Report of the Columbia Mission

Report of the Columbia Mission.  London: Rivingtons, Waterloo Place, 1860 [sic].


A record of the doings of Dr. George Hills (hardly mentioned by name in this book!), the first Anglican Bishop of Columbia, on the Northwest Coast in 1860 from May on, printed in solicitation of funds to support Anglican missions in BC.

George Hills bishop of Columbia

Texts of speeches by worthies at a great promotional event in London start the volume.  Much talk of bringing Christianity to Indians as well as to Chinese and American immigrants.  White-Indian relations in the lands of the HBC are decidedly kinder than are those in neighbouring countries.  The governor of the Hudsons Bay Company speaks in support.

The diary begins with arrival at New Westminster and progress upstream to Fort Langley (HBC) and sumptuous meals with the Governor.  Visiting with the Kaetzi (Sto:lo) Indians.  Chief Michelle knows a good deal of English.  Chief Seemium from Harrison River agrees to transport the visitors back downstream to New Westminster, but two other Indians wind up taking them.  Scourlitz (Scowlitz) village was given the name Carnarvon by the Governor?!

June 1 (page 37): Skiyon, a noted Indian bear hunter, engages in a Chinook conversation with the bishop about the mercy of the Heavenly Father, nodding thoughtfully it is said, but soon changes the subject.  About his sick child he says he is sick, tum tum [sic] (“heart sick, sad”) and that mamma is sick, tum tum. 

June 4: The bishop meets a Mr. Yates, who speaks the Indian language well (Sto:lo?) and thinks the Native people need no more inducement to attend white schools than their desire to learn the white man’s language.  A Mr. Gray is also met, an American who once knew Spokan Garry.

Indian potato grounds near Lake Dallas, not far from Hope, are described as laid out in the same figured patterns that one sees on their basketry!

Wherever the bishop goes, he seems to make a point of visiting Indians and Chinese.

Indians have learned from whites how to play cards, and waste a lot of time at it.

A Chinese immigrant explains why no Chinese women are to be found here: this country is too rough; their feet are too small.

Talking with Indians in the vicinity of Yale, baptismal certificates from a “Romish priest” in French are produced.  An Indian man from Kamloops, friend of Mr. McLean who heads the HBC post there, is met too and the bishop’s party identify themself, to his pleasure, as “King George’s men“.

June 22: About to embark on a canoe trip, the Indian paddlers protest that they’ve had (in the bishop’s words) “no breakfast, no muk-muk“.  Later, the bishop learns the (Sto:lo) word for ‘thunder’.  There are Chinese all along the river, mining and in boats, and the Native paddlers good-naturedly heckle many of them with “John, John” [as in John Chinaman] and “Hah, ah, war” in imitation of some Chinese expression [I wonder which?–DDR].

The bishop is constantly commenting how expensive Native labour is.  Paradox.  While he evaluates Indians as less accomplished in the arts of life than the Chinese are, he admires their physiques and can’t beat them at bargaining!

At Yale, he engages a Native man named Sacher to take this things upstream to Lytton.  Can this gentleman have been, or been related to, the Sacha Paul known from 1890s Kamloops Wawa articles?

Amusingly, the bishop entwines observations of the change in language just after one heads upstream from Yale toward Spuzzim [Spuzzum] (from Sto:lo to Thompson Salish) with a description of the canyon road as resembling the winding path of the Tower of Babel in old pictures.

The bishop encounters a lady whose experience of life he portrays as miserable because she is a Unitarian.  Places visited along the way include Chapman’s Bar and tiny Boston Bar.  The way isn’t yet much improved, though the “sappers” or royal engineers are at work blasting out rock from cliff faces to widen it; the going is often perilously narrow.

June 27: Typically for these narratives, local prices for sundries are listed.  A middle-aged Indian proudly displays a

paper of which he was much proud, and which he produced from beneath numerous foldings of other paper.  It was a certificate by some Americans, to say that the bearer was Tyhee, or chief of the Boston Bar Indians, and was worthy.  Beneath was written, “The chief’s name is Ilcochan,” to which was appended a magnificent special seal, round which was stamped the seal of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, with “Matt. B. Begbie,” written.  These poor people think much of a piece of paper from the whites with something written in their favour.

This would be one of those “skookum papers” as they were called in Alaska.  The bishop says that Ilcochan is however not a chief [that’s Wahilah, who is met a few days later] but a “chief speaker” with a magnificent voice, who along with Sacher proceeds to interpret the bishop’s Chinook sermon into the local tongue, Quayome [Thompson / Nlhakapmxcin].

June 28: Miners’ society is egalitarian.  The races and nationalities are equal.  Interestingly there are quite a few Frenchmen–rather than French Canadians.  Miners call each other “boy”, their leader “cap”.  Few carry weapons; they enforce their own justice effectively.  [Reminiscent of Montana’s vigilante period, this.]

In the area of Ensley’s Creek, a toll bridge is operated by a Chinese man, Ah Loo, whose Chinese Pidgin English is quoted (page 57):

No Englishee pay over this bridge, and no poor Chinamen.  Me makee no chargee to de English, me chargee Boston man (American); Boston man chargee Chinaman very high in Califoney. Chinaman now chargee Boston man, ha! ha! ha!

Everywhere the Indians, too, look more favorably on the British than on the Americans.

June 30: Kanaker Bar [Kanaka Bar] and Hungarian Flat are crossed once Jackass Mountain is surmounted.

One miner is quoted using the intensifier “rightdown”–I’m used to “downright”.

July 2: Plenty of Indians leave their former life because the benefits of working for the whites are so great.  Chief Spintlum [elsewhere seemingly misspelled Spirithun] of the Lytton Indians says that nowadays, “Hyou Pack, Hyou Chickanan; Hyou muck, muck” — translated in the book as “plenty of packing, plenty of money, plenty of food”.  [Chickanan = chickamin.  Pack is a word you don’t generally find in the Jargon dictionaries, but it must’ve been universally known in this goldrush region.]

Page 63: At Cayoosh [Lillooet; the stream is here misspelled Lilloc], chief Chilhoosels of the Fountain Indians attends the Anglican service and afterward tells the bishop in Chinook, “good, good”.  Asked if he understands what the party of missionaries is up to, he affirms, points upwards, and says “Sockally Tyhee Papa” and crosses himself.  His people have been visited from time to time by the Romanists (Catholics) but the bishop feels that sadly they have acquired to knowledge of Jesus or of the Bible, “the wahwah of the Sockally Tyhee Papa”.  Modern-day (2013) Cayoosh Creek village is Parsons’ Ville.

July 10: Apparently at Seton Lake, the bishop obtains some words of the local (Lillooet Salish) language–presumably via Chinook Jargon.  With Mr. Sheepshanks, he preaches “notwithstanding our stammering lips” (imperfect language skills) and the congregation repeats his CJ translation of the Lord’s Prayer. Bridge River and “the” Fountain are visited too.  Another HBC man who has interacted with Spokan Garry is met; Garry made him a present of his own best horse.

Packers are mostly Mexicans and Americans.  [Obviously these are the folks employing Indians at this work, subcontracting as it were.]

Page 66: Most Indians in this area, both Lillooets and Shuswaps, equate the Sackally Tyhee Papa (“Great Chief Father”) with the sun, who is married to the moon.

Page 68: Preaching to Indians at Cayoosh (Lillooet). By way of responding “Amen”, the Indians all say “Ammale, Ammale, Kloosh, Kloosh, good, good.”  (In Lillooet Salish, CJ, and English.)  The bishop expresses to chief Chilhoosels that one day in heaven there will be only one language, and I bet the Indians wondered which one!

One Shuswap chief from the Kamloops area, “Le Crow” [Le Corbeau], is among the assembled Native people.  When he speaks, many Lillooets understand him.

A Native in the bishop’s party is called “McCasket”.  Looks like a crypto-Salish name, I mean spelled as if it were a white man name.

In the area of Loo’s Bridge and Kpalthoo (?), there is tension over threatened violence between Chinese and Indians or “Sawash“.  The Native people say there is “halo salmon“, no salmon, to be caught at present.

Back downstream at Hope (page 77), the bishop meets Mr. [Peter Skene] Ogden of the HBC’s Stuart Lake post.  August 1 (page 78): Taschclak, a local Indian man, presents a piece of paper with his own written temperance pledge on it.  The bishop gets some words of Sto:lo from him.  In the following days, the bishop preaches to local Indians in a combination of Chinook Jargon and bits of Salish languages: Thompson which many here know, Lilloet and Cowichan [of Vancouver Island?].  Two “Romish”, Catholic, missionaries are encamped locally, about to start a mission at Hope.

A section consisting of letters from BC missionaries to people in England follows.

Page 92: A.C. Garrett tells of asking Haidas visiting Victoria about the observances they are engaged in, and their answer is that it is their Tamānoes “or sacred feast”.  Preaching to Natives (page 93), he read his “Chinook Liturgy, consisting of the general Confession, the Absolution, Versicles, Lord’s Prayer, and a special prayer composed expressly for the Indians.” He examined Songhees, Haida and Tsimshian people in his Chinook catechism.  The Governor (page 94) addresses the Indians in Chinook, congratulating them.  [Where are these documents now?–DDR]  Garrett is described as able to fluently express himself in the Indians’ “strange jargon“.

In the General List of contributions to the Columbia Mission (page 111) is an entry for “defaced money”.  Come again?  Under “Special Grants” is an item of 50 pounds sterling for [production of?] “books in foreign languages” in BC–did these ever come about?

Advertisements