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

Episode 6

It was one of those perfect October mornings. The sun was just up over the Cascades, a yellow glow in the East, shining through the haze. It was that kind of condition that occurs on the waters of Puget Sound sometimes when one can be fooled by distance. The water was like glass and the canoe moved easily along on an outgoing tide, flowing out from Agate Pass. It was pushing them west by northwest, toward Jefferson Head. Half of the four-mile crossing had been made with little effort.

John had enjoyed his night at the great house of Chief Sealth. The quiet of the canoe on the water, however, was a relief from the early-morning bustle of several hundred people preparing for departure to the fishing grounds.

Looking back, Jim saw several canoes heading north into what would later be called Miller Bay. The Chief had explained earlier that salmon weirs were set up there at the mouth of the creek. Men, women and children would be harvesting and smoking fish all this day and for days to come, preparing for their winter's needs.

After a breakfast of fry-bread, salmon and tea, John and his friends loaded the canoe. The Chief and his wife shook hands with everyone and the party pushed off.

Sealth's farewell words echoed across the water after them:

Sealth: "Chako kilapai! Chako weght, winnapie!" "Return! Come again, soon!"
The paddlers' seating arrangement was as before, with Chikamin Charlie in the bow, everyone dipping their paddles in cadence to his easy, even strokes. Charlie began singing. It was in the S'Klallam language and John was struck by the melody. The others joined in and it was repeated several times, with John able to follow along eventually.

As they rounded Jefferson Head, Molly explained to John that it was a love song, and translated it for him.

There was a sudden, sharp, blowing sound. All heads turned to the northeast. About a quarter of a mile off, a pod of about fifteen killer whales were bearing straight towards them.

The crew continued paddling, their eyes fixed on the pod with affectionate admiration. John had never witnessed such a thing before, and his alarm must have been apparent to Jim.

Jim: "Halo chako kwass, John. Klaska kwahnis. Klaska nesaika sikhs. Klaska halo lagh nesaika canim." "Not become afraid, John. Them killer whale. Them us friend. Them not tip us canoe."

In barely no time at all, the pod was alongside the canoe, spouting and diving. John could feel the spray on his face. His heart was pounding. Soon the pod was beyond their stern, heading toward Agate Pass. As Molly turned for a last glance at the Orcas, she caught John's expression.

Molly: "Jim, klonas kloshe spose maika wawa kwahnis ekahnum kopa John!"

"Jim, maybe good if you talk killer whale story to John!"

The canoe was moving straight north now, still riding the tide, the shore about three hundred feet to the port side.

Jim: "Siah ahnkuttie, naika ahnkuttie tillikum mitlite kopa Dungeness. Yahwa mitlite ikt tenas man. Yaka naika ahnkuttie papa. Yaka klonas taghum yeah. Yaka mitlite tenas canim. Ikt kloshe sun, okoke tenas man, yaka sit kopa yaka canim wake siah nauits. Yaka tikegh iskum pish. "Far past, me ancestors live at Dungeness. There live one boy. Him me great-grandfather. Him maybe six year. Him have small canoe. One good day, this boy, him sit in him canoe near beach. Him want catch fish.
"Okoke sun kloshe pe waum. Winnapie yaka moosum. Salt chuck, yaka elip klatawa keekwullie pe canim, yaka klatawa tenas mahtlinnie. Kimta ikt tin tin, canim siah kopa salt chuck. Wind elip poh pe salt chuck chako peshak. Alta, okoke tenas man, yaka moosum kopet. Yaka nanitch konaway kah pe chako kwass. Yaka kowkwutl kumtux kopa eye yaka town. Okoke tenas man nanitch konaway kah kopa canim pe halo klap isick. "This day good and warm. Soon him sleep. Ocean, him begin go down and canoe, him go a little offshore. After one hour, canoe far on ocean. Wind begin blow and ocean become bad. Now, this boy, him sleep stop. Him look everywhere and become afraid. Him unable see him town. This boy look everywhere in canoe up and him not find paddle.
"Alta, wind chako skookum pe salt chuck delate hyas, nawitka. Ikt hyas chuck chako. Yaka lolo canim saghalie pe mahsh yaka kilapai. Canim kokshut pe tenas man, yaka swim kopa salt chuck. Winnapie, tenas man, yaka chako cole pe delate till. Tenas man, yaka tum-tum memaloose winnapie. Alta, chako ikt hyas kwahnis . . . kahkwa okoke yahwa!" "Now, wind become strong and ocean become very big, indeed. One big water come. Him carry canoe up and throw him over. Canoe break and boy, him swim in ocean. Soon, boy, him become cold and very tired. Boy, him believe him dead soon. Now, come one big killer whale . . . same that there!"
Jim motioned toward the pod.
Jim: "Kwahnis, yaka yahul 'Klemachun' kopa S'Klallam la lang. Well, okoke hyas kwahnis, yaka swim keekwullie salt chuck pe chako saghalie. Yaka lolo tenas man kopa yaka lupella. Kwahnis, yaka nehwa tenas man kopa Dungeness. Konaway tillikum kopa town nanitch kwahnis chako kopa nauits. Tenas man, yaka sopena klak kwahnis. Kwahnis, yaka klatawa. Tenas man, yaka mama pe papa delate youtl, nawitka." "Killer whale, him called 'Klemachun' in S'Klallam language. Well, this big killer whale, him swim under ocean and come up. Him carry boy on him back. Killer whale, him bring boy to Dungeness. All people at town look killer whale come to beach. Boy, him jump off killer whale. Killer whale, him go. Boy, him mama and papa very happy, indeed."
John: "Okoke tenas man, yaka maika ahnkuttie papa?" "This boy, him you great-grandfather?"
Jim: "Nawitka! Okoke ekahnum delate. Kimta, kwahnis kloshe sikhs kopa konaway S'Klallam tillikum. Alta, nesaika halo kwass spose nanitch kwahnis." "Indeed! This true story. After, killer whale good friend to all S'Klallam people. Now, us not afraid if look killer whale."
John: "Okoke ekahnum kloshe. Naika tikegh. Alta, naika kwanesum halo chako kwass spose naika nanitch klaska." "This good story. Me like. Now, me always not afraid if me look them."

To be continued...


(Copyright © 1993 by Duane Pasco)

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