Chief Seattle -- his Lushootseed name and other important words pronounced in Lushootseed by Vi Hilbert

  • By Janet Yoder
  • Posted 5/09/2007
  • Essay 8156

In this sound recording (see audio clip in column at left), renowned Skagit elder Vi Hilbert (1918-2008) pronounces Chief Seattle's name and other common names in Lushootseed, the language of the several Coast Salish peoples. The recording was done on December 7, 2006, by Janet Yoder, a longtime student of Hilbert's and who has written on her life and her work in preserving the Lushootseed language. A transcription of the recording follows.

Transcript: Recording of Vi Hilbert pronouncing Lushootseed names

[Note: In this transcription no attempt is made to represent words in Lushootseed, a language which has sounds not available in English.]

Janet Yoder: This is Janet Yoder, and I am here today with Vi Hilbert, in her home in La Conner, Washington, on December 7, 2006. And Vi has generously agreed to help us with the correct Lushootseed pronunciation of some significant names. And we'll start with a very significant one and that is Vi Hilbert's name in Lushootseed.

Vi Hilbert: Are we going to start now? I am [Vi pronounces her own name in Lushootseed]. And in Hawaii my grandmother said, How am I going to remember your name? And by the end of the day, she said, Oooh, I know how to remember your name: She'll "talk ya blue" in the face. So [Vi pronounces her name in Lushootseed] can be remembered as the woman who'll talk ya blue in the face.

Janet Yoder: Thank you! And then we wanted to ask you to say Chief Seattle's name in Lushootseed for us.

Vi Hilbert: Chief Seattle's traditional name was [pronounces Chief Seattle's traditional name]. Because people had a hard time with the glottalized barred lambda of his name, they simplified it to [gives alternate pronunciation of Chief Seattle's name].  But the proper pronunciation is [gives traditional pronunciation] with the glottalized barred lambda -- for those of you who are acquainted with the linguistic terminology.

Janet Yoder: Thank you! All right. Now we'd like to move to some place names. We'll start with Duwamish

Vi Hilbert: Duwamish. My people call it [pronounces Duwamish in Lushootseed].

Janet Yoder: Thank you. And Snoqualmie.

Vi Hilbert: [Pronounces Snoqualmie in Lushootseed.] The people of the Snoqualmie area. [Again pronounces in Lushootseed.]

Janet Yoder: And Snohomish

Vi Hilbert: And Snohomish, again, we're referring to people of the location of the people of Snoqualmie [pronounces Snoqualmie again in Lushootseed]

Janet Yoder: And Tulalip

Vi Hilbert: And Tulalip describes the location of the people who lived in that area, so that is [pronounces Tulalip in Lushootseed], which actually means, in translation, "the people in the bottom of..."

Janet Yoder: And Suquamish.

Vi Hilbert: Suquamish is pronounced [pronounces Suquamish in Lushootseed].


Janet Yoder: And how about Swinomish

Vi Hilbert: The Swinomish are the [pronounces in Swinomish Lushootseed]. That one's kind of tricky isn't it?

Janet Yoder: And Skagit

Vi Hilbert: Skagit of course is mine and it is [pronounces Skagit] and the translation for that is the People Who Hide. They were smart enough not to sit and be murdered but run and get away from marauding ... people who were looking for... they needed slaves ... so Skagit means to run and hide.

Janet Yoder: Especially to go upriver?

Vi Hilbert: Yes, yes, yes. That's why our people went upriver in the Skagit River

Janet Yoder: And Kitsap.

Vi Hilbert: Now, Kitsap is going to be a little tricky for all you listeners [pronounces Kitsap in Lushootseed].  Some people pronounce that [pronounces].  You can use a simpler pronunciation that will be more available to most people [pronounces].

Janet Yoder: And then I was thinking, because Lady Louse is your signature story, that maybe you'd be willing to share Lady Louse in Lushootseed and English.

Vi Hilbert: Of course. Of course. She never likes to be left out of anything, so she's happy to be on this tape. So I'll give you Lady Louse very briefly:

[Vi tells the story of Lady Louse in Lushootseed.]

In translation of course all of you have heard, Lady Louse lived there in a great big house. She lived there all by her self. Now she had no friends or relatives and so she took it and she swept it, this great big house, there was lots of dirt. When she got to the very middle, she got lost. And that was the end of Lady Louse. And that was the end of the tiny little story that was used for many years, to teach people no matter how tiny a story it carries lots of meaning and lots of teaching. It carries a lot of meaning for our culture. She is who she is, she is Lady Louse.

Janet Yoder: Do you have any other words in Lushootseed that you'd especially like to share?

Vi Hilbert: I'd like to maybe have people remember that the one word that is so absolutely important. It includes all of the important information about a culture [says the word]. It has many different parts to it,  but it is an encyclopedia of a culture, it pertains to the encyclopedia of a culture. It's a very important word.  As my cousin Martin Sampson says, it's a million dollar word.

Janet Yoder: You can't beat that.

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