Blankenship, “The Early History of Thurston County” (Part 3)

This time: memories of Pacific Islanders, Métis, Native people, and a tense conversation…


Image credit: Olympia History 

Andrew [Jackson] Chambers, Oregon Territory immigrant of 1845 , in Olympia area 1847; page 152:

From Boise we travelled to Grande Rounde and after we passed the valley and came down off the Blue mountains into the Umatilla valley we saw lots of Indians. Mary Jane, my sister, was then a comely girl, about sixteen years of age. Indian chiefs offered my father fifty horses and a hundred blankets for her. They didn’t care whether the girl was willing or not. They wanted a white “klootchman.” This was their custom, to pay for their “klootchman.” Mary Jane was frightened and she never showed herself when the Indians were around.

Page 160 mentions “four Kanaka boat men” and the family’s leasing land from the Catholic mission to the “Canadian French” (Métis) community at Cowlitz Prairie. Page 161 mentions the town of Tumwater, the modern Olympia, Washington area.


Image credit: Olympia History 

Mrs. Jacob Ott — on 175 she says “Tumwater was the only place of any importance then”, i.e. in 1852 when her husband arrived there.

Image credit: Find A Grave

William Lemon (1816-1900): pages 183-4 characterize “the Cowlitz Prairie” in the 1850s as “principally settled with French Canadians, servants of the Hudson Bay Company, and a class of people who cared but little for educational advantages”, so the family went elsewhere to get schooling for their kids. Setting aside its implicit looking-down-the-nose attitude, this accurately reflects what we’ve often been told by historical sources, that Francophones in the Pacific NW were rarely literate, which helps explain why we so seldom find their firsthand tellings of life out here. A shame, because they are the single major ethnic group that transformed earlier pidgin Chinuk Wawa into creolized CW.

Image credit: Washington Biographies Project

Gustave Rosenthal was a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria, Germany, who arrived at Olympia in June of 1863.


Image credit: Washington Standard

On page 197 he shows that he already spoke pretty good Chinook Jargon less than 3 years after that:

On July 3, 1866, on a trip to Portland, three days of intense heat, after a cold spring, caused the Cowlitz River to rise to its banks, and some places overflow its banks. Canoe transportation being the only means of conveyance, after leaving Pumphries a short distance, the Indian pretended to scold at other Indians, none of whom were in sight, and as we were going over some riffles, the Indian said to me, “Nanitch acook chuck mika hias cultus Demanimus.” Translated, “See this water, your God is a very bad spirit.” I produced an instrument [i.e. gun] from my hip pocket and commanded him to manage his paddle correctly, or I’d send him to his “Demanimus.” He then apologized, saying he meant no harshness against me, only some Siwashes in the woods, and the trip continued to Monticello without additional events.

Rosenthal’s way of writing Jargon contains a particularly fascinating element, his use of “D” for the Indigenous sound /t’/ in the Jargon word t’əmánəwas ‘guardian spirit’. This is a pretty good clue that he was perceiving the distinctive “popping” (ejective) consonant, distinct from the plain /t/ sound in this language.

The Native guide’s words are (with my addition of punctuation to show how I understand his phrasing), nánich úkuk tsə́qw; mayka hayas-kʰə́ltəs t’əmánəwas ‘Look at this water; yours is a really no-good guardian spirit’. I might have expected *mayka míɬayt hayas-kʰə́ltəs t’əmánəwas*, *’you have a really no-good guardian spirit’*.

Reading the quoted words in an alternative way, you could hear him saying ‘you are a really no-good guardian spirit’, but that would be bizarre in my understanding of beliefs about t’əmánəwasI’d have to understand the speaker as abbreviating the known phrase t’əmánəwas-màn ‘medicine man’ to t’əmánəwas in a way that Settlers sometimes did, but that I’ve rarely found from Indigenous speakers. 

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?