1880: Grand Ronde Indians talk English & Jargon

This clipping comes from a fascinating in-between time…


Image credit: Oregon Historical Society

It’s about a generation after the founding of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in northwestern Oregon.

And it’s about a generation before the birth of those who grew up speaking the re-creolized Chinuk Wawa that they shared as elders with Henry Zenk in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

This news reports shows that the population of Grand Ronde had had enough time to learn a good deal of English, and that they heavily used the Jargon.

This certainly matches what Henry’s influential dissertation research found, that kids grew up with both languages at G.R. around the turn of the century.

Read for yourself:

gr indians


The Northern Indians — Wheat Market.

PORTLAND, October 21st. — Hon. M.C. George, Congressman-elect, has recently visited the Grand Ronde reservation. The Indians, learning of his contemplated visit, gathered at the agency from all parts, and some came from the mouth of Salmon river. At the general pow-wow held several chiefs and representative Indians gave their views and desires, and recounted the failure of the Government, as they understood the matter, to meet its promises. Nearly all talked fair English, but some preferred to converse in Chinook. The Indians are well managed and appear to be self-sustaining. About 25,000 bushels of grain are produced annually by them, ad nearly all live in houses of their own handiwork, and pretty much as white people live. Many of them expressed themselves as desiring to become citizens, the same as the whites, to have their lands in severality [sic], and abandoning all Indian life, become amenable to the law of the land. They appear to be peaceable and inoffensive, and to be conducting themselves well.

The local wheat market is still without animation. 

— from the Sacramento (CA) Daily Record-Union of October 22, 1880, page 3, column 3

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