Johnny Harper gets married & dies

The 1890s were a transitional time in the southern BC interior. Many Aboriginal people had been married in the old traditional way. Missionary priests were promoting Catholic marriage. Sometimes, a person would postpone making the switch until death was calling. Perhaps, for some people, the benefits of a church-blessed union were seen as more useful in the afterlife than here.

Kamloops Wawa reported quite a few such instances in its years of publication.  They’re more clearcut when it’s an old couple getting married, but the following seems like an example of the same thing.  Johnny Harper was young, so maybe here he was finally getting to marry his sweetheart.  But Father Le Jeune doesn’t refer to someone as “his woman” unless there’s an existing, recognized spousal relationship.  In the case of unmarried people, Le Jeune typically names both the man and the woman; with married folks, I’m sorry to say, he typically leaves a recognized wife unnamed, as happens here.
Johnny Harper (2)

<Johnny Harper.> Iht tlus tanas man kopa Spahomin
Shoni Harpir iaka nim, iaka mimlus. Alta kakwa iht mun
iaka mimlus. Wik lili ankati iaka mamuk shako liplit kopa iaka haws
pi iaka lahanshut pi iaka malii kopa iaka klushmin. Tlus msaika
styuil iaka kopa S[ahali] T[aii].

Johnny Harper.  A good young man from Spahomin [Douglas Lake],
named Johnny Harper, has died.  It’s about a month ago
that he died.  Not long before, he had the priest come to his home
and he confessed and got married to his woman.  You folks should
pray [for] him to God.

–from Kamloops Wawa #63, 29 January 1893, page 2

Incidentally, I wonder if Johnny Harper was a cowboy.  There was a well-known Harper Ranch east of Kamloops that employed many Indian hands.  If Johnny was traditional enough to have been married first in the old way, I suspect he could also have gotten his “white man name” from a non-Native employer — another widespread occurrence of the era.

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