Teaching literacy practices, page 2: Keep your Chinook paper clean

Something that eventually occurred to Father Le Jeune, once he had gotten 500+ people literate in Chinook shorthand…

They needed to be told to keep their Kamloops Wawa clean and dry.

This is not, let’s hasten to say, a criticism of “dirty Indians”, unlike so much of the revolting talk that was current among 1890s Whites.

Instead, it was just plain expensive to produce this little periodical.

  • Paper was not the most abundant commodity in the hinterlands of BC.
  • Ink likewise.
  • There were postal costs too — although in the issue quoted below, there’s the news that Kamloops Wawa has been given “free mail” status by the government.
  • Labor was free, because the composing was done by Aboriginal women volunteers, but they had other duties in life so this resource was not in endless supply, either.
  • And as you’ll find if you read multiple issues of KW, money itself was in very short supply in the Native communities where the readership mostly resided. Most subscribers had trouble paying, even though for at least the first few years Chinook literacy was extremely popular.

Most important of all — in the eyes of Father Le Jeune — Kamloops Wawa and Chinook shorthand literacy brought people the word of the Christian God. The newspaper was the ultimate labor-saving device for this missionary who was tasked with ministering to communities dispersed over what I’d estimate as 5,000 square miles or more. It would suck if his flock trashed their KW‘s rather than reading them, and ideally rereading them repeatedly.

Knowing this, now savor a public-service announcement (with mimeographs, to paraphrase The Clash):

Teaching literacy practices (2)

Alta ukuk pipa klatwa kopa maika.
Wik tlus pus iaka kaltash mitlait
ukuk pipa kopa maika. Ilo mash
ukuk pipa kopa boks. Ilip tlus
maika nanish kanawi ikta iaka wawa
ukuk pipa. Tlus kansih taim maika
kuli ukuk siisim, pus maika
chako drit komtaks [NULL].

“Now this paper gets sent out to you.
It shouldn’t just lie around,
this paper, in your place. Don’t [just] put
this paper in a [kindling?] box. It’s better
for you to read everything it says,
[in] this paper. Please, several times,
run through this news, so you’ll
really learn it.”

Wiht tlus nanish ukuk pipa
pus wik shako kaltash. Ilo
mash ukuk pipa kah iaka tlap ayu
ilihi, ayu smok, mamuk kakwa apsisi [SIC]
kopa ukuk pipa pus iaka kwanisim
tlus kakwa pus chi kwanisim.

“Also, take care of this paper
so it won’t get ruined. Don’t
put this paper where he [SIC] will get
dirty, [or] smoky, make a kind of blanket
around this paper so he [SIC] will always
be in good condition[,] like new forever.”

(From Kamloops Wawa #114b, March 1894, last page of mailing wrapper.)