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

Episode 7

The canoe seemed to glide easily along on the current. There was no wind, and the sun shone warmly through the haze. A pair of herons were feeding near the shore on a stretch of shallow water. As they were crossing what is now called Apple Tree Cove at the present site of Kingston, the canoe passed through a vast flock of Western Grebes, who gave them little notice.

Chikamin Charlie had been singing again, with new words to the same tune he was singing a few days earlier on their way to Suquamish:

Charlie: "Nesaika nanitch klemachun
Nesaika nanitch kwanis
Nesaika klatawa stopilo
Klaska klatawa stehwa
"Us see killer whale
Us see whale
Us go north
Them go south
"Wo hey ya ha, wo hey ya hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey ya hey hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey hey
"Kunsih klaska wake siah
Kunsih klaska yukwa
Kunsih klaska swim wake siah
Nesaika halo kwass
"When them near
When them here
When them swim near
Us not afraid
"Wo hey ya ha, wo hey ya hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey ya hey hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey hey"
John smiled, for it still sounded like "Barbry Allen" to him. Charlie seemed to make up verses spontaneously, to fit the occasion. The others, including John, would join in on the chorus. Singing made paddling a pleasant activity.
John: "Charlie, yaka kloshe chanti man!" "Charlie, him good singer!"
Molly: "Nawitka, John. Charlie kwanesum tikegh chanti. Kunsih yaka tenas man, yaka kwanesum chanti, kahkwa alta. Kunsih nesaika tillikum mamook hyas potlatch pe Klukawali pe Xun-xani'te tamahnous tans, Charlie, yaka elip kloshe chanti man. Yaka kumtux hiyu ole myeena. Charlie, yaka tikegh klatawa Boston tillikum chuch kopa Naxw-kyit konaway Sunday pe chanti chuch myeena. Konaway Boston tillikum yahwa delate tikegh. Charlie, yaka halo kumtux Jesus, keschi yaka tikegh chanti." "Right, John. Charlie always like sing. When him boy, him always sing, like now. When us people make big potlatch and Klukawali and Xun-xani'te spirit dance, Charlie, him best singer. Him know many old song. Charlie, him like go America people church at Naxw-kyit every Sunday and sing church song. All America people there very like. Charlie, him not understand Jesus, but him like sing."
("Klukawali" and "Xun-xani'te" are S'Klallam names for Winter Ceremonial Secret Societies.)
John: "Naika halo kumtux 'Naxw-kyit,' Molly. Ikta okoke?" "Me not understand 'Naxw-kyit,' Molly. What that?"
Molly: "S'Klallam tillikum wawa Port Gamble 'Naxw-kyit.' Ole nem, yaka." "S'Klallam people talk Port Gamble 'Naxw-kyit.' Old name, him."
Jim: "Yaka delate, John. Ahnkuttie, elip Boston tillikum chako, nesaika tillikum mitlite yahwa. Konaway yeah hiyu salmon klatawa saghalie tenas stalo yahwa. Nesaika tillikum iskum pish Yahwa. Kloshe illahee. Boston tillikum kwanesum tikegh potlatch chee nem kopa ole illahee." "It right, John. Past, before America people come, us people live there. Every year many salmon go up creek there. Us people get fish there. Good place. America people always like give new name to old place."
Jim laughed.
Jim: "Klonas klaska kowkwutl wawa 'Naxw-kyit!'" "Maybe them unable talk 'Naxw-kyit!'"
Molly: "Klonas, keschi naika tum-tum John klonas wawa 'Naxw-kyit' kloshe!" "Maybe, but me believe John maybe talk 'Naxw-kyit' good!"
John: "Na . . . Naxw . . . Naxw-kyit!" "Na . . . Naxw . . . Naxw-kyit!"
Everyone smiled and voiced their approval.
Jim: "Maika iskum kumtux hyak, John. Alta wawa 'ay-sk'watch'i!'" "You learn fast, John. Now talk 'ay-sk'watch'i!'"
John: "Ay . . . sk'wa . . . tch'i. Ay-sk'watch'i!" "Ay . . . sk'wa . . . tch'i. Ay-sk'watch'i!"
Everyone cheered, repeating it.
John: "Ay-sk'watch'i, ikta okoke?" "Ay-sk'watch'i, what that?"
Jim: "Yaka kahkwa 'kloshe sun.' Hey tillikum, ikta maika tum-tum, John klonas chako kloshe S'Klallam man?" "Him same 'good day.' Hey people, what you think, John maybe become good S'Klallam man?"
Again everyone voiced their approval. it was becoming clear to John that he was being accepted by his new friends, and he felt good about it.

Three hours of easy paddling had brought them offshore of Point No Point.

Jim: "Yukwa ka Chetzamoka pe hiyu huloima tyee mamook tzum klaska nem kopa Governor Stevens pepah." "Here where Chetzamoka and many other chief write them name on Governor Stevens paper."
John: "Maika yukwa kopa okoke sun?" "You here on that day?"
Jim: "Aha, keschi naika halo mamook tzum kopa pepah. Naika halo tyee. Chetzamoka chako kopa naika canim." "Yes, but me not write on paper. Me not chief. Chetzamoka come in me canoe."
John had turned to look at Jim, whose face betrayed his feelings with the memory of that day. Jim shook his head.
Jim: "Konaway tillikum solleks kimtah klaska mamook tzum klaska nem kopa pepah. Tyee, klaska halo kumtux hiyu iktas Stevens wawa, keschi spose klaska halo mamook tzum nem kopa pepah Governor Stevens soljah klonas chako pe mamook hyas pight. Klonas klaska pooh musket pe mamook piah kopa house. Klonas hiyu tillikum chako memaloose." "All people angry after them write them name on paper. Chief, them not understand many thing Stevens talk, but if them not write name on paper Governor Stevens soldier maybe come and make war. Maybe them shoot musket and burn house. Maybe many people die."
John made no reply, and Jim changed the subject. The canoe had turned and was heading west by northwest toward Foulweather Bluff, about four miles distant.

The tide was slack now and John had noticed the canoe pulling just a little harder. Jim pointed at their next objective.

Jim: "Okay, tillikum, kloshe spose nesaika mamook skookum isick alta. Nesaika tikegh ko yahwa elip salt chuck chako stehwa." "Okay, people, good if us do strong paddle now. Us want arrive there before tide come south."
After an hour of strong paddling, the canoe party rounded the bluff. They beached the canoe on a sandy bar, disembarked and pulled it up clear of the water.

Molly put together a quick lunch of smoked salmon and fry bread. They stretched out on the beach and chatted as they ate. Two does came out of the woods and sauntered a little nervously down the beach.

Jim stood and motioned John to do likewise. Jim pointed to the south.

Jim: "Nanitch, John! Nanitch smoke yahwa! Okoke moola kopa Naxw-kyit. Nesaika ko yahwa kimtah klonas mokst tin-tin!" "Look, John! Look smoke there! That mill at Naxw-kyit. Us arrive there after maybe two hour!"
John: "Aha! Naika nanitch smoke, keschi naika halo kumtux. Spose moola sick yahwa, kahta smoke mitlite yahwa?" "Yes! Me see smoke, but me not understand. If mill sick there, why smoke be there?"
Jim: "Hmmm. Naika halo kumtux." "Hmmm. Me not know."
After a half-hour break, they were on the water again. The tide was starting to come in now and the canoe was riding it, moving easily. Charlie was singing again.
Charlie: "Naxw-kyit, yaka halo siah
Naxw-kyit, yaka yahwa
Kimtah mokst tenas tin-tin
Nesaika ko yahwa
"Naxw-kyit, it not far
Naxw-kyit, it be there
After two little hour
Us arrive there
"Wo hey ya ha, wo hey ya hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey ya hey hey
Wo hey ya ha, wo hey hey"
The whole crew, including John, now repeated it over again and again, as the shore sped past them on the port side. John thought to himself that one of these times he'd start singing "Barbry Allen," just to see their reaction.

To be continued...


(Copyright © 1993 by Duane Pasco)

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