Earliest use of “law” in Chinook Jargon?

“Law”, like most English-origin loanwords in Chinook Jargon, was studiously omitted from the frontier-era vocabularies.

You have to figure: reasons of economy.

Paper was expensive, ink too. Both were rare.

Anyone who could read the Chinuk Wawa material that you were helpfully publishing, well, they knew English already.

So, in a mini-research project, I’ve set myself the task to find the earliest documentation of an example word, “law”, in Jargon.

I have 2 answers so far:

#1. The absolute earliest is in Kamloops Wawa, in Chinook shorthand, directed to an Aboriginal readership.  In issue #65 of 12 February 1893, page carries this note:

Iakwa msaika nanish iaka lo ukuk kompani.

“Here you folks can read the laws of this association.”

#2. The earliest I can find it directed to an English-speaking readership is the 1871 vocabulary [said to date to an 1839 original] of Modeste Demers; page 32 has la, lo “command, law, compromise” [ = agreement?]. An interesting set of meanings, apparently reflecting uses in Catholic preaching.

Here too, for your edification, is a quotation of a Native in the Ellensburg, WA area. This was published in the Eugene City Guard of  June 25, 1898, amid news of the Spanish-American phony war, page 7, column 2:

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It’s one of a genre of jokey newspaper articles of the era, representing a White person addressing a person of color (Chinese, Native, African-American, anybody) in what he assumes is the real McCoy, down and dirty, nonstandard lingo of that class — and is answered in the Queen’s English. So here a white lawyer is advising an Indian guy about the divorce laws…

Eh, six! Okoke law waw-waw mika ticky halo iskum chee klootchman copa taghum moon. Klose mika delate kumtux kopa okole pe halo Mammook law solicks poka mika.

“Hey, friend! This law says you want [ = need] to not take a new woman for six months. You should pay attention to this and not get the law angry at you.”

I imagine there are somewhat earlier citations to be found. Maybe you’ll locate one and share it?

But so far I’m finding that the trend is confirmed: Words from English that were actually in daily Chinook Jargon usage were nevertheless excluded by a principled choice from English speakers’ documentation of the Jargon, until quite a late date. There were plenty of CJ documents in circulation before 1871!

This is another reason that we need to keep up the steam, collecting and analyzing the enormous amounts of Jargon that exist outside of the typical Anglo word lists. Our understanding of the actual composition of the language is going to evolve quite a lot.

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