SEASONAL WONDERINGS

Tamastslikt Heritage Corridor Map

It was around January 7, 2012, when Cass commented :    “I visited the museum years ago and sadly can’t find any of my journals or work from that period. I often think back to my time spent there. I am curious if I can find out the Tamastslikt words for ‘we were, we are, we will be’.”  To try to answer your question, Cass, the Tamástslikt text panels  were each translated in one of the three dialects of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.  ‘We were’ is in Numíiputimt (Nez Perce):  Nuun Pewéeke.   ‘ee’ is that broad ‘a’ like ‘cat.’  ‘We are’ is ‘ána ku’úsh wa chikúuk, ‘as we are today.’  ‘We will be’ is ‘ku’úshtash wáta.’  It’s awkward to try to translate straight across from English idioms into the native dialects, because basically it doesn’t translate, but somebody gave it a try. 

 On these cold blustery days, we think of the ancestors out on the windy steppes on horseback without provisions or refuge.  It was January 1848 when conflicts and skirmishes were erupting on the Plateau– in Deschutes country, Willow Springs, Well Springs, and up at Touchet—when Indians were widely fearful of losing their country.    Not the most auspicious time of year to have a war.

J.W. Nesmith was the colonel of the Oregon Volunteer Militia that lit out of Willamette Valley in the winter of 1847-48 after the Cayuse Indians in retribution for the Whitman Mission killings.  Here’s a story called, One on Colonel Nesmith: 

About the only person who ever got the best of Colonel Nesmith was a Cayuse Indian named “Sticcus.”  The colonel was very fond of elk meat, a dish which was not often to be had, even in pioneer times, and, with a prospect of securing a good meal of this savory flesh, he was, during a trip to eastern Oregon, constrained to accept of an invitation given by the Indian to dine with him.  As his dusky friend could not speak “Boston,” and “Chinook” was equally Greek to him, the conversation had to be carried on by pantomime.  The Indians’ spreading of fingers convinced the colonel that he meant elk antlers, and that the dinner was to be elk meat, so he prepared himself for and did eat at the meal to his utmost capacity; but imagine his chagrin when he found outside the camp the ears, tail and hoofs of a mule, instead of some evidences left of the noble animal he supposed he had dined upon.  Long afterwards the colonel smiled when any like signs were made, but it was years before he told the joke the Indian had unwittingly played upon him. –Oregon Native Son and historical magazine, Vol 1, by Native Sons of Oregon, Oregon Pioneer association, Indian War Veterans and Historical society undated ebook.

Does the story ring true?  Indians would feel slightly revulsed when Lewis & Clark and their ilk would eat horses and dogs, so it’s rather hard to imagine that Indians wouldn’t eat horses but they would eat mule meat.  It seems like mule meat would taste a whole lot different from elk meat.  “Sticcus” was the Cayuse headman, Istíkats, ancestor of many folks on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.  When the Oregon volunteer militia came to the Walla Walla Valley in 1847 to exact justice for the Whitmans, they were somewhat indiscriminate in distinguishing enemies from friends.   Istíkats prudently moved to the mountains until the militia’s tour was done.  But he also did his best to be an intermediary between the Cayuse and the Oregon militia.  He had been a friend to Marcus Whitman and went so far as to warn the good doctor to get out while the getting was good.

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