1870: Neah Bay oath, and election fraud
At the link below, go read the full story of massive Settler meddling with the Native vote at the Makah Indian Reservation.
Today, I’m focusing on one part of the tale, to show you yet another example of how Euro-American style legal “oaths” routinely got inadequate translations into Chinuk Wawa.
…Maggs took an Indian by the arm and lead [sic] him up to the polls, when the Inspector raised himself up in a very dignified manner, and administered an oath to this man Maggs, to act as interpreter, which read as follows:
“You do solemnly swear that you will faithfully and impartially, act as interpreter, in putting of questions and administering oaths put by Inspector of election this day. (Signed) J.S. MAGGS.
Subscribed and sworn to before me, this 6th day of June, 1870.
(Signed) THEADORE ALYED,
Inspector of Election Neeah Bay.
After the oath had been administered to the interpreter, he proceeded as follows to interpret the oath to Indian Saxey. “Mika wa-wa mika delate Boston,” &c. &c., and the Indian said that he was a Boston, when this man Maggs took the ballot from his (the Indian’s) hand and gave it to the inspector and the inspector put it in the ballot-box.
— from the Olympia (WA) Washington Standard of June 18, 1870, page 2, columns 1 & 2
That Chinook Jargon “translation”, Mika wa-wa mika delate Boston (mayka wawa mayka dlet bastən), actually is saying ‘You say you’re a real White person/American.’
It doesn’t even attempt to precisely render the word ‘swear’, which could reasonably be wawa dlet ‘promise; tell the truth’.
And it’s presumably got nothing to do with the officially binding, English-language original of the oath.
Many Makahs by 1870 knew good Jargon, but little English, so they’d have had scarcely a clue that they were being misled.
Such was the usual practice in Pacific Northwest judicial settings for several decades. Chinook was used out of necessity, but very often misused to the disadvantage of the Native people involved.