Richard Butler’s Indian Vocabulary
[c.30 November 1787]
The following Seven pages to the word Ten markd thus #, are the words which were sent me to be translated, The Shawano I have done myself which are Spelled as nearly as possible to the real Sound of the Indian word. The Lenoppea, or Delaware, was done by a Young man Called John Killbuck, an Indian of that nation who has been Educated at Princetown College at the Expence of the U.S. & patronage of Congress, and is Spelled according to his own Idea of the Idiom1—The residue of the 7th page I have filled up in Shawano to Shew their maner of counting from one, to ten thousand—Note—A in the Shawano tongue is to be Sounded broad as in All, Wall &c. Except where it follows E in the middle or at the end of a word, it is then Sounded soft as in the English. Marks, Thus (—) under a Syllable denotes that the letters are to be expressed, or Sounded, as conjunctly as possible. Thus, (,) below & between the letters, denote the division of the Syllables. The Emphasis must be placed agreeable to the combination of Sound attached to, or attendant on, the Same letters in the English, being obliged to Spell to the sound of the Indian word Ie at the beginning of a word, & ie at the end, is to be sounded like double ee2—and Ia when composing a Syllable at the begining of a word is Sounded like double ee, and a broad yained, or like ya. And eh after u, e or 0, in the same syllable to be Sounded gutterally as gh in aught. And chi, cha, che are to be sounded as ch in change, che in cherry or ch in child, &c. which are the chief directions which appears to me necessary for Reading this vocabulary
|English||Shawano||Lenoppea, or Delaware|
|Me||Nie, or Nie,la||Nee|
|Yes||Scea,la or Ah! Ah!3||Cohan|
|Is||Ie,nie, or Ee,nie||Nancy|
|Nose||Chas, or Chas,sie||Wekeyon|
D, DLC:GW. The document includes a copy, in Butler’s hand, of the Shawnee-Delaware word list, or vocabulary, prepared by Butler “entirely myself,” and a copy, also in Butler’s hand, of a shorter Cherokee-Choctaw vocabulary made independently by Benjamin Hawkins. Both are in DLC:GW bound with Butler’s letter to GW of 30 Nov. and Butler’s copy of an extract of another letter from him to GW, undated but written at the same time. See the source note, Butler to GW, 30 November. Butler’s Shawnee-Delaware vocabulary in DLC:GW is a copy of, or an expansion of the one that he sent to GW on 30 Nov., which GW in turn forwarded to Lafayette for Catherine on 10 Jan. 1788. It runs to thirty-seven pages of forty to forty-five lines each. The first six pages and a part of the seventh are a listing of the English words that were to be translated for Catherine with the Shawnee and Delaware equivalents entered in parallel columns. At this point, on page seven, Butler inserted his letter to GW of 30 November. And thereafter, for the rest of the vocabulary, he first listed Shawnee, not English, words and groups of words and gave their English equivalent—one or more words, phrases, or expressions—in the opposite column. (For insight into why Butler saw this as a better approach for attaining some understanding and appreciation of the language of the Shawnee, see the passage taken from Butler’s draft of a letter to GW and printed in Enclosure II, source note). On the last four pages of his vocabulary, Butler constructs a dialogue, in Shawnee and English, in which a Shawnee who has recently returned after a long absence in the white man’s world, converses first with a messenger, then with a conductor, and, finally, with a chief, to demonstrate the differences between the ordinary and the formal speech of the Shawnee. He ends his vocabulary with the Lord’s Prayer in Shawnee with its English translation. Only Butler’s introduction of his vocabulary and the first page of the vocabulary are printed here.
None of Hawkins’s Cherokee-Choctaw vocabulary, which begins with the words god, good, bad, and body, has been printed here. James Madison, having heard of GW’s intended efforts to secure Indian vocabularies for Catherine the Great, obtained from Benjamin Hawkins the Cherokee-Choctaw word list and on 18 Mar. 1787 sent it to GW.
1. In the spring of 1779, at the behest of Congress, Delaware chiefs brought three boys to George Morgan’s farm adjoining the college campus at Princeton and left them there to be educated. One of these was 16–year-old John Killbuck, who along with Thomas Killbuck, his father’s half brother, returned to Ohio in 1785 (Ruth L. Woodward and Wesley Frank Craven, Princetonians, 1784–1790: A Biographical Dictionary [Princeton, N.J., 1991], 442–52).
2. Butler’s signature appears here in the middle of the sentence, and at the end of the document he signed his initials. The signature has been moved to the end of the document.
3. Butler inserted: “sounded from the Stomach Sharp & broad.”
4. Butler added here: “Thought.”
5. Butler added the meaning: “to Speak.”
6. Butler added: “to do, or make.”