An actual 1st-person, near-death experience (Le Jacq’s letter)

I hope you’re able to follow along when I present these little texts of Chinook Jargon.

There is so much there.

I try to give an English translation that suggests what an actual 1890s (Aboriginal) reader of Kamloops Wawa would get from them. I base this judgment, first and foremost, on my dissertation research into the many letters that those Native people wrote.

Here’s a letter, much anticipated at the time, from the by all accounts popular Father JM Le Jacq. He had lived among the Secwepemc people of the Williams Lake, BC area, but then became deathly ill and was transported to New Westminster — today’s greater Vancouver area — for extreme medical measures. (The caption on our illustration is the spoiler; he lived another six years.)

Le Jacq

I think you’ll agree that this is someone who is speaking straight Chinook. (I’ve underlined a few little points that I’ll comment on afterward.) Read on…

Kamloops Wawa #77 (07 May 1893), page 74:

<Father Le Jacq’s Letter.>

Nyu Wisminstir <8> Ipril <1893>.

“New Westminster, 8 April 1893.”

Pir Lshak iaka wawa kopa kanawi iaka tanas.

“Père Le Jacq is talking to all of his children.”

Naika nanish kopa Kamlups Wawa msaika aias tiki komtaks
kata naika alta. Msaika tiki pus naika mamuk tsim kopa Kamlups
Wawa pus nawitka naika shako tanas tlus; drit kakwa. Naika shako
tanas skukum chi alta. Aias lili naika tiki wawa mirsi
kopa msaika: Naika komtaks msaika skukum styuil kopa ST pus
iaka mamuk klahawiam kopa naika, pi kakwa wik naika mimlus.
Lili ilo naika skukum, kakwa wik aiak naika mamuk tsim kopa msaika.

“I saw in the Kamloops Wawa that you folks badly wanted to know
how I am these days. You wanted me to write in the Kamloops
whether I truly have recovered at all: It’s so. I’ve gotten
a little healthier just lately. For a very long time I’ve been wanting to thank
you: I know you’ve been praying hard to God to
take pity on me, so that I won’t die.
I’ve been sick a long time, so I haven’t been able to write to you right away.”

Msaika komtaks drit aias skukum ukuk naika sik: kanawi
tilikom iakwa klaska tomtom wik kata dokta mamuk tlus naika.
Kakwa lisivik wawa kopa naika: “Wik dokta mamuk tlus maika: Ayu
tilikom mamuk styuil pus maika pi ST mamuk kolan kopa klaska
styuil, kakwa wik maika mimlus. Tlus maika wawa mirsi kopa

“You understand that this sickness of mine is really harsh: every-
one here thought the doctors couldn’t cure me.
So the bishop said to me: ‘It’s not doctors that are going to cure you: It’s a lot
of people praying for you and God listening to their
prayers, so that you don’t die. You should thank
them.’ ”

Lakit mun alta naika mitlait kopa sik haws. Iht mun
dokta ilo komtaks ikta naika sik: Iawa iaka shako komtaks
pi iaka klatwa wawa kopa lisivik: “Pir Lshak wik kata pus
chako tlus. Iaka drit mimlus: Kopit pus mamuk kyut iaka sik
klunas iaka shako tanas tlus. Pi naika kwash mamuk kyut.
Naika kwash iaka aiak mimlus. Iaka lost kanawi iaka pilpil.
Lisivik wawa: Tlus maika iskom hlwima dokta kanamokst pi
msaika trai: Alki ST iaka hilp msaika.” Lakit dokta
shako: [K]laska kyut ukuk naika sik. Ayu naika mash pilpil: Lili
naika kakwa mimlus. Lili drit ilo naika skukum: Mokst mun
pi sitkom naika kwanisim mitlait kopa bid, wik kata gitop.
Shi alta naika gitop.

“For four months now I’ve been in the hospital. For a month
the doctor didn’t know what my sickness was: Then he figured [it] out
and he went to talk with the bishop: ‘Père Le Jacq can’t
be cured. He’s really dying. Only if [I] cut out his sickness
will he maybe get a bit better.’ But I was afraid to do the cutting.
I’m afraid he’s going to die right away. He’ll lose all of his blood.’
The bishop said: ‘Why don’t you gather together other doctors and
you folks try: God will help you.’ Four doctors
came: They cut out that sickness of mine. I bled a lot: For a long time,
I was practically dead. For a long time I was unconscious: For two months
and a half I stayed in bed, unable to get up.
It’s just now that I’ve been able to stand.”

Tanas ayu kopa msaika mash pipa kopa naika, pi ilo naika
kilapai wawa kopa klaska: Tlus ilo msaika sik tomtom kopa ukuk

“Several of you have sent letters to me, but I haven’t
responded to them: Please don’t be upset about that.”

Page 75

Naika skukum sik, kakwa ilo naika kilapai wawa. Naika kakwa ilo
komtaks ikta pus shako ukuk pipa: Ilo naika komtaks kah
sistirs mash ukuk pipa: Kopit iht pipa naika komtaks,
Fraswa Shilpahan kopa Kwawt iaka pipa: Pi alta iawa naika
wawa mirsi kopa kanawi ukuk mamuk pipa kopa naika.

“I’ve been terribly ill: that’s why I haven’t answered. I was practically
senseless when those letters came: I don’t know where
the nuns put those letters: I only know about one letter.
It’s Francois Shilpahan of Quaaout’s letter: But now then, I’m
thanking all who wrote to me.”

Naika shako tanas tlus pi wik drit kopit sik: Tlus
ilo msaika kopit styuil pus naika pus aiak naika shako
skukum: Naika aias tiki aiak kilapai kopa naika tilikom
kopa Wiliams Lik: Klaska aias klahawiam alta, ilo
klaska liplit.

“I’m getting a little healthier but not really finished being sick: Please
don’t stop praying for me to soon get
well: I long to get right back to my people
at Williams Lake: They’re miserable now, without
their priest.”

Naika wawa klahawiam kopa kanawi msaika

“I say goodbye to all of you.”

Naika Pir Lshak

“I’m Père Le Jacq.”

<Rev. Father Le Jacq, O.M.I.>
     <St Mary’s Hospital.>
          <New Westminster, B.C.>

The little underlined points:

dokta: Contrast this with Father Le Jeune’s spelling doktor and consider which reflects Chinuk Wawa speech.

pus: Used before a noun, as a preposition meaning “for”, this is the one usage here that differs significantly from Aboriginal usage.

pi alta iawa: “But now then” is a usage that I’ve seen elsewhere in the Kamloops region, and only there.

klahawiam: used with the meaning “goodbye”, this also is typical of Kamloops-area usage.