookans) were likely to catch on in that community.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?