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

Episode 8

The sand bar where John and the others had beached the canoe for a lunch break was five miles north of Naxw-kyit, or Port Gamble. Paddling south on the incoming tide, they had covered three miles in less than an hour.

The reason for John's trip to Port Gamble was to repair the mill there, which was reportedly shut down. It was puzzling for there was no doubt now that the smoke they were seeing came from the mill's furnace. The buildings belonging to the mill were visible now, as were houses of employees which could be seen on the hill to the right.

Jim pointed to the location of his village, which was to the left of the mill on the beach which is now called Point Julia, across a narrow passage which forms the entrance into Port Gamble Bay.

Jim: "Naika tillikum mitlite yahwa, kopa nauits, John!" "Me people live there, on beach, John!"
John: "Okoke house, klaska kahkwa chee!" "That house, them like new!"
Jim: "Ahnkuttie, nesaika town mitlite kah moola mitlite alta. Boston moola tyee chako yukwa klone yeah ahnkuttie. Yaka tikegh mamook moola delate kah nesaika town mitlite. Moola tyee, yaka wawa yaka tikegh makook nesaika illahee. Nesaika halo tikegh mahsh mahkook illahee kah mesaika town mitlite, keschi moola tyee wawa yaka potlatch mesaika hiyu dollah pe hiyu la plash spose konaway. S'Klallam tillikum klatawa enatai pass pe mamook chee house. Moola tyee, yaka wawa kloshe spose hiyu S'Klallam man chako mamook kopa moola pe tolo chikamin. Nesaika tum tum yaka kloshe. Nesaika mamook tzum nem kopa moola tyee pepah pe klatawa kah nesaika town mitlite alta." "Past, us town be where mill be now. America mill chief come here three year past. Him want make mill right where us town be. Mill chief, him talk him want buy us land. Us not want sell land where us town be, but mill chief talk him give us much dollar and much lumber if all S'Klallam people go across pass and make new house. Mill chief, him talk good if many S'Klallam man come work at mill and earn money. Us believe that good. Us write name on mill chief paper, and go where us town be now."
John: "Naika kumtux." "Me understand."
A ship was anchored offshore from the village. John had started to ask a question when he saw a puff of smoke from the ship, followed by a loud boom which echoed off the hill behind the town. Smoke billowed up from a spot to the left of the S'Klallam village, where moments before John had noticed white specks which he took to be tents. The paddling ceased, the S'Klallams ahead of John in the canoe all looking at each other and exclaiming their astonishment in their native tongue.
Jim: "Okoke ship pooh cannon!" "That ship shoot cannon!"
Jim said something to Molly's three brothers in S'Klallam, whereupon they shipped their paddles and began loading their muskets.
Jim: "John, naika halo kumtux kahta ship pooh cannon, keschi klonas kloshe spose maika mamook polallie pe le bal kopa musket!" "John, me not know why ship shoot cannon, but maybe good if you put powder and ball in musket!"
Jim was doing just that himself as he spoke, and John followed suit. The canoe drifted a few moments during these preparations, and then the order was given to commence paddling.

They were shortly within a mile of the settlement, when seven canoes were observed coming toward them. They were bearing down fast off the starboard bow. A man was standing midship in the leading canoe, shouting and thrusting a musket repeatedly into the air with his right hand.

These were all large craft, and very different in style from that of the S'Klallams, with high bow and stern. Each was manned with from ten to sixteen vigorous paddlers. All were shouting angrily now at John and the others.

There were also passengers in the high-powered vessels, many of whom seemed to be bloody and wounded.

They were about fifty feet distant and as they were passing, the man in the lead canoe shouted with rage in a strange language, and then he yelled:

Stranger:   "Nesaigyi solleks, nesaigyi solleks! Gonawee mesaigyi memalooshe!"
Whereupon he aimed his musket at the S'Klallams and fired. The ball tore a hole just under the gunwale of the S'Klallam canoe, on the port side, just forward of Jim.

Molly, Prince Albert and Captain Drake dug their paddles deeper in the water, pulling as hard as they were able, while Charlie, Jim and John primed their muskets, aimed at the lead canoe, and fired. The standing man dropped his weapon and clutched his chest, spinning as he fell across the paddlers behind him. The steersman slumped forward, blood spurting from his neck.

While John and the others were reloading, a few shots rang out from the other canoes, but now the distance between them was widening and the balls spat the water, falling short of their mark.

It was clear that these angry strangers were not anxious for a pitched battle, but John and his friends emptied their muskets at them anyway, as they sped quickly away to the north.

Everyone breathed a sign of relief, having come out of the fracas unharmed. John laid his musket down and picked up his paddle, glancing back at Jim.

John: "Klaksta klaska, Jim?" "Who them, Jim?"
Jim: "Goddam Haida!" "Goddam Haida!"
John: "So . . . klaska Haida! Stopilo siwash. Iktah yaka wawa, okoke ikt solleks man?" "So . . . them Haida! North Indian. What him talk, that one angry man?"
Jim: "Oh, yaka wawa, 'Nesaika solleks! Nesaika solleks! Konaway mesaika memaloose!'" "Oh, him talk, 'Us angry! Us angry! You all dead!'"
Jim: "Yaka wawa Chinook huloima!" "Him talk Chinook different!"
Jim: "Hiyu stopilo siwash wawa Chinook huloima." "Many north Indian talk Chinook different."
John: "Okoke Haida tillikum, klaska delate solleks. Klonas okoke ship yahwa pooh klaska." "That Haida people, them very angry. Maybe that ship there shoot them."
Jim: "Klonas. Klonas kloshe! Haida tillikum, klaska kwanesum chako yukwa pe pait, kapswalla nesaika klootzman pe tenas tillikum. Hiyu stopilo siwash tikegh chako pe iskum elite." "Maybe. Maybe good! Haida people, them always come here and fight, steal us women and children. Many north Indian like come and get slave."
John: "Naika tum tum konaway siwash tillikum mitlite elite." "Me believe all Indian people have slave."
Jim: "Yaka delate, ahnkuttie, keschi kunsih Governor Stevens chako pe konaway siwash tyee yukwa mamook tzum klaska nem kopa pepah, Stevens, yaka wawa, 'Konaway tillikum mahsh elite. Alki, halo mitlite elite!' Alta nesaika halo mitlite elite. Stopilo siwash, kahkwa Tlingit, Haida pe Tsimshian, klaska halo mamook tzum klaska nem kopa pepah. Klaska mitlite hiyu elite." "That true, past, but when Governor Stevens come and all Indian chief here write them name on paper, Stevens, him talk, 'All people throw away slave. Future, not have slave!' Now us not have slave. North Indian, like Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian, them not write them name on paper. Them have many slave."
John: "Hmm . . . Naika kumtux." "Hmm . . . I understand."
The S'Klallam canoe was now passing alongside the ship. John read the name on the bow, "Massachusetts." The crew had apparently witnessed the foray and were cheering. The skipper cupped a hand to his mouth and yelled down:
Skipper:   "Did you kill any of those devils?"
John: "I think we got two!"
The skipper saluted crisply.

Jim steered the canoe toward the shore and the site of the shelling, where a mixed crowd of whites and natives had gathered. Jim didn't bother to take the time to turn the canoe to come in stern-first, in the accustomed manner. The canoe skidded up onto the gravel beach, bow first, and the party jumped out, hurriedly wading ashore to see the cause of the commotion.

One of the ship's officers was directing some of the men in the crowd in laying out no less than twenty-seven Haida corpses. John was informed by an onlooker that twenty-one others had been seriously wounded. Many of them were left behind by the hastily departing northerners.

John was able to piece together a scenario from the chatter of the crowd. Apparently the Haidas had been chased out of Seattle for being a nuisance. The Massachusetts had followed them north as far as Port Gamble, where the Haidas had hoped to take up residence with the S'Klallams, who denied them. The Haida then set up camp at the north end of the village. When requested to leave by a lieutenant from the ship, the Haidas became belligerent and refused. The ship's cannoniers fired a well-placed shell right into the center of the Haida camp, devastating it.

The white residents on the mill side of the pass had taken refuge in a block-house. Some of the men armed with muskets had positioned themselves behind logs on the beach. Before the cannon fire, some of the Haida had attacked, and one of the Americans was shot and killed.


To be continued...

(Various accounts of this incident are somewhat conflicting. The exact position of the Haida encampment and the number of their canoes is uncertain, as is the number of shots fired from the ship's cannon. Nonetheless, the incident is factual.)


(Copyright © 1993 by Duane Pasco)

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