Page images

"after the soft languages and rapid enunciation of the Polynesians, the Chinooks presented a singular contrast, in the slow, deliberate manner in which they seemed to choke out their words, giving utterance to sounds some of which could scarcely be represented by combinations of known letters." Having heard its utterances as spoken for my behoof by more than one traveller, I can only compare them to the inarticulate noises made from the throat, with the tongue against the teeth or palate, when encouraging a horse in driving. Mr. Kane states in reference to it, "I would willingly give a specimen of the barbarous language were it possible to represent by any combination of our alphabet the horrible, harsh, spluttering sounds which proceed from the throat, apparently unguided either by the tongue or lip." Fort Vancouver is the largest of all the posts in the Hudson's Bay Company's Territory, and has frequently upwards of two hundred voyageurs with their Indian wives and families residing there, besides the factors and clerks. A perfect Babel of languages is to be heard amongst them, as they include a mixture of English, CanadianFrench, Chinese, Iroquois, Sandwich Islanders, Crees, and Chinooks. Besides these the Fort is visited for trading purposes by Walla-wallas, Klickatats, Kalapurgas, Klackamuss, Cowlitz, and other Indian tribes; and hence the growth of a patois by which all can hold intercourse together. The English, as it shapes itself on the lips of the natives, forms the substratum; but the French of the voyageurs has also contributed its quota, and the remainder is made up of Nootka, Chinook, Cree, Hawaiian, and miscellaneous words, contributed by all to the general stock. The common salutation is Clakhoh-ah-yah, which is believed to have originated from their hearing one of the residents at the Fort, named Clark, frequently addressed by his friends: "Clark, how

are you?" The designation for an Englishman is Kintshosh, i.e., King George; while an American is styled Boston. Tala, i.e., dollar, signifies silver or money; oluman, i.e., old man, father, etc. The vocabulary as written, shows the changes the simplest words undergo on their lips e.g., fire, paia; rum, lum; water, wata; sturgeon, stutshin; to-morrow, tumola. And the French in like manner: la médecine becomes lamestin; la grasse, lakles; sauvage, savash, i.e., Indian; la vieille, lawie, etc. The formation of the vocabulary appears to have been determined to a great extent by the simplicity or easy utterance of the desired word in any accessible language. As to the grammar: number and case have disappeared, and tense is expressed by means of adverbs. Nouns and verbs are also constantly employed as adjectives or prefixes, modifying other words; and are further increased, not only by borrowing from all available sources, but by the same onomatopoeic process to which has already been assigned the growth in some degree of all languages. Thus we have moo-moos, an ox, or beef; tiktik, a watch; tingling, a bell; hehe, laughter; tumtum, the heart; tum-tumb, or tum-wata, a waterfall; pah, to smoke; poo, to shoot; mok-e-mok, to eat, or drink; liplip, to boil. Nor is this patois a mere collection of words. Mr. Kane informs me, that by means of it he soon learned to converse with the chiefs of most of the tribes around Fort Vancouver with tolerable ease. The common question was: cacha-mikha-chacha, where did you come from? and to this the answer was: seyyaw, from a distance; but in this reply the first syllable is lengthened according to the distance implied, so that in the case of the Canadian traveller he had to dwell upon it with a prolonged utterance, to indicate the remote point from whence he had come. Mikha is the pronoun you; neiki, I; as: neiki mok-e-mok tschuck, I

drink water. But accent and varying emphasis modify the meaning of words, as is the case to a great extent with the Chinese. Mr. Hales, the philologist of the United States Exploring Expedition, remarks in reference to the Indians and voyageurs on the Columbia river: "The general communication is maintained chiefly by means of the jargon, which may be said to be the prevailing idiom. There are Canadians and halfbreeds married to Chinook women, who can only converse with their wives in this speech; and it is the fact, strange as it may seem, that many young children are growing up to whom this factitious language is really the mother-tongue, and who speak it with more readiness and perfection than any other."

Thus in all ways are the emigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere making a new world of the West. The face of the country, the life native to its soil, the autochthones by whom it is claimed, and the languages in which such is uttered, are all being modified, effaced, displaced. Whatever be the future fate of the intrusive races, they have wrought mightier changes in two centuries, than it is probable the American continent witnessed for twenty centuries before. The rapidity, indeed, with which such changes now take place strikes the onlooker with astonishment; and it is inconceivable to those who have not witnessed it for themselves. In 1841, the Vicennes," fresh from exploring the islands and coasts of the Southern Ocean, entered the Straits of De Fuca, and Dr. Pickering describes his impressions on landing. The maritime skill of the Chinooks, their eagerness for traffic, and the striking quietness of their movements, all excited his interest. They had some of the usual forbidding habits natural to savage life; but he adds, "they appeared to live, as it were, on a good understanding with the birds and beasts, or as if forming part


and parcel of the surrounding animal creation; a point in correspondence with an idea previously entertained that the Mongolian has peculiar qualifications for reclaiming, or reducing animals to the domestic state." But all was strange, wild, and savage. The broad continent lay between those Pacific coasts and the seats of civilisation on its eastern shores; and standing in the midst of a temporary Indian encampment, and surrounded by all the rude details of savage life, he exclaims: "Scarcely two centuries ago, our New England shores presented only scenes like that before me; and what is to be the result of the lapse of the third?" Twenty years have elapsed since then. The town of Victoria is rising on Vancouver's Island, and that of New Westminster, in British Columbia. And the British Colonist, the New Westminster Times, and other broadsheets of the North Pacific coast already tell of the printing-press in full operation, where so recently the Indian trail and the rude wigwam of the savage were the sole evidences of the presence of man. The mineral wealth of Fraser's River has attracted thousands to the new province. The clearing, the farm, and the industrious settlement, have displaced the ephemeral lodges of the Indian; and are rapidly superseding the no less ephemeral shanties of the gold diggings. The Customs' receipts of the colony of British Columbia for the year 1860 exceeded £32,000; and the proceeds are being chiefly expended on public works. The progress of a single year outspeeds the work of past centuries. Amid the charred stumps and the rough clearings of the young settlement, fancy traces, not obscurely, the foundations of future states and empires, and the ports of the merchant navies of the Pacific that shall unite America to Asia, as America has been united to Europe. Already the indomitable enterprise of the intruding races

2 E


has planned the route of overland travel, and even now the railways are stretching westward towards the Rocky Mountains. Explorers are surveying their defiles for the fittest passage, through which to guide the snorting steam-horse, and all the wonderful appliances by which the triumphs of modern civilisation are achieved. If such victories were only to be obtained, like those of the first Spanish colonists of the New World, by the merciless extermination of the Indian occupants of the soil, it would be vain to hope for the endurance of states or empires thus founded in iniquity; but if, by the intrusion of the vigorous races of Europe, smiling farms and busy marts are to take the place of the tangled trail of the hunter and the wigwam of the savage; and the millions of a populous continent, with the arts and letters, the matured policy, and the ennobling impulses of free states, are to replace the few thousands of the scattered tribes living on in aimless, unprogressive strife: even the most sensitive philanthropist may learn to look with resignation, if not with complacency, on the peaceful absorption and extinction of races who accomplish so imperfectly every object of man's being. If the survivors can be protected against personal wrong; and, so far as wise policy and a generous statesmanship can accomplish it, the Indian be admitted to an equal share with the intruding colonizer, in all the advantages of progressive civilisation: then we may look with satisfaction on the close of that long night of the Western World, in which it has given birth to no science, no philosophy, no moral teaching that has endured; and hail the dawn of centuries in which the states and empires of the West are to claim their place in the world's commonwealth of nations, and bear their part in the accelerated progress of the human race.

« PreviousContinue »