Alcoholism and the first literate generation

I’m not intentionally connecting alcoholism with the introduction of literacy to people who had never known it, but you’ll often find the two subjects cheek-by-jowl in the letters of the Oblate missionary priests.

Peytavins letter (3)

One was a source of pride, one was a scourge, both were documented by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.  On-location testimony in Chinook Jargon, like this letter, is an important primary source for anyone researching such topics.

Picutred above is a clipping from Kamloops Wawa issue #59, 01 January 1893, page 4: 

<Rev. Father Peytavin’s letter.> Pir Pitavi iaka
mamuk tsim kopa naika Iaka wawa: Naika mitlait kopa Langli. Langli tilikom
kwanisim shako tlus. = Klaska mamuk skukum pus tlap Shinuk pipa.
Alta Skrawlich tilikom drit tlap Shinuk pipa. Stalo tilikom
kwanisim shako tlus: Kopit Tsilis tilikom wik shako tlus.
Ukuk wam ilihi klaska makmak ayu lam, pi hlwima Stalo
tilikom ilo kakwa.

(Père [Edmond] Peytavin
has written to me.  He says: [“]I am at Langley [BC].  The Langley Indians
are constantly improving themselves.  = They work hard to “get” the Chinook writing.
Now the Scowlitz Indians have really caught on to the Chinook writing.  The Stó:lō Indians 
keep on improving: Only the Chehalis [BC, not Washington] Indians are failing to do better.  
This summer they were drinking a lot of alcohol, but the other Stó:lō 
people aren’t like that.[“])  

The sole link between the two behaviors is Peytavin’s implication that the Chehalis Stó:lō would be literate — in shorthand — by now if it weren’t for their difficulties with demon rum.

I hasten to point out that this problem seems to have resolved itself satisfactorily.  Already in June of 1892 (issue 29), Le Jeune had reported that a Mary Morgan of Chehalis was learning the Chinuk pipa.  And issue 79 of May 1893 says the Chehalis people are taking the temperance pledge en masse.  By April of 1894 in issue 115, we learn that Chehalis people are writing a number of letters — and complaining that the “sahali” ( = “upriver”, a useful sense of this word to know that’s not in most dictionaries) Indians aren’t writing back fast enough!

One of these times I shall publish and translate the Temperance Pledge, which was in Chinook Jargon, and various versions of which are known.  Hwiski mimlus tilikom!

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