A dictionary represents the compiled knowledge and work of a vast number of people through time. Since the early years of the 20th century, Cahto leaders (e.g. Captain Bill Ray, Gil Ray) and other speakers and community members have taken an active role in seeing to it that their Cahto knowledge (language, stories, and traditions) are passed on to future generations, whatever the changes and vicissitudes of history that time may bring for the Cahto people. These have been complemented by various researchers focussing either broadly (e.g. Goddard, Curtis) or specifically on certain topics (e.g. Gifford, working on kinship terms), who have seen to it that this knowledge is preserved for present and future use through publication and archiving.
In particular, Captain Bill Ray spent countless hours working with various researchers, most notably Pliny E. Goddard: documenting traditional stories and religion, cultural practices and history, locations, travelling all over Cahto territory pointing out and discussing significant locations. The Bill Ray – Pliny Goddard collaboration represents the largest body of material in the language, the only documented Cahto language texts, the only instrumental phonetic study of the language. It is not an exageration to state that without Bill Ray and Pliny Goddard, re-establishing the historical Cahto language would be impossible. Of the approximately 4,000 Cahto headwords in this dictionary, about 2,500 are documented solely from Bill Ray, and of those over 2,000 are through the Ray-Goddard collaboration. An even greater percentage of the inflected verb forms in Cahto are from Bill Ray’s stories collected by Goddard. Bill Ray also provided the detailed information on kinship relationships for Gifford’s study.
Two of Bill Ray’s children, Gil Ray and Martina (Ray) Bell, worked with several researchers over the years. They provided vast amounts of information about Cahto culture, religion, and locations, mostly through the medium of English, as well as hundreds of words. They grew up in a different dialect area from Bill Ray, and it is primarily their dialect that was passed down to the present generations of the Cahto Tribe, through Gil Ray’s descendents. About 600 headwords in the dictionary are attested only from Gil or Martina.
Rose (Stevenson) Ray, Gil Ray’s wife, grew up in yet another Cahto dialect region. She worked for a short while with Pliny Goddard, mostly providing colloquial speech forms, including many forms and structures not otherwise attested. 174 headwords are uniquely attested from Rose Ray.
Lucy (Cook) Ray, Bill Ray’s wife, appears to have represented still another Cahto dialect region. She worked with Loeb for his study of the Western Kuksu cult. It’s unclear which forms in Loeb’s study come from Lucy or from his other main informant, Martina, but there is a total of about 120 headwords that are unique from Loeb.
Alex Frazier, whose mother was Cahto, but who spent most of his life in Round Valley, worked with Driver on the Northwest California volume of the Culture Elements. He only provided seven Cahto words, three of them unique, but a vast amount of cultural information that enriches many of the definitions.
In addition to these, there are unnamed individuals who provided Cahto words to various researchers. These people merit equal thanks, though their identity may be hidden under masks like, “and others”.
Coming into recent years, both Victor Golla and myself had the priviledge of meeting with one of the recently passed elders, a granddaughter of Gil & Rose Ray. Honoring traditional Cahto custom, these Acknowledgements show respect to grieving family members and the community by avoiding use of her name. In the very brief time we each were able to spend with her we were able to document over 50 words and phrases, including 23 unique forms. Her passing greatly underscores the urgency of working with the elders and others who have knowledge to share about the language and customs. She advocated for years for the Tribe to secure a grant to fund a language program, including classes, and was a major part of the delegation to the Center for Indian Community Development at Humboldt State University that triggered the author’s focus on working on Cahto and creating materials for the Tribe to use. She taught many words to her children, grandchildren, and others in the community, doing what she could with the resources available. Profound thank you to her, the elder woman who passed in 2014!
A number of other adults in the community have assisted the author over the years. Names are withheld, pending permission to name individuals. But you know who you are.
To the one who acted as a sort of concierge for me as a visitor, arranged for a place to stay, and generally took me on to look after, and even feed a lovely meal with family: Thank you so much for your help and hospitality!!
To the one who zipped me over to the coast so we could look at sea creatures, many of which you knew the Cahto names for: Thank you, that was such a delight!!
To the one who opened their home to me, took me around the backroads of Cahto territory for me to go around taking pictures without getting shot at (which I understand now was not just a joking concern!), and who showed me how to completely debone a cooked surffish in one pull: Thank you in particular for keeping this naak’ai (crazy person) alive while poking around and taking photos in areas where unknown/outsider photographers might not be very welcome!!
To the Maidu couple from Oroville, catching surffish with the traditional nets at the Juan Creek beach named (in Coast Yuki and Cahto) for the surffish that run there: Thank you for showing me how your nets work, and especially for sharing some of your catch with me. I told them I’d be happy to accept a couple, one for me, one for my host. I think they loaded me up with eight or ten, and my host & I shared a delicious pan-fried smelt feast!
To all the kids and young folks at the Tribal Center after school who took delight in showing off their knowledge of Cahto words, and testing mine, and enjoying chatting during the Coast Walk, and all: Thank you for your enthusiasm, your fun, and your promise of the future!!
To those of you who got me involved in setting up the the campsite for the Coast Walk, participating alongside, like any other community member: Thank you so much!!
To the family who took me on a field trip into northwestern Cahto Territory, led me on a hike that featured a fresh mountain lion territorial scratch in the dirt (!), shared many photographs, and hosted me overnight: Thank you so much for offering to show me around! The northwestern area (including village areas of Goddard’s “These not visited on Jackson valley creek”) is gorgeous, and I had a lovely time!
To the many, many of you in the Cahto, Laytonville, and wider community who made me feel very welcome in the community and the Coast Walk: Thank you for your hospitality and welcome!
To those of you who have been in contact with me over the years in email, asking questions, sharing words you or your relatives know, expressing interest in the dictionary and language materials, etc.: Thank you very much for your interest, engagement, and patience!! You all have a history of emailing me with something interesting just at points when I’ve become discouraged, giving me some motivation and inspiration to keep plugging forward.
Thanks are also due to all of the researchers who have worked on documenting aspects of Cahto language, culture, history, etc. Most especially, vast thanks to Pliny E. Goddard, who created the only published works of Cahto grammar and language texts, based on his collaboration with Bill Ray, in addition to a large array of unpublished field notes (some with Rose Ray), photographs, and other materials. Many thanks also to Harold Driver, Frank Essene, Edward W. Gifford, J.P. Harrington, Alfred L. Kroeber, Edwin Loeb, C. Hart Merriam, William E. Myers (working with Edward S. Curtis), and Edward Sapir, each of whom documented significant amounts of the language and/or culture. Many thanks also to those who documented smaller bits about Cahto, or comparable information from neighboring cultures and related languages.
I reserve special thanks for Victor Golla, who first inspired me to direct my Athabaskan interests towards the southern California Athabaskan languages (Wailaki/Eel River and Cahto), and then more specifically to Cahto, as the Tribe had gotten in touch with them at the Center for Indian Community Development seeking a linguist to work on creating materials in the language. I also wish to thank the CICD’s Ruth Bennett, for her role in helping to develop a writing system that would maximally represent the Tribe’s interest in having something based on Goddard’s but without the diacritics, as well as being adequate to distinguish the sounds of the language.
I wish to thank Victor Golla and the 2003 Athabaskan Languages Conference in Arcata, California for selecting me as an invited speaker. The conference provided funds to cover travel there, which allowed me to finally travel to the area and visit the Tribe and the Laytonville area in person for the first time.
Over the years I have been inspired, challenged, and delighted by conversations with a constellation of professors, colleagues and friends, discussing all sorts of aspects of the Cahto project from the Linguistic to the Technical. Thank you all for your help and ideas. Some of you I will want to single out by name, if I may.
I am exceedingly grateful to the Cahto Tribe’s leadership, the Tribal Executive Committee and other leaders who have supported the language project through the years, including facilitating my trips there and more recently with an official Execitive Committee decision and letters of support as I seek grant/fellowship funding to finish this dictionary.
Finally, my inspiration and reason for life, soulmate, lifemate, and the “lucky” one who gets to listen to my linguistic ramblings and musings, my wife Abbie, thank you more than can be told!! She has a folklore/ethnomusicology background, and music, and interest in linguistics, so we have all sorts of wonderful discussions bouncing ideas around. I love you, Abbie! Thank you for being my partner in everything!!
This dictionary has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. (Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this dictionary do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.)