Dr. Noel Rude Teaching

Dr. Rude's Linguistic Lesson

There was a query to the blog recently–where did the name Tamástslikt come from?   Way back in the 20th century, the early 1990’s, the original proposed name was a mouthful–The Oregon Trail on the Umatilla Indian Reservation Interpretive Institute.  I don’t think it would fit on a tote bag or a coffee cup.  Tribal elders Fermore Craig Sr., Leah Conner, and Átway Celia Bearchum faithfully attended the planning meetings.  It was the late Mrs. Bearchum who came up with Tamásclikt. 

Tamásclik is a Walla Walla (NE Sahaptin dialect ) verb meaning “turn over” in the sense of ‘when the season turns over’, ‘when the year turns over’, etc.   In the case of Walla Walla, it can also mean ‘translate language’.  In adapting the Sahaptin dialects to English spellings, the ‘c’ stands for the sound ‘ts’.  The final ‘-t’ turns the verb into a name. ‘Tamásclikt’ has been ‘glossed’ or given a meaning as “interpreting our own story”.   

One occasionally runs into old logo items imprinted with “Tamustalik,” the early version before orthographic correction by Dr. Noel Rude.   To fit more common usage, the ‘c’ in Tamásclikt reverted back to ‘ts’.  That was the first year Dr. Rude was back working for the Tribe as linguist.  The man is a walking repository of many elders’ testaments and ‘deep’ language in the Sahaptin dialects, Nez Perce, Umatilla, and Walla Walla.  Ask him a question, and he will know.  He made a chart:


‘turn over’

‘translate, interpret’

Walla Walla






Nez Perce



Sahaptin ‘a’ sounds like the ‘a’ in ‘what,’ never like ‘mast’, ‘blast’, ‘cast’.  Sahaptin spells those words  ‘meest’, ‘bleest’, ‘keest’.   That is how the double-ee’s sound. 

Some folks still say, ‘ Tamástslikt just means to translate language’, but there is a difference in the terms for ‘turn over’ and ‘translate language’.  For example, ‘tamáshwik’ is the term for ‘translate language’ in Umatilla (Columbia River Sahaptin).   

We’re grateful to the elders for their thoughtful deliberations.  Tamástslikt is their legacy.  If you respect the work of the language elders, it’s better not to refer to the Institute as ‘TCI’.

This entry was posted in Native Tongue and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s