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

Episode 14

On arriving at Port Gamble, Jim steered his canoe around the Pringle and tied up at the dock.

The Pringle was a Pope & Talbot Company vessel and had arrived from San Francisco the day before bringing freight, passengers and mail.

James Swan was introduced to John and his brother, Peter. John received a letter from the Washington Territory delegate, Isaac Stevens, informing him that he had not forgotten the plan to send him on a survey excursion across the Olympic Mountains to seek out a possible wagon route to the coast. After several months of consideration, however, he had come to the conclusion that such an undertaking would be folly, based on the fact that there was no harbor on the west coast of Washington between Quinault and Cape Flattery. He felt that there would not likely in future be a settlement of any appreciable size to warrant, in the words of the ex-governor, "highway development on a grand scale." (This was actually a contradictory statement coming from Stevens, a rather impetuous visionary whose plans were forever on a grand scale.)

Needless to say, John and Jim were both quite disappointed.

Among the passengers on the Pringle were Pete's wife, Meredith, and to John's total surprise and delight, Barbara, the woman of his dreams. A marriage was arranged, and John explained to Jim that it was just as well that Stevens had reconsidered, for with the arrival of Barbara, adventure was not a priority. Besides, it was mid-October, and there had already been dusting of snow in the Olympics.

Dungeness Jim had agreed to ferry Swan to Olympia and they were to embark the following morning. A dawn departure would carry them north on the outgoing tide round Foulweather Bluff at the slack, and turn south down Admiralty Inlet on the incoming tide.

At first light Jim, Swan and the crew were at the dock with their personal gear. Jim's wife, Molly, accompanied by the Duke and Jenny, arrived with food for the journey just as the crew was boarding the canoe. They had decided to go along. They had never seen Olympia, and Jim was happy to have three more paddlers, for it wasn't likely that they would have a wind in their favor.

A light fog hung over the glassy water as the canoe slipped away from the mill-town, gradually putting distance between the travelers and the whine of the steam-driven saws. The croak of a heron was heard from a hundred yards off to starboard, and in a few seconds it crossed the path of the canoe.

Up in the bow, Chikamin Charlie began singing in cadence to the paddles. The melody was nearly identical to "Old Paint." Three-quarter time was good for rowing or paddling.

Charlie: "Hey hey heya, hey hey ya
Hey hey heya, wo hey hey ya
Wo hey heya, wo hey hey ya

Klahowya Takeelet, nesaika klatawa
"Hey hey heya, hey hey ya
Hey hey heya, wo hey hey ya
Wo hey heya, wo hey hey ya

Goodbye Takeelet, us go
"Hey hey heya, hey hey ya
Hey hey heya, wo hey hey ya
Wo hey heya, wo hey hey ya

Nesaika klatawa, siah stehwa
"Hey hey heya, hey hey ya
Hey hey heya, wo hey hey ya
Wo hey heya, wo hey hey ya

Us go far south
"Hey hey heya, hey hey ya
Hey hey heya, wo hey hey ya
Wo hey heya, wo hey hey ya

Maika moola mamook skookum latlah
"Hey hey heya, hey hey ya
Hey hey heya, wo hey hey ya
Wo hey heya, wo hey hey ya

You mill make strong noise
"Hey hey heya, hey hey ya
Hey hey heya, wo hey hey ya
Wo hey heya, wo hey hey ya

Nesaika klatawa Olympia."
"Hey hey heya, hey hey ya
Hey hey heya, wo hey hey ya
Wo hey heya, wo hey hey ya

Us go Olympia."
("Takeelet" is the old name for the beach at Port Gamble.)

Everyone joined in on the chorus, and the song was repeated several times. Even Swan was getting into it. He chuckled when it finally tapered off. He was seated just ahead of Jim again, with the Duke beside him.

Swan: "That Charlie is a song-writing son-of-a-gun."
Jim and Chetzamoka had picked up a lot of English, but this comment was incomprehensible.
Duke: "Charlie ikta?" "Charlie what?"
Swan: "Charlie, yaka kloshe mamook chanti!" "Charlie, him make good song!"
Duke: "Ah, nawitka!" "Ah, indeed!"
Jim: "Delate! Kwanesum nesaika klatawa kopa canim, Charlie, yaka mamook chee chanti." "True! Always us go in canoe, Charlie, him make new song."
Charlie was still humming to himself. Molly and Jenny Lind were paired up on the center thwart. They began humming a kind of harmony with him. It was very pretty. It was not uncommon among the native people of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound for the men to sing accompanied by the women singing a high drone or near-harmony.

The fog was thick at times, but for the most part the shore was discernible. The canoe was making very good time, thanks to the tide and the smooth water. There was a doe and her fawn standing on the beach just above the water. They raised their heads and looked at the canoe-load of paddlers.

Molly: "Ikt sun Jim pe naika nanitch mowitch swim wake siah yukwa. Yaka swim enatai salt chuck kopa 'Whiskey Spit' yahwa." "One day Jim and me look deer swim near here. It swim across salt water to 'Whiskey Spit' there."
Molly was on the port side of the thwart. She raised her paddle and pointed across the water to the west.
Jenny: "Yaka siah, klonas ikt pe sitkum mile!" "That far, maybe one and half mile!"
Molly: "Aha, keschi mowitch, klaska swim kloshe!" "Yes, but deer, them swim good."
Jenny: "Klonas yaka chako kwass pe klatawa." "Maybe it become afraid and go."
Swan: "Molly, okoke mowitch, yaka man mowitch?" "Molly, that deer, it man deer?"
Molly: "Wake, yaka klootzman mowitch pe halo ole." "No, it woman deer, and not old."
Jenny: "Klonas okoke klootzman mowitch tikegh klap man mowitch!" "Maybe that woman deer want find man deer!"
Molly laughed.
Molly: "Hiyu man mowitch mitlite kopa stick illahee yukwa. Kahta klootzman mowitch swim ikt pe sitkum mile?" "Many man deer live in forest there. Why woman deer swim one and half mile?"
Every man in the canoe was listening to this conversation now. The voices carried easily in the quiet, foggy morning.
Jenny: "Spose naika klootzman mowitch, naika swim tahtlum mile klap skookum toketie man mowitch!" "If me woman deer, me swim ten mile find strong, handsome man deer!"
Everyone laughed. The sound echoed off the shore, and everyone laughed again.
Jim: "Hiyu mowitch swim enatai salt chuck. Chetwoot swim enatai salt chuck weght." "Many deer swim across salt water. Black bear swim across water also."
Duke: "Yaka delate. Swan, ikt laly maika wawa maika kumtux kopa eye ekolli iskum olehiyu?" "That true. Swan, one time you talk you see whale catch seal?"
Swan: "Aha. Yaka delate." "Yes. That true."
Duke: "Siwash tillikum, nesaika nanitch hiyu laly ekolli iskum siwash cosho, keschi ikt laly naika nanitch chetwoot swim kopa salt chuck, wake siah Port Townsend. Maika tum-tum yaka tikegh klatawa Indian Island. "Indian people, us look many time whale catch seal, but one time me look black bear in salt water, near Port Townsend. Me believe him want go Indian Island.
"Well, naika sit kopa naika tenas canim kopa salt chuck. Naika nanitch okoke chetwoot swim youtlkut laly. Naika kumtux kopa kwolan 'poh!' Naika nanitch pe kumtux kopa eye kwaist, klonas tahtlum ekolli chako. Hyas ekolli tyee, yaka iskum chetwoot kopa yaka la push. Ekolli, yaka skookum hullel chetwoot pe mahsh chetwoot siah kopa salt chuck. "Well, me sit in me little canoe on salt water. Me look that black bear swim long time. Me hear 'poh!' Me look and see nine, maybe ten whale come. Big whale chief, him catch black bear in him mouth. Whale, him strong shake black bear and throw him far salt water.
"Okoke ekolli, yaka swim pe iskum chetwoot weght. Ekolli skookum hullel chetwoot pe mahsh yaka weght. Ekolli, yaka mamook chetwoot kahkwa okoke hiyu laly." "That whale, him swim and catch bear again. Whale strong shake black bear and throw him again. Whale, him do bear same like that many time."
Swan: "Cat and mouse."
Duke: "'Cat and mouse?' . . . Pus-pus pe hool-hool? Aha, nawitka. Delate kahkwa pus-pus pe hool-hool! Kunsih naika nanitch klaska, naika tum-tum klaska kahkwa pus-pus pe hool-hool. "'Cat and mouse?' . . . Cat and mouse? Ah, indeed. Very same like cat and mouse! When me look them, me think them same like cat and mouse.
"Well, kunsih tyee ekolli iksum chetwoot pe mahsh yaka, konaway ekolli swim lewullo pe lewullo. Chetwoot, yaka chako memaloose, keschi ekolli, klaska halo mukamuk. Klaska klatawa pe chetwoot, yaka mitlite yahwa." "Well, when chief whale catch black bear and throw him, all whale swim around and around. Black bear, him become dead, but whale, them not eat. Them go and black bear, him stay there."
Swan: "My god!"
Everyone was quiet now, obviously recounting Duke's story in their minds. After a while, "Skookum Tom," the Kanaka who increasingly spoke very good Jargon without mixing it up with Hawaiian Pidgin, spoke up.
Tom: "Mowitch pe chetwoot halo mitlite kopa Hava'ii ka naika tillikum mitlite. Keschi hiyu cosho mitlite yahwa. Cosho swim kloshe, keschi, spose cosho swim kopa salt chuck shark mukamuk yaka! Kunsih shark nanitch saghalie pe kumtux kopa eye cosho tenas youtskut teahwhit klatawa hyak-hyak, shark, yaka chako pelton pe olo. Yaka swim saghalie, iskum cosho pe mukamuk!" Deer and black bear not live at Hava'ii where me people live. But many pig live there. Pig swim good, but if pig swim on salt water, shark eat him! When shark look up and see pig little short leg go fast-fast, shark, him become crazy and hungry. Him swim up, catch pig and eat!"
Jenny: "Klonas kloshe spose cosho mama koko tenas cosho kopa opoots pe wawa, 'Maika halo klatawa kopa salt chuck!'" "Maybe good if pig mama hit baby pig on butt and talk, 'You not go on salt water!'"
This triggered some more laughter, and then everyone was quiet again, dipping their paddles to the cadence of Charlie humming some other melody to himself. He was probably working out another song.

Nearing Foulweather bluff, Jim steered around a sand bar, after which some hard pulling was experienced by the crew due to some erratic tidal activity. The course was heading due east as the canoe passed under the high cliff at Foulweather Bluff. Following the shoreline to the southeast, paddling was still a little hard, although the tide was at its maximum low. There was a pea-gravel beach just ahead, and Jim steered toward it. A good place for a lunch break.

The canoe was beached stern first. Its occupants disembarked and the craft was pulled well above the water. Everyone stretched a little. The men fanned out along the beach to gather a little firewood. They returned within a few minutes with plenty of fuel to boil the coffee, for which the women had already kindled a fire.

Jim brought a box from the canoe, from which Molly laid out some sea biscuits and smoked salmon on a cloth with cups for all.

Jim: "Ah, kloshe sun. Kloshe sun!" "Ah, good day. Good day!
Tom: "Aha. Nesaika ko yukwa hyak laly, eh, Jim?" "Yes. Us arrive here fast time, eh, Jim?"
Jim: "Nawitka! Alta kwaist tin-tin. Spose nesaika klatawa, kopa tahtlum tin-tin, nesaika klonas ko Suquamish elip polaklie." "Indeed! Now nine o'clock. If us go at ten o'clock, us maybe arrive Suquamish before dark."
Jim looked around to see if James heard this, but he wasn't in sight.
Jim: "Hey, ka Swan?" "Hey, where Swan?"
"Naika nanitch Swan klatawa kopa stick illahee yahwa. Klonas yaka tikegh mamook humm." "Me look Swan go into forest there. Maybe him want go toilet."
He pointed down the beach. All of a sudden, a yell was heard and the crashing of brush. Out of an alder break exploded two forms: One was a terrified black bear, which tore away down the beach. The other was Swan, who in an attempt to flee the encounter, had tripped over his dropped trousers and fallen, sprawled on the beach. Not realizing the bear had run in the opposite direction, Swan frantically got to his feet. While trying to run toward his companions and pull up his trousers at the same time, he tripped and fell again.
Swan's terror had deafened his ears to the uncontrollable laughter coming from the party up the beach by the canoe. They howled as Swan desperately tried to cover the distance on all fours, it being impossible to get a stride with his trousers tangled around his ankles.

Swan gave a quick glance over his shoulder and realized the bear was running the other way. He stopped, rolled over on the beach and jerked his trousers up, and stood pulling his braces over his shoulders.

Swan's companions were howling. He was humiliated. Slowly the scarlet of rage crept over his face and, through clenched teeth, he spat out a long series of untranslatable expletives, shaking his fist at the retreating bear.

Jim: "Klaksta maika sihks, Swan?" "Who you friend, Swan?"
Duke: "Hey, Swan, alki klonas kloshe spose maika haul saghalie maika sakoleks elip maika coolie! Hee-hee!" "Hey, Swan, future maybe good if you pull up you pants before you run! Hee-hee!"
Charlie: "Spose maika coolie hyak, klonas maika iskum okoke chetwoot!" "If you run fast, maybe you catch that black bear!"
Jenny: "Oh, klahowyum chetwoot, Swan mamook yaka kwass!" "Oh, poor black bear, Swan make him afraid!"
With some difficulty, Swan managed to regain his composure. But like a gentleman, he took his companions' jibing in good stride.

To be continued...


(Copyright © 1994 by Duane Pasco)

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