question on "Siwash"

Mike Cleven ironmtn at BIGFOOT.COM
Fri Mar 5 02:15:03 UTC 1999

At 07:21 PM 2/14/99 -0700, phil cash cash wrote:
>I just recently joined the list and wanted to post this
>question.  Is the CJ word siwash--an Indian or aborigine, a
>savage--really a form of the French word "sauvage"?
>At least among Sahaptin speakers, siwash is a deragatory term and
>is used as a reference to describe their upriver neighbors the Nez
>Perce.  The derived Nez Perce form, if correct, may be "cIiwat"
>(c=ts) which means 'stranger'.  This form is less vulgarized than
>siwash.  To the Nez Perce being called a siwash was/is comparable to
>being called a 'dog', the highest form of insult along the columbia
>river.  Curious,
>phil cash cash
>cayuse/nez perce

I can't remember if anyone else has responded to this, so I will try.
According to Tony at Grande Ronde, there is a difference between SaWASH and
SAIwash, the former being self-descriptive the latter taken as derisive.
Interestingly, the preferred prononciation is closer to the original
French, which was adopted without knowing its meaning; the
English-influenced misprononciation of the French loanword as SAIwash
remains derisive except in unique instances such as Siwash Rock and the
mistaken generic tribal name "Siwash Indians" used in the last century.
There was some other source language or attribution of this word kicking
around lately, however, although I can't remember from whom or exactly
about what.  French seems most likely, and it sounds as if the Nez Perce
must have picked up on the negative connotations of the original French
usage and its true meaning!

Mike Cleven
ironmtn at

The thunderbolt steers all things.
                           - Herakleitos

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