Jimmy’s Kill, a Tsimshian tsall tsale

J.H. McGregor, “Jimmy’s Kill“.  BC Mining Record.  Christmas Supplement, 1900, pages 68-72.

Jimmys Kill 1

A narrative seemingly based on the writer’s actual experiences in far northwestern British Columbia, “Jimmy’s Kill” has dialogue that rings true to my ear.

The Native protagonist speaks what the (I reckon white) author identifies, and a linguist can verify, as a mixture of English (and Chinese/South Seas Pidgin English) and Chinuk Wawa, with sporadic Tsimshian and Witsuwit’en (Dene/Athabaskan) words thrown in for dramatic color.

I’m not about to copy the whole thing out here, but how about some selections that evoke the linguistic free-for-all that was northern BC of 1900:

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Page 69:

“What’s it all about, Jimmy?”…”Ikta yaka wa wa okook song?”
“What he say? Oh, that one switheart song–cumtux [do you know] switheart? He say ‘What foh, what foh you no come–you stop siah,’ fah away–Mebbe you no more come, mebbe you die, mebbe you got one odder man.’ All Injun man my country sing it like dat.”

“…how did a fine young man like you run any risk of losing your best girl?”
“Mika wawa?”
“I say what time mika waki siah [you go far(?)] loosum mika sweetheart? Spose you tell me.”

Jimmys Kill 3

Page 70:

“Oh, dats long time ago–a-a-ankity–I’m young man den, more young like you, Mista Smitt. I got plenty good time, plenty chickamin [money]–some time I go salt chuck (the sea) catchem salmon long wid tillicums [friends]–plenty girl too, some good girl I like–den bime by some time I go make tlaps, catch bear, ma’ten, sometimes fox…I stop that place Kitsatoon an’ I make play wid card and Injun sticks all same plenty fellers.”

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That gives you the taste of it.  Read all five pages in Google Books to get the whole slice o’ life.  I’m telling you that it’s beyond believable coincidence that the lingo in this story uses the same word choices as I’ve found from other Native people of BC in the decades around 1900.  There was a distinctive BC recipe for communication–not a single language but several blended–that I find easy to recognize, that was well documented at the time.
(As I sometimes do, I’m asking my tech-savvy readers if they’re able to snag the whole story in text form; if so, send it along & I’ll add to this post.)
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