Blankenship, “The Early History of Thurston County” (Part 4)
And now, more lovely Chinook stuff from a book about early Settlers’ lives on southern Puget Sound.
George W. Mills (1833-1916) was an immigrant from Missouri to Puget Sound in 1865. Presumably he, and definitely one of his kids, spoke very good Chinuk Wawa, as page 215 tells us —
In the year 1882 Mr. Mills was made industrial instructor of the Indian school at Chehalis, teaching the Indian boys the rudiments of several trades. Mrs. Mills accompanied her husband with such of her children as were not attending school in Olympia. Among the pupils in the school was Jesse Mills, a ring-leader in all the sports, and undoubtedly much of the mischief, perpetrated by the dusky lads. As he was constantly associated with the Indians, and they were practically his only playmates, the youngster readily acquired a proficient knowledge of not only in [sic] the Chinook jargon, but the Indian language as well. Consequently, when an Indian parent would come to enquire regarding the progress and welfare of their offspring, Jesse was frequently called in as interpreter.
Image credit: Thurston Talk
W[illiam].O. Thompson, born in Pennsylvania in 1824 (died 1917), was an Oregon Trail immigrant of 1850, acquaintance of the HBC’s Dr. William Fraser Tolmie. Thompson was the first non-Native to live at Black Lake. On page 225, he confirms that he had predictably learned good Chinook Jargon due to those circumstances:
One day I was returning from a trip to the Hudson Bay trading post, near Steilacoom. The trail crossed the Nesqually [Nisqually], near McAllister Creek, and some Indians were living there. They refused to ferry me across, although I asked them to do so in English, Chinook and sign languages, and offered them fifty cents, while the usual price was but twenty-five cents, but they paid no attention to me. A young Tyee Indian was lying on the ground. I shook him by the hair of his head and commanded him to ferry me across the river, which he then did. The Indians then went up to McAllister and wanted to know if I was a military officer or big chief, that I had dared to whip their Tyee. They must have been disgusted when McAllister told them that I was only a cultus Boston man.
Image credit: Olympia History
Albert A. Phillips, Oregon Trail immigrant at age 21, has this recollection of an early, and nearly disastrous, episode that probably took place in Jargon (but is rendered in pidgin-style English) on pages 235-6:
At one time E.C. Phillips owned a farm on Whidy [Whidbey] Island and had a couple of men and an Indian clearing some land. One of the men hung his coat upon a stump, while he worked. In the pocket of the coat was $300 in $20 gold pieces. When the day’s work was over, the owner of the coat threw it over his arm and went to supper. Some time in the evening he missed his money and, naturally, accused the Indian, who had been working with him, of taking it. The Siwash strenuously denied the theft. But there was no mistake. The money had certainly been in the man’s pocket. None but the Indian saw the coat hanging on the stump. The money was gone. Of course he took it. Justice was swift and impetuous in those days. A posse of “Boston” men soon assembled. Both sides of the story were told, and without delay the Indian was convicted. But a conviction, however satisfying to the loser, did not repay him for his vanished dollars. So the Boston men took Mr. Indian out, stood him under the forked branch of an immense tree, slipped a noose in the end of a rope over his head and began to tighten it, and told the Indian to prepare to meet his Tenanamus — God. Stoically stood the native, whose only words had been, “Me no take.” It looked for a while as if the suspect would be counted among the good Indians within a few moments. But cooler judgment prevailed, and as the Siwash affirmed and reaffirmed his “no take,” it was decided to let him go. The noose was unfastened and the Indian lost no time in fading away.
Years to the number of twenty-five passed on — the incident was long since forgotten. The farm on which the money disappeared had passed into the hands of a brother of Mrs. Phillips, John Gillispie. One day in plowing up some new land in a freshly cleared field, he caught the glitter of something bright. Picking up the object, he was amazed to find it to be a $20 gold piece. Gillispie then remembered the story of the loss of the $300 years ago, and searched till he found the entire amount. It had fallen from the man’s pocket when he flung it over his arm, and had lain at the foot of a stump all these years.