Chinook Wawa

One of the most striking things I have noticed at Grand Ronde was the use of Chinook Wawa language during a gathering at the Achaf-Hammi Plank House, several days after arriving at Grand Ronde.  While I had expected to be introduced to new topics and subjects, language use and its importance to the local community had not really crossed my mind.

Over the following days, I learned about the Confederate of Tribes of Grand Ronde, who include Kalapuya, Molalla, Rogue River Athabaskans,Shasta, and Umpqua peoples and I also learned more about Chinook Wawa, the language that is spoken by Grand Ronde tribal members today. The history of the language is interesting in itself, and it illustrates some of the population’s history, in that it was first used as a trade language between the tribes along the Columbia long before they were forced to move to the reservation in the 1850’s.

In order to communicate the tribes began using an old trade language, a jargon comprised of several dialects. Language, as expected, is intricately linked to culture and traditions of a community, and Chinook Wawa is no different.  In the face of the trauma caused by forcible removal, extreme violence, and oppression from their colonizers, the different tribes realized that they needed to band together to survive. A common language was one of the ways in which the tribes came together to form a new normal out of the upheaval (Native-Language, 2015).

As time passed from the tribes to the reservation in 1856 to the current day, the language also experienced changes, and losses. Outside pressure to assimilate to mainstream ‘American’ society made it clear in various ways that assimilation was not only desired, but expected. For some, leaving behind their language, culture and traditions seemed to offer the chance for a brighter future. For the community at large, it was a blow that would take a long time to recover from (Lewis, 2013).

The next challenge to Chinook Wawa and the Confederate Grand Ronde Tribes was with the termination of the tribes in the 1950’s. The termination was one more attempt at forced integration of tribal people, which greatly weakened the community as some members left completely.

It is no surprise that the language also suffered. On speaking to a local tribe member, I learned that there aren’t many adults fluent in Chinook Wawa. Efforts to reintroduce and revitalized the language have proven to be successful, especially with the language program that children of preschool and kindergarten age are enrolled in. This age group has shown a grasp of the language that they carry well past those first few years of schooling, a bright sign for the future of Chinook Wawa as a spoken language.

At present, Chinook Wawa’s presence is heard all over Grand Ronde, from the bilingual street signs on the government campus, to songs, and stories told at the Plank House during gatherings, as well as at the Powwow. Speakers of this unique language have come together in many ways, from making short films like Huyhuy, which went on to show at the ImagineNATIVE festival in Toronto, to a language app that aims to create new avenues for learning the language. My short exposure to the community at Grand Ronde and the cultural events made it clear that the language not only still alive, but an integral part of the traditions, culture, and life of the Grand Ronde Tribes.


photo via Grandronde.org

 

CITATION

Hopinka, Sky. 2013. “Huyhuy” https://www.facebook.com/1825697674332803/videos/vb.1825697674332803/1946774372225132/?type=2&theater

Lewis, David G. 2013. “A house built on Cedar Planks.” Willamette Valley Voices: Special Edition Confederate Tribes of Grande Ronde Articles.

Native-Languages. 2015. “Grande Ronde Indian Language” Last modified 2015. http://www.native-languages.org/grand-ronde.htm

Rhodes, Dean. 2017. “Veterans’ weekend arrives with summit, powwow”  http://www.grandronde.org/news/smoke-signals/2017/06/29/veterans-weekend-arrives-with-summit-powwow/#sthash.HwwjMeyr.dpbs

NLS About Me

Natasha has always been interested in stories, and though she took the long way around, she finally found a field of study where the stories matter.  Her background is in Biology and Anthropology with a focus on traditional indigenous architecture. She was excited to be able to participate in the FMIA field school as it intersected with all her areas of interest, and knows that what she learns during the program will be invaluable in the future.

About Me, Faye

I would like to introduce myself. I am a senior at Oregon State University in Corvallis Oregon, obtaining my degree in Archaeology. I am also a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, a grandmother of 7, and am an avid learner.

I have been interested in Archaeology for some time but hadn’t pursued a career in this direction. This is my 3 professional pursuit; I previously ventured in Nutrition and worked as an industrial, commercial electrician. My biggest goal, I feel, in my latest learning endeavor is to overcome my fear of the computer.

About Luke

Luke is a currently a student at the University of Washington in Seattle. There he is in his senior year studying archaeology sciences. His specific interests are in Indigenous North American archaeology and ancient Western Asian archaeology.

His interests in archaeology started with the post-modern classic Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Upon realizing that most empires are well documented, he settled for the more realistic equivalent of contemporary archaeological sciences.

Luke is passionate about photography and technology. Much of his free time is spent wandering the streets of Seattle in search for interesting subjects to photograph, as well as pestering friends in an effort to fulfill his urge to take as many portraits as possible.

This is Barney (not the dinosaur)

This is Barney, an undergraduate student in archeology at the University of Washington. I grew up watching the Discovery Channel, reading stuff about the great pyramids, Atlantis, and “UFOs”, something we now call pseudo-archeology (or not, who knows). These early experiences spurred my great interest in archeology and now here I am, studying archeology at the Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology field school.

Other than archeological readings and articles, I have plenty of other hobbies such as music and sports: I am a fan of the digital band Gorillaz, and I watch and play soccer, (used to be a goalkeeper at a UW soccer club but not anymore). Intermilan is my favorite team, even they haven’t been doing very well recently.

I hope I can learn as much as I can in this field school and I will try my best to help wherever I can. Barney out.