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

Historical Note to Episode 12

Dungeness Jim's account of his involvement as a youth with the four white men is based on a S'Klallam story.

Assuming that the tale has some basis in fact, the mystery remains as to who these men were. It has been speculated that they were Hudson's Bay personnel, including trader Alexander McKenzie, who were sent with dispatches from Fort Vancouver by way of the Cowlitz River and Puget Sound to Fort Langley and were to return, but never made it.

An excerpt from a letter written by John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of Fort Vancouver, to his superiors reads as follows:

"Alexander McKenzie and four servants of the Hudson's Bay Company on December 1827 left Fort Vancouver to carry dispatches to the newly established post at Fort Langley on the Frazier River, where they arrived on December 29.

"He left on his return voyage January 3, 1828. He and his four companions were murdered by the Klallam Indians on Hood Canal in Washington.

"The Klallam Indians took possession of the slave woman who was with McKenzie and his men.

"A punitive expedition against the Indians was led by chief trader Alexander McLeod in the summer of 1828. He killed 27 Indians and burned their village with the artillery of the 'Cadboro' [a Hudson's Bay Company ship]."

The Indian woman referred to was "Princess of Wales," Alexander McKenzie's woman. The woman was recaptured by McLeod on the punitive party and returned to Vancouver, B.C.

In another letter to his superiors by McLoughlin regarding the incident, he wrote:

". . . . McLeod accompanied by four clerks and fifty-nine servants and freemen on an expedition to punish the murderers of the late Mr. McKenzie and party. . . . Mr. McLeod and the party landed under cover of the cannon, burnt the village and all their property and 46 canoes, the third day after this the Natives gave us the woman and we gave up the wounded Indian."

The wounded Indian was one of two chiefs who had come to the ship to parley about the release of the woman. They became suspicious and began to paddle back to the village. They were fired upon with muskets from the ship. One was killed. Two Iroquois employees of the Hudson's Bay Company paddled off to retrieve them. They scalped the dead one and brought the wounded man to the ship. He was subsequently ransomed for the woman.

The expedition departed from Fort Vancouver on June 18th, 1827 in canoes, went up the Cowlitz River, and portaged by horse to lower Puget Sound. After bartering horses for canoes from the Indians, they rendezvoused with the Cadboro at Port Townsend on July 1st. The village was burned on the 4th of July, and the woman handed over in exchange for the chief on July 7th. They departed the next day, arriving at Fort Vancouver on the 15th of July, where it was business as usual.

In 1866, at Port Townsend, James Swan was visited by an old S'Klallam man who handed him a packet of letters which had been in his possession for many years. He asked Judge Swan in Jargon, "Ikta okoke pepah wawa?" ("What this paper talk?") The judge took the papers and asked, "Kah maika iskum okoke pepah?" ("Where you get this paper?")

The old S'Klallam apparently became suspicious. He grabbed the letters and walked away. It is possible that this was the packet of letters taken from McKenzie's coat pocket.

It is interesting to note that if the whites in the S'Klallam narrative are the McKenzie party, the Hudson's Bay Company's vendetta was inflicted on the wrong village. On the other hand, McKenzie had heard rumors from the Suquamish that the guilty S'Klallam had possibly gone to Dungeness to enlist support in lieu of probable retaliation by the Hudson's Bay Company.


(Copyright © 1994 by Duane Pasco)

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