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