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Melynn23
01-07-2016, 05:36 AM
Hi Everyone,
I'm new here (this is my very first post, actually) so please forgive me if there is already a thread for this and I didn't see it. I am writing a historical fiction novel set in Washington Territory in the mid 1850's. It's the opening novel of what will likely turn out to be a series, but so far, it can also stand on its own. There weren't many Europeans in the area at the time--those that were there were trappers for the Hudson's Bay Company or they worked for small lumber mills, killing all the beautiful trees. For this reason, a large portion of my characters are Native American and seeing as though I am not, I want to make certain I write them in a respectful and accurate way.

I have two current issues I could use some help with:

In the area that I am focused on the largest tribe at the time was the Quinault. I have had some email contact with the current cultural resources person from the Quinault Indian Nation and he has been very helpful; but one area he was not able to give much assistance in was the naming of my characters. He told me that names were often passed down through families and were intensely private which is why they don't show up in any sort of census documents. I want to respect that and not push the issue, but the fact remains that I have several characters I need to name. Could someone out there please guide me on how to achieve this in a realistic manner?

Additionally, because there hadn't yet been a ton of contact between the Quinaults and Whites there wouldn't have been a strong understanding of English yet. My contact at the tribal office said that Chinook jargon was used, also between tribes whose languages didn't completely overlap, but I don't know how to express that in print in a way that would make sense to readers. I have a Chinook jargon dictionary, but there isn't any guidance really on how sentences were formed. Does anyone have knowledge of this or know how to get around it without insulting readers intelligence or turning my characters into caricatures?

Thanks for any help!
Take care,
Melynn

Siri Kirpal
01-07-2016, 07:38 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Not a Native American, but...

I suggest you give all your characters suitable nicknames. Perhaps you could ask your Quinault contact about that?

The usual suggestion for your second question is to write the dialogue in modern English (probably simplified since it's a trade language), and if there's a graceful way to do so, tell the reader what the language actually is.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Melynn23
01-07-2016, 08:45 PM
Thank you! I appreciate it!
Take care,
Melinda :)

Fingers
01-07-2016, 10:59 PM
What is present day Oregon and good parts of present day Washington were all part of the Oregon Territory in the mid 1850's. Oregon became a state in 1859 so im pretty sure there were more white people there than you think.

bombergirl69
01-07-2016, 11:21 PM
.One book you might want to read if you have not is Fools Crow by James Welsh. He was Blackfeet and the book is about the Blackfeet tribe in the 1870s or so. I don't remember that he uses a lot of Blackfeet language specifically - there is Fools Crow and his wife Red Paint and Rides at the Door and Yellow Kidney and so on. A few real people - like Heavy Runner. Obviously he knows the family names well but does not try to write in dialect, at all if I remember.

There is a much, much older book, Blood Brother (Elliot Arnold) about the Chiricahua Apache - specifically Cochise's relationship with Tom Jeffords - a well documented event. He does not use dialect but again he is fictionalizing well known figures, so there is Son-see-ah-ray and...others I can't remember (actual people) but the language is all in English (he may have some words thrown in here and there) It's been a zillion years since I looked at it but as I remember it was pretty well received.

I would not try to write in dialect. I just finished Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen, and liked it a lot but one thing I did NOT like was his writing in Bahamian dialect.

Sorry not more help but your book sounds interesting! I love the coastal region of WA - Lake Ozette, Chi chi beach. Hiked up the Hoh. Such an amazing area!

kuwisdelu
01-08-2016, 08:51 AM
For this reason, a large portion of my characters are Native American and seeing as though I am not, I want to make certain I write them in a respectful and accurate way.

Read books by the tribe you want to write about. Not just books about them. Books by them. Read firsthand accounts by people from that tribe. Not secondhand stories told by white people. You need primary sources.


In the area that I am focused on the largest tribe at the time was the Quinault. I have had some email contact with the current cultural resources person from the Quinault Indian Nation and he has been very helpful; but one area he was not able to give much assistance in was the naming of my characters. He told me that names were often passed down through families and were intensely private which is why they don't show up in any sort of census documents. I want to respect that and not push the issue, but the fact remains that I have several characters I need to name. Could someone out there please guide me on how to achieve this in a realistic manner?

Good. You have a primary source. So why are you asking us?

Ask your contact what you should do about names. Explain you want to respect not using anything they don't want you to use.

If they still say no, respect that, too, and either figure out how to write a story without giving anyone a name (it can be done, albeit with difficulty), or give it up.


Additionally, because there hadn't yet been a ton of contact between the Quinaults and Whites there wouldn't have been a strong understanding of English yet. My contact at the tribal office said that Chinook jargon was used, also between tribes whose languages didn't completely overlap, but I don't know how to express that in print in a way that would make sense to readers. I have a Chinook jargon dictionary, but there isn't any guidance really on how sentences were formed. Does anyone have knowledge of this or know how to get around it without insulting readers intelligence or turning my characters into caricatures?

If you don't have a native speaker you can ask, then don't this at all. Write it in plain English.

The Wizard
01-11-2016, 09:47 PM
I am a native American. There are a lot of tribes out there and a lot of customs so I can't exactly tell you everything about everything. But I can tell you that the trees weren't really a big concern with the natives. In fact, they built log cabins out of trees themselves. The Main concern was they were being pushed out of their homeland. Trees could play a part but they fought over their children being killed not so much the trees

MLayton
01-14-2016, 05:30 AM
Ask your contact what you should do about names. Explain you want to respect not using anything they don't want you to use.

If they still say no, respect that, too, and either figure out how to write a story without giving anyone a name (it can be done, albeit with difficulty), or give it up.



If you don't have a native speaker you can ask, then don't this at all. Write it in plain English.

I agree with this concept. The members of the Quinault nation may feel like using their names incorrectly is disrespectful. Instead of trying to get exact names, you might want to learn how the names are constructed. If it seems your primary source is uncomfortable, ask them why and see if you can come to a compromise.

Regarding Chinook jargon, the scentence structure would likely be a mix between English and native languages. Honestly, I think your best bet for getting the sentence structure correct is to find historical pieces of Chinook jargon, deconstruct the sentences, and build your own based on the construction. The people who wrote the dictionary might be able to guide you in the right direction if that fails.

blacbird
01-14-2016, 05:41 AM
What is present day Oregon and good parts of present day Washington were all part of the Oregon Territory in the mid 1850's. Oregon became a state in 1859 so im pretty sure there were more white people there than you think.

This. White emigrants were making their way to Oregon in droves by 1850. A really good academic resource on the westward wagon train emigration is The Plains Across, by John Unruh, published by the U. of Nebraska academic press, as I recall, and considered something of a historical classic. I have a copy, found at a used bookstore some years ago, and it is highly readable and very detailed. As I am completing a historical novel set in 1850-1851, and centering on the wagon train journey west to the gold country of California, I've found it invaluable.

caw