Bella Coola Courier, May 31, 1913

The Bella Coola [BC] Courier, May 31, 1913:

Saltchucks and more!

Saltchucks and more!

This newspaper issue carries a vivid full-front-page narrative of Empire Day celebrations at the Indian reserve in Bella Coola, British Columbia.  Lots of interesting 100-year-old treasures for us Pacific Northwest language nuts, much of it Jargon loans into regional English:

Column 1 — “the other side” meaning the USA.

And — “Saltchucks” glossed as “salt water Indians” — Bella Coolas, whose missionary for six years has been the Methodist Rev. W.H. Gibson, builder of their church edifice.

Column 3 — “…the Indian graveyard, an interesting blend of Siwash and Christian imagery and custom.”

And — Something like American Indian Pidgin English mixed with Chinook Jargon: “…two dark men scraping flesh-scraps from a fresh bear-hide, throwing these to a dog.  [paragraph break]  ‘How old?’ queries our tourist.  [paragraph break] ‘Dunno; bear not tell me when I shoot um,’ replies the aborigine agreeably.  ‘How long had skin you mean?  Shoot um three days ‘go, at Canoe Cross‘ (Crossing).  ‘Dog chase um, bear climb up stick.’  [paragraph break]  The Siwashes of the Interior are called ‘Stick Indians,’ because they live among the timber and call all trees sticks.”

And — “A smiling brown face greeets him with a flash of white teeth and a hearty utterance of Clahowyah! the Chinook word-of-all-work for Goodmorning, Hello, and Goodnight; like the Italian’s Altro! and the Hawaiians Alohah!  In every elemental, simple tongue is such a word.”  [Word-of-all-work; I like that a lot.  Compare the expressions “man-of-all-work” and “maid-of-all-work”. — DDR]

Column 5 sports one of those wonderful doggerel poems that you find so often in these old newspapers.  I won’t reproduce it here, but click the image above to enjoy it!  The same column reports the folk etymology, French la belle coulée, for Bella Coola.

Column 6 notes that the tug-of-war and footracing competitions took place between Indians and whites, and that the Native people rejoiced quite a bit at their own victories in these.

Page 2, column 2 — “Most of the white residents, all of the pioneer settlers, talk fluently the clicking, hissing tongue of the native sons and daughters’ thus making possible real intercourse and understanding.”  [This I think is most likely Chinook Jargon, apparently targeting Indigenous pronunciation.  Less likely would be an approximation of Bella Coola Salish, and most improbable ‘fluent’ Bella Coola.]

And — “Mr. Gibson tells his audience that two important features of civilization are to institute themselves among Bella Coola’s residents: the Church…and the Law, soon to be incarnated in a Skookum House, or Jail–a necessary, though unpleasant element of progress.”

If I know my readers, a number of you will be interested to know that column 4 mentions some folks setting of to Princess Royal Island in search of the famed “white bear”–the Kermode or spirit bear.

Page 3, column 1 includes a racist image of an African-American holding a large watermelon in an ad for Rennie’s Seeds, “The Best in the Patch”.  Apparently such entertainments served commercial purposes north of the border too.

A last commercial note: a number of the advertisements are for Victoria businesses, and steamboat connections with that city and others on the coast are in prominent evidence.