Tribal Government & News

General Council meeting will celebrate new Wawa dictionary

02.28.2012 Ron Karten General Council, Culture, Education, History, Events

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde will celebrate the publication of a new Chinuk Wawa dictionary at the Sunday, March 4, General Council meeting being held in the Tribal Community Center, 9615 Grand Ronde Road, at 11 a.m.

The dictionary, running almost 500 pages, includes about 1,000 core words and about 3,000 compound words documenting the Northwest Indian trade language as it was spoken by past generations of Grand Ronde Indians.

The new edition is one-third larger than the working dictionary the Tribe's Cultural Resources Department created in 2001, said Henry Zenk, an anthropologist who first started working with the Grand Ronde Tribe in 1978.

Zenk's thesis for a Ph.D from the University of Oregon documented the Chinuk Wawa language, which was rapidly adopted by treaty-signing Tribes that spoke different languages once they were moved to the Grand Ronde Reservation in the 1850s. The language also was adopted by most of the newcomer settlers to the region.

The new dictionary includes sections on the language's local speakers, the alphabet, a pronunciation guide and the grammar of Chinuk Wawa. In addition, following the words, definitions and etymologies (origins) of words, the dictionary includes a picture gallery and biographical sketches of the Tribe's fluent Chinuk Wawa speakers.

Two Catholic missionary texts also are included since Catholic priests at Grand Ronde and elsewhere primarily used Chinuk Wawa to communicate with local Native Americans.

The book is dedicated to former Tribal Elder Jackie Mercier Whisler, a Chinuk Wawa teacher at the Tribe who contributed much to the dictionary before walking on in December 2007.

The dictionary will be available for $20 (not including a $5 handling fee) through the Tribe's Cultural Resources Department and in the University of Washington Press' catalog.