Tag Archives: Chinook

'Chinese' proves U.S. citizenship by speaking Chinook

Sometime in the 1870s, a Chinese man named Ling Fu was brought before Judge Cornelius Hanford in Seattle’s courthouse, accused of not having the proper citizenship papers. Facing deportation, Ling Fu argued that he did not need to carry papers: he had been born on Puget Sound. To test him, Judge Hanford quickly shifted his inquiry into Chinook Jargon, which had become nearly as common as Whulshootseed or English in Puget Sound country. “Ikta mika nem? Consee cole mika?” (What is your name? How old are you?), he demanded of Ling, who in turn replied, “Nika nem Ling Fu, pe nika mox tahtlum pee quinum cole” (My name is Ling Fu, and I am twenty-five years old). Clearly surprised, the judge responded, “You are an American, sure, and you can stay here.” He then turned to the bailiff and decreed, “Ling Fu is dismissed.”

From Native Seattle by Coll Thrush, as quoted here.