George Gibbs and Chinuk Wawa 1851

Years ago my research on the records on the tribes revealed to me that George Gibbs was a significant part of the history of the tribes at the time of the treaties. An early ethnographer and Chinuk Wawa speaker and a translator for  both the Oregon and California treaty commissions, he was highly influential in his time. At one point in my research I encountered some language texts he collected in Northern California. They were full of Chinuk wawa (Chinook Jargon) even though they were labeled Athapaskan. I wonder if he did not use Chinuk Wawa when speaking with the Northern California Tribes in the treaty negotiations. He had learned Chinuk Wawa earlier when employed as a surveyor for the U.S. military and stationed at Astoria. If so this expands the area in which the language was spoken much further south than previously theorized.

gibbs 2

There is a linguistic discussion about the formation of Chinuk wawa. Some linguists feel that it was developed because of the fur trade. Others believe it developed well before the fur trade. I fall on the latter side as the tribes of the Columbia had to communicate with other  hundreds of tribes who had unintelligible languages, so there was already a need well before the fur trade. But I also believe the fur trade helped spread the language and it became the most widely spoken language from San Francisco to Alaska for a few decades. Everyone spoke it, whites, Russians, Spanish, Hawaiians, Indians, everyone.

Some years ago (2000), I  had a discussion with Dell Hymes and another linguist on the linguist listserves. I suggested that Chinuk wawa was used in a wider region than previously known or thought before. I suggested that specific words of the language, or part of the language could have been used quite widely for inter-tribal trade, without everyone having to be fluent in the language. Hymes agreed with this notion.

In  California, I really think that Gibbs used Chinuk Wawa when speaking to Tribes in Northern California, especially that area north of the Klamath River. This includes the Tolowa, Yurok, Karok, and others. I just today found a report that says nearly the same thing.

gibbs 1851 COIA report

This is from the 1851 Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, page 499  (Google Books). The confirmation here means that we need to rethink the language and its broader use throughout the region.


John Lathrop and the Christian Strategy of Colonization

Early in my studies, I did work with the various Christian efforts to colonize Oregon. Some of that appears in my dissertation. Lately I have begun to think that the United States policy of treaty making is part and parcel following the same pattern as that devised by Christian Missionaries to the tribes. This all begins with the Scottish Society for the Propagation of Christianity(approximate title). They send hundreds of missionaries to the world, and especially to the New World, and utilize tribal languages in their efforts. Lathrop is presenting below some of their problems and presents their “scorched earth” policy to civilize the tribes. It may not be at all a fact that the North practiced the world’s first scorched earth campaign on the South, but the colonizing and missionization of the tribes was its own scorched earth campaign.     The treaties propose a very similar policy, promotion of agriculture and education as a normal part of what they were about.

John Lathrop, A Discourse Before the Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians

(17)- Although the Society has given all the aid in its power, towards the support of Missionaries among the Indians, it cannot say, that much good hath resulted from that part of its labours. Experience hath taught this Society, and others of a similar nature, that attempts to propagate the Gospel among the native of the wilderness, in their wild and savage state, will be to little purpose. The forests must be cleared away, and the ground must be prepared, before the feed is to be sowed, or a harvest is to be expected. This doctrine, which every husbandman understands, is equally true in spiritual things as in temporal. The parable, which our Lord delivered to “the multitude, gathered together unto him,” as we read in the 13th chapter of Matthew, may be applied, with great propriety, to the subject, which we are considering…

(18) Some of the most promising children were taken from distant tribes, and at great expense prepared to give useful instruction to their brethren. But when they had finished their education, and were sent back to their native tribes, the knowledge which that has acquired, and the manners which they brought back with them, were subjects of contempt and ridicule. Either from inclination, or a desire to live peaceably with their Pagan connections, the greatest part of them, soon abandoned what work on which they were sent, and became Indians again.

(18-19) The first thing attempted by those missionaries (to Paraguay), was to convince the Indians, to whom they were sent, that comforts of a temporal nature, are to be found in the state of civilization, far more numerous and certain, than can be found in a savage condition. This conviction they gave by cultivating the land. In this way, the natives had the opportunity to see, what labour will produce.

This is exactly the policy followed by the federal government, the Dawes act did exactly this. What is interesting is that the tribes were alright without a material based society. It was not necessary to value possessions, over the community. Yet this is exactly what Christianity and later the United States assimilated to tribes to philosophically and literally.

Frachtenberg was completely Misinformed

This is a common issue with the early Anthropologists, linguists and folklorists. The researcher approaches their subject without much understanding of the people or culture. they were told, or inculcated in the notion that the tribes were savages and disappearing from the earth.  Leo J. Frachtenberg, having been hired by Boas to come to Oregon, I thought would have a bit more of an open mind, but as you can tell the notion of the nature of the tribes is pervasive. He is the origin of much information in many language studies and ethnographic studies for the tribes in Oregon. It is interesting to read his perspectives on the Calapooias and then understand better what his motivations were when he did his research.

Frachtenberg here is after the last speaker of Tualatin. Louis Conoyer was living at Yakama Reservation.frachtenberg

Reports of Our Demise are Greatly Exaggerated “OR” We are Miracles of Nature!

Recent investigations or explorations into the Historic Oregon newspaper Databases have revealed additional articles. This will happen as the project continues to add many more thousands of pages in the coming years. Sometime in 2014 pages of the Chemawa American will be available. But these articles consistently tell me we are either already extinct or rapidly disappearing. Indian Eliza was the last Kalapuya, or so the newspaper tells me. I found this gem in the Oregonian paper from 1921. oregonian 1921

Missing Negative Space

Been thinking about and talking about the collapse of native societies in the northwest in the past few years. Also been thinking about the lack of definition in many theories of agriculturalists and complex hunter gatherers. I think I have a theory that connects these issues. The collapse of the societies due to epidemics caused some effects on the societies. How they are described by early explorers pre-1830s is different than 1840s and later. I think we can now say that individual nations collapsed inward and reorganized under surviving chiefs and headmen in relatively few villages. that people from many villages combined into one village in most cases. My recent exploration of the Skilloot has shown that they collapsed down to Cooniak and and probably incorporated the Clatskanie people as well, including their territory. We can establish this pretty well in the record. Ok so where it gets interesting is when comparing Douglas’s journey through the Willamette Valley as he is in the midst or just immediately after the societal collapse. Frankly he does not meet many natives in his journals. What is missing is interesting, the negative space if you will. But he does encounter a village at the Willamette Falls and steals some tobacco seeds. Nicotiana Bigalovii Multivaris I believe. We also know how much the native peoples of the region depended on vegetable matter for their diets. I would suggest that vegetables were more than 50% probably in the 75% range some times of the year. I think the Kalapuyas were heavily vegetable and starch eaters. So where is the evidence of all of their work in harvesting vegetables? I think its all around us, the whole environment is full of evidence, but I think we have never looked for it, or anthropologists have not, assuming that we were simply complex hunter gatherers. In a sense they have been biased by the scholarship to believe this and have not looked for the alternatives. I think that many of the human altered plants died out immediately after the collapse of many native societies, as there was no one to keep the domesticated plants in their regular cycles. The hint of this is in the native tobacco. Where is it? we cannot find Multivaris growing in the wild in western Oregon. There are other species, that are likely introduced but what about the native. Recently the tribe acquired some seeds of multivaris, they supposedly originate from Britain, probably descendants of the Douglas theft of seeds at Willamette Falls. This still needs to be proven but we are cultivating the plants now. I have two in my garden. But what if this did not just happen with Tobacco but other plants? Plants chosen by the tribes for food or weaving and not the wilder varieties have survived and perhaps reverted to their wild and and natural forms. De-evolved if you will. Perhaps a case of this can be made of camas, wapato or other well harvested plants. anyway my thought for the day.tobacco

%d bloggers like this: