Grand Ronde Linguist Jedd Schrock Shares His Findings
Almost a century ago, ethno-linguists were sent to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to record the language of native speakers — including those from the Santiam Kalapuya tribe, indigenous to the mid-Willamette Valley, between the forks of the Santiam River. This language would soon be put to rest, with the death of John B. Hudson in the 1950’s, the last known Santiam Kalapuya speaker. Ethno-linguist Melville Jacobs took written recordings of Hudson, along with others at Grand Ronde. Much of these recordings have since been translated and published, including the recent autobiography, My Life by Louis Kenoyer, a translated account of Kenoyer’s life growing up at Grand Ronde, published by OSU Press in 2017.
One story, however, was left behind and never translated until now. These were the words of Santiam Kalapuya native Eustace Howard, whom Jacobs collected 17 notebooks worth of material from. According to Grand Ronde Linguist Jedd Schrock, Howard and Jacobs didn’t have the best relationship, which may be the reason these volumes went untouched for so long. Previously involved in the Kenoyer project, Schrock has now been commissioned by Grand Ronde to translate these works — a job he hopes delivers justice to the life and words of Eustace Howard.
Schrock will be visiting Corvallis on October 9 for the 3rd Annual Champinefu Lecture Series, to share his findings on the Howard-Jacobs transcripts — a project dubbed Kalapuya Texts II.
An Eerie Connection
“It’s very meaningful, and I’m in a very unusual role,” Schrock says of his job. “I mean, he’s talking to me — this is what’s eerie. He’s talking to another generation who might someday read this and understand it, and he actually addresses that specifically. He’s like, ‘maybe somebody, somewhere will know this.’”
Eustace Howard was born circa 1872, and died in 1938. Schrock speaks fondly of Howard, and almost always refers to him by his first name. He describes him as a very sensitive, introverted, and intelligent man.
Howard spends a brief amount of time in his recordings reminiscing about growing up in Grand Ronde and Salem, spending time with his mother and grandfather.
“Then there’s a big heading of traditional stories,” says Schrock, mainly consisting of coyote and cougar stories. Schrock refers to one long story that exemplifies his passion and reasons for doing this work: The Silver Squirrel Boys and Rattlesnake Woman story.
In the story, a piece of important property bought by the tribe is named. “And it’s an integral part of the story,” he says, “so there’s little tidbits like that that come out in my work. And that’s why the tribe wants me to do this work. We don’t even know what all is in there.”
Schrock categorizes the last heading of content as “the rant” section, again pointing to Howard and Jacobs’ disgruntled relationship.
“When Jacobs is writing this stuff down, Eustace isn’t translating it, so it’s almost like he has free reign to say whatever he wants, because he’s thinking this white man isn’t gonna understand what he’s saying,” Schrock chuckles.
“So he sort of goes off… [and] voices his opposition to what’s actually happening — and he’s not opposed to it happening, but he’s opposed to the way that it’s happening. He talks about his feelings. He talks about, you know, ‘who is this white man and why is he writing our language? My ancestors never wrote this language.’”
According to Schrock, Kalapuya language stands on the opposite side of the spectrum from English. While English can be defined as an analytic language, where each word has a single meaning or distinct boundary, Kalapuya is a polysynthetic language, where just one word can mean a whole slew of things.
He references the word ‘cup’ in English. “‘Cup’ has a boundary, one side — but you can make it two, you can make it plural,” he explains. Whereas in a polysynthetic language, “you could have a verb that basically means ‘they played together a long time ago in the myth time.’”
Sentence structure between analytic and polysynthetic languages are vastly different. In central Kalapuya, Schrock says there are often two to three words in a sentence, but in analytic languages like English, “you have these huge, long sentences that have all these little, tiny parts.”
Considering binary roles in language, Schrock says that while northern Kalapuya relatives speaking Tualatin have gender separation in pronoun use, there’s no discrepancy in central Kalapuya language. However, some of the verbs change depending on if it’s a male or female performing the task, though this is also more prevalent in northern regions.
Beyond gender roles, Schrock emphasized a lot of binary thinking in Kalapuya language in terms of direction — up or down and in or out.
Schrock says every time he looks at the texts, he learns something new, and is dedicated to translating it as best he can. “It needs to be correct,” he says. “It needs to be believable, [and] it needs to be to the best of my ability.”
Fluent in English, Chinook Wawa, and German, Schrock claims only to be able to read Central Kalapuya and Tualatin. “It’s sort of like somebody who studies Ancient Greek — do they really speak it?”
A three-year project, he is expected to complete a first draft of Kalapuya Texts II by the end of this year. Once he hands over his manuscript to Grand Ronde, it is up to the tribe to decide what they want to do with the material. While there’s been talk and hope for a book, Schrock understands that there are many considerations that go into a project like this. As a commissioned linguist, he doesn’t have royalties to the manuscript.
Aside from the Kalapuya Texts II and Kenoyer projects, Schrock has worked at Grand Ronde as a language instructor teaching Chinook Wawa, and has helped with other translation projects and curriculum development. He became interested in language revitalization when studying at Oregon State. Initially, he wanted to focus his studies in Africa, as he was born in Nigeria, where his parents were missionaries. He later transplanted to Minnesota, to South Sudan, to the suburbs of Chicago — then finally to Portland, where he has now decided to focus on more local distressed and endangered languages.
Justice for Howard
Calling back to Melville Jacobs and previous linguistic works, Schrock implores, “There was a great injustice in that [Jacobs] left out everything that Eustace said.”
He acknowledges, “Jacobs had his reasons, and I know things look different in 2019 than they did in 1945.” However, “It’s a sense of justice that Eustace ought to have his say. His [words] should not be reviled and marginalized, because there’s a ton in there that we don’t know… He can inform us tremendously. And we’re fools to not try to access that somehow.”
Jedd Schrock presents Kalapuya Texts II October 9 at 7 p.m. at the Majestic Theatre. Seats are expected to fill up quickly. The Champinefu Lecture Series is dedicated to tribal and indigenous education and awareness.
By Stevie Beisswanger
Champinefu Lecture Series
A Three Part Educational Event
In early October, the Annual Champinefu Lecture Series returns for its third year at the Majestic Theatre, with events promoting indigenous and tribal education and awareness. In Kalapuya dialect, champinefu translates to “at the place of the blue elderberry.”
Three lectures will span three months, with speakers selected by the Cultural Resources Department of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. Grassroots Books is expected to sell material in the theater lobby on Kalapuya culture, while food and drink will be available for purchase in the concession room.
The lectures all begin at 7 p.m. Here’s a description of each:
October 9 – The Kalapuya Text II Project
Linguist and author Jedd Schrock will share stories and interviews from the last native-speaking Kalapuyas in the mid-Willamette Valley. Schrock was commissioned by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde to translate these stories in 2016, which will provide greater insight into native peoples of the past for generations to come.
November 6 – The Kalapuya Mounds
Archaeologist Tia Cody from the Bonneville Power Company will share her findings from the remaining Kalapuya Mounds in the mid-Willamette Valley. Once plentiful throughout the region, the burial mounds have largely been leveled due to agricultural practices, land development, and theft.
December 11 – Regional Indigenous Art
Travis Stewart is a prolific artist and Grand Ronde Interpretive Coordinator, whose work includes interpretive museum displays at the Chachalu Museum. While in the past, Kalapuya, Mololla, and Chinook art has been overlooked or underappreciated, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde are joining in efforts to create more visibility and appreciation for commissioned work. One such work will be displayed on OSU Campus. Attend for more details.
The lecture series is free to the public, and will not be recorded for later viewing. Seats fill up fast, typically by 6:45, so early arrival is recommended. The event is co-sponsored by Marys Peak Group of the Sierra Club and The Spring Creek Project.
With questions, contact deckert@willamettewatershed.
By Stevie Beisswanger