TENAS WAWA--The Chinook Jargon Voice "Sawmill John"

Episode 1

The first settlers in Seattle arrived in the fall of 1851, Henry Yesler being one of them. By 1856, Yesler's steam sawmill was a going concern, and Seattle was a growing sawmill town of no more than thirty buildings. Several other similar towns had sprung up in Puget Sound.

This feature column is intended to serve as an example for people learning conversational Chinook Jargon. Historical information will be correct, while characters in conversation will be fictional.

The following dialogue, which will be a continuing feature in "Tenas Wawa," is between two fictitious men who have just met on Seattle's shore.

John: "Klahowya sihks! Maika klonas Dungeness Jim?" "Hello, friend! You maybe Dungeness Jim?"
Jim: "Klahowya! Boston tillikum wawa naika nem Dungeness Jim. Iktah maika nem?" "Hello. American people talk me name Dungeness Jim. What you name?"
John: "Naika nem Jonathan Wagner keschi konaway tillikum wawa naika nem Sawmill John!" "Me name Jonathon Wagner, but everybody talk me name Sawmill John!"
Jim: "Kahta maika kumtux naika nem?" "How you know me name?"
John: "Oh, man kopa mahkook house yahwa, yaka wawa maika nem pe wawa maika mitlite canim. Yaka wawa maika klonas klatawa Port Gamble winnapie." "Oh, man at store there, him talk you name and talk you have canoe. Him talk you maybe go Port Gamble soon."
Jim: "Hmm, man kopa mahkook house, yaka kwanesum wawa hiyu, keschi yaka kloshe. Yaka halo klaminawhit pe yaka halo lalah nesaika Siwash tillikum. "Hmm, man at store, him always talk much, but him good. Him not lie and not cheat us Indian people."
John: "Kloshe! Well, maika mitlite canim?" "Good! Well, have you canoe?"

Jim puts a hand on the bow of a Nootka-style canoe that has been pulled up onto the beach.
Jim: "Ahah, okoke naika canim. Kahtah?" "Yes. This me canoe. Why?"
John: "Well, naika ko Seattle ikt yeah ahnkuttie. Naika mamook kopa 'Yesler Mill' konaway okoke laly. Naika tolo hiyu dollah. Alta naika tikegh klatawa Port Gamble." "Well, me arrive Seattle one year past. Me work at Yesler mill all this time. Me earn much dollar. Now me want go Port Gamble."
Jim: "So, Sawmill John, spose maika tolo hiyu dollah, kahtah maika tikegh klatawa?" "So, Sawmill John, if you earn much dollar, why you want go?"
John: "Naika kumtux moola engine. Kunsih naika elip ko Seattle town, naika wawa Yesler moola tyee. Yaka wawa yaka moola sick. Moola tyee wawa spose naika mamook moola kloshe, yaka potlach naika hiyu dollah." "Me understand sawmill engine. When me first arrive Seattle town, me talk Yesler mill chief. Him talk him sawmill sick. Him talk if me make mill good, him give me much dollar."
Jim: "Maika mamook moola kloshe weght?" "You make mill good again?"
John: "Ahah, Jim, pe naika elan mamook moola hyas, kahkwa mokst moola. Alta okoke moola cut delate hiyu la-plash, nawitka!" "Yes, Jim, and me help make sawmill big, like two sawmill. Now this sawmill cut very much lumber, indeed!"
Jim: "Kahta maika tikegh klatawa Port Gamble? Klaska moola sick weght, hee-hee?" "Why you want go Port Gamble? That sawmill sick also, hee-hee?"
John: "Well, talkie sun naika iskum tzum pepah. Port Gamble moola tyee, yaka wawa yaka wake kwan spose Yesler moola cut elip hiyu la-plash kopa konaway Puget salt-chuck. Yaka tum-tum kloshe spose nesaika wawa kunamokst." "Well, yesterday me get letter. Port Gamble sawmill chief, him talk, him not happy if Yesler sawmill cut most lumber in all Puget Sound. Him think maybe good if us talk together."
Jim: "Naika house, yaka mitlite kopa Port Gamble. Naika mamook kopa moola yahwa. Naika kumtux Port Gamble moola sick. Tillikum yahwa halo mamook, alta. Mokst sun ahnkuttie, naika pe klootzman, nesaika tum-tum klonas kloshe nesaika chako pe huy-huy kopa Seattle town." "Me house, him be at Port Gamble. Me work at sawmill there. Me know Port Gamble sawmill sick. People there not work now. Two day past, me and me wife, us think maybe good if us come and trade at Seattle town."
John: "Maika kilapai winnapie?" "You return soon?"
Jim ignores this for a moment and points his hand up the beach.
Jim: "Nanitch yahwa, John. Naika klootzman pe yaka klone kahpo chako. Klaska lolo hiyu iktas. Naika klootzman, yaka youtl kunsih nesaika chako kopa mahkook house. Nesaika klatawa alta. Hey, maika kumtux isick." "Look there, John. Me woman and him three brother come. Them carry many thing. Me woman, him happy, when us come to store. Us go now. Hey, you know paddle?"
John: "Tenas." "Little."
Jim: "Kloshe, naika tikegh maika chako kopa naika canim." "Good, me want you come in me canoe."
John: "Mahsie!" "Thanks."
Jim: "John, okoke naika klootzman. Yaka nem Molly. Okoke klone skookum man, klaska nem Chikamin Charlie, Captain Drake and Prince Albert." "John, this me woman, him name Molly. This three strong man, them name Chikamin Charlie, Captain Drake, and Prince Albert."
John: "Klahowya." "Hello!"
All four smile and nod acknowledgment.
Jim: "Okay, tillikum, mahsh konaway iktas kopa canim. Charlie, maika sit kopa la-tate. Captain Drake pe Prince Albert kimtah. Molly kopa katsuk. Sawmill John pe naika, nesaika kwutl canim klak nauits. Naika kwanesum sit kopa opoots, John. Mamook canim klatawa sopah." "Okay, people, throw everything in canoe. Charlie, you sit at head. Captain Drake and Prince Albert after. Molly at middle. Sawmill John and me, us push canoe off beach. Me always sit at stern, John. Make canoe go straight."
John: "Maika tikegh naika sit elip maika?" "You want me sit before you?"
Jim: "Ahah. Nesaika wawa kunamokst." "Yes. Us talk together."
The two men each put a hand on the gunwale and another around the stern post. Leaning their weight against the canoe, Jim gives the command:
"Okay . . . alta, kwu-u-utl! Sopena kopa canim, John!" "Okay . . . now, pu-u-u-sh! Jump in canoe, John!"
With the canoe free of the shore, the two men spring into the canoe, salt water dripping from their feet. John sits, feeling just a little hesitant.
John: "Kloshe canim, Jim, keschi yaka lagh tenas." "Good canoe, but him lean a little."
Jim: "Hee-hee! Konaway canim, klaska kahkwa, keschi maika kumtux yaka kloshe, winnapie." "Hee-hee! All canoe, them same, but you know him good soon."
John: "Kunsih nesaika ko kopa Port Gamble?" "When us arrive Port Gamble?"
Jim: "Tomollah." "Tomorrow."
John: "Port Gamble, yaka siah?" "Port Gamble, him far?"

Jim: "Port Gamble, yaka wake siah kahkwa kalakala kawak, keschi nesaika kowkwutl klatawa sopah. Nesaika klatawa stopilo klonas klone tahtlum mile. Enatai Foulweather Bluff, nesaika klatawa stehwa klonas tahtlum mile. Alta katsuk sun. Kloshe spose nesaika klatawa enatai salt-chuck tahtlum pe mokst mile kopa Suquamish. Nesaika mukamuk pe moosum okoke polaklie kopa sihks house yahwa. Nesaika klatawa tomollah, kunsih sun elip chako saghalie." "Port Gamble, him not far like bird fly, but us unable go straight. us go north maybe thirty mile. Other side Foulweather Bluff, us go south maybe ten mile. Now, middle day. Good if us go other side water twelve mile to Suquamish. Us eat and sleep this night at friend house there. We go tomorrow when sun first come up."
John: "Naika nanitch tenas stehwa wind elip pooh." "Me see small south wind start blow."
Jim: "Nawitka. . . . Charlie, mitwhit sail. Molly, klonas kloshe maika potlach konaway tillikum tenas dly smoke pish pe le-pan." "Indeed. . . . Charlie, stand sail! Molly, maybe you give everybody a little smoke fish and bread."
Somewhat a stranger to Northwest Coast Indian canoes, John is surprised at how well this one handles under sail.
John: "Hey, wind kwutl canim kloshe." "Hey, wind push canoe good."
With a full sail, the paddlers can take it easy.
Jim: "Nawitka! Okay, tillikum kopet isick pe mukamuk." "Indeed! Okay, people stop paddle and eat."
John: "Kloshe pish! Molly mamook okoke?" "Good fish! Molly make this?"
Jim: "Ahah. Konaway tillikum wawa S'Klallam tillikum mamook elip kloshe dly smoke pish pe konaway S'Klallam tillikum wawa Molly pish elip kloshe." "Yes. Everybody talk S'Klallam people make best dry smoke fish, and all S'Klallam people talk Molly fish best."
John catches the word "S'Klallam." He hasn't heard it before.
John: "Maika tillikum nem S'Klallam?" "You people name S'Klallam?"
Jim: "Konaway Siwash tillikum kopa Port Gamble, klaska S'Klallam." "All Indian people at Port Gamble, them S'Klallam."
John: "Naika kumtux kopa kwolan Boston tillikum kopa Seattle town wawa nem Klallam. Klallam pe S'Klallam kahkwa?" "Me hear America people at Seattle town talk name Klallam. Klallam and S'Klallam same?"
Jim: "Boston tillikum mamook tseepie. Klaska kowkwutl wawa kahkwa Siwash. Nesaika delate nem 'Nuxw'stla'yum.' Kopa Boston la-lang yaka kahkwa 'Nesaika Skookum Tillikum.'" "American people, make mistake. Them unable talk like Indian. Us true name 'Nuxw'stla'yum.' In America language him name 'Us Strong People.'"
Jim: "Hee-hee! Hey, tillikum! Sawmill John, yaka wawa kloshe. Delate kahkwa Siwash." "Hee-hee! Hey, people! Sawmill John, him talk good. Just like Indian."
John: "Mahsie." "Thanks."
Jim: "John, ikt yeah ahnkuttie, Washington illahee tyee, Isaac Stevens, yaka mamook chee law. Yaka mamook hiyu chee law pe yaka iskum illahee klak hiyu Siwash tillikum. Boston soldier chako pe hiyu Siwash tillikum klatawa huloima illahee, kopa reservation. Governor Stevens, yaka wawa konaway Siwash tyee. Yaka wawa 'Iktah maika tillikum nem?' Siwash tyee, klaska wawa klaska tillikum nem. Governor Stevens, yaka mamook-tzum tillikum kopa pepah, keschi yaka halo kumtux kopa kwolan klaska nem kloshe. Yaka halo wawa nem kloshe pe yaka halo mamook-tzum nem kloshe. Alta Boston tillikum wawa nesaika tillikum nem 'Klallam.'"

"John, one year past, Washington territory Chief Isaac Stevens, him make new law. Him make many new law and him take land from many Indian people. American soldier come and many Indian people go different land on reservation. Governor Stevens, him talk all Indian chief. Him talk, 'What you tribe name?' Indian chief, them talk tribe name. Governor Stevens him write down tribe name on paper, but him not hear them name good. Him not talk name good and him not write name good. Now America people talk us people name 'Klallam.'"

By 1856, most of the Puget Sound Indians had signed treaties with the U.S. Government. This meant, among other conditions, that the natives were to be sent to reservations.

On January 28 of that year, the "Point No Point Treaty" was completed. It involved the S'Klallam, Chimikum and Skokomish people, who traditionally lived in small scattered bands along Hood Canal and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They were ordered to go settle on the Skokomish Reservation at the sound end of Hood Canal. The order was not enforced for most S'Klallam and they stayed where they were living, having purchased farmland or were living near sawmills where they were gainfully employed.

John: "Naika halo kumtux treaty ekahnum." "Me not know treaty story."
Jim: "Treaty ekahnum, yaka halo kloshe, keschi naika wawa maika okoke ekahnum. Klonas okoke polaklie." "Treaty story, him not good, but me tell you that story. Maybe tonight."
John: "Naika tikegh." "Me like."
Jim: "Ah! Kloshe wind okoke sun. Nesaika ko Suquamish winnapie. Nanitch yahwa, John. Chak-chak iskum samon klak chuck. Naika tum-tum konaway iktas kloshe." "Ah, good wind today. Us arrive Suquamish soon. Look there, John. Eagle take salmon off water. Me think everything good."

To be continued...


(Copyright © 1992 by Duane Pasco)

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