They believe that those who speak the jargon are King George men
A “Letter from Frazer River” [sic, the usual spelling back then] takes up parts of columns 3 and 4 on page 2 in the Olympia, Washington Territory Pioneer and Democrat edition of Friday, August 20, 1858.
Of course it’s urgent information on the new gold rush, including advice on using Chinook Jargon.
It’s datelined August 3, 1858, from Puget Sound Bar–a “bar” new to me, which I haven’t easily found on a map.
The letter-writer’s journey proceeded via Point Roberts, then Fort Langley, and on to Fort Hope. He likens the Fraser River Indians to those of the Puget Sound drainage.
I quote, with a view to spotlighting trading relationships, the HBC’s role, and CJ:
They are great lovers of whisky [sic], which they obtain in quantity from the various traders and straglers [sic] along the river. In trading with these Indians they prefer money to anything else, except whisky,–though they will trade for tobacco and woollen shirts very readily, but they prefer buying from the Hudson Bay Co.’s stores,–first, because, it is their usual place of trading, and secondly, the articles they get from these stores are much better in every way for them, and fully cheap or cheaper.
…They appear quite independent and bold, and require civil treatment. They will not suffer abuse or harsh language, nor tampering with; they make their demands and leave you to decide. I find it quite an advantage to talk to them in the Chenook language, as thereby a better understanding is had betweeen parties, and in nearly every instance they believe that those who speak the “jargon” are “King George men,” who are all right with them. I am fully satisified that the Hudson Bay Co.’s servants make it convenient to prejudice the Indian mind against all “Boston men“–in fact several have told me so.
…It is said the Indians above the canyon [upstream from Fort Hope] show signs of hostility, having issued an edict that no “Boston man” will be allowed to mine in their country.
He goes on to state that none of his party of (American) miners has bothered, nor been prevailed upon, to pay the supposedly mandatory Fraser River mining fee to the HBC.
I take the mention of Aboriginal people in the area preferring money over barter to signify that they were already accustomed to contact with newcomers before the gold rush occurred.
And the connection of CJ with “King George men”, that is, the previously present British and Canadians in contrast with American Johnnies-come-lately, suggests some HBC role in that speech community. The only other major party that I’d expect to have played a big part in spreading the use of CJ would be Catholic missionaries–who we know were mostly recently-arrived Frenchmen, not Britons.
This is of interest because the Jargon may not have even been present in the region until circa 1845, when fur-trade headquarters shifted north from Fort Vancouver in what’s now Washington to Victoria, BC. This whole story of the spread of CJ is a chapter of pidgin ethnohistory awaiting writing.
Very interesting letter. The word for British/Canadians is King George tillikum which must have been established before 1830 (King George III 1760-1820, King George IV 1820-1830). As George III was popular with the public as a faithful husband and pious man while George IV was unpopular it is likely British people would have self identified as King George men before 1820. As George III became insane in 1811 and George IV took over as Regent the designation ‘King George Man’ in Chinook Wawa probably predated 1811.
American miners arrived in Victoria for the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush on April 25. They would have reached the area in May or later. The letter speaks to experiences in July or earlier. The natives are already speaking Chinook and assume those who speak Chinook are Hudson Bay people.
In trying to understand the spread of Chinook Jargon would this not indicate some previous familiarity in the Fraser Canyon. Bishop Modeste Demers, who wrote a Chinook Jargon dictionary and religious literature, was the first missionary to present-day British Columbia, visiting the Fraser Valley in 1841 and building a chapel in Fort Alexandria in 1842. Perhaps native people there learned their Chinook Jargon from the religious ceremonies.
Because all Hudson Bay people spent time at Fort Vancouver I presume they might have picked up Chinook Jargon as well. The letter seems to indicate an awareness by native people that Hudson Bay Company people can be identified by whether they can speak Chinook Jargon. Although there doesn’t seem to be a lot of written evidence the letter indicates that this language knowledge spread beyond the Columbia River through HBC Forts.
When James Douglas moved his capital from Fort Vancouver to Fort Victoria in 1849 he would have carried the personnel and administrative processes north as well. The use of Chinook Jargon would have been a part of this. The fact that his good friend Bishop Modeste Demers was based in Victoria would have supported this.