Canneries, culture contact, and spreading Chinook literacy

The unique BC alphabet for Chinook Jargon, Chinuk pipa, found a secure place in Indigenous people’s hearts in its first few years. Not just southern interior people, and not limited either to lower mainland folks. Alaskans learned to read it, too.

cannery woman

Canneries are the key element in this story.

Broder's first New Westminster canneryAbout 1912 John Broder standing

Broder’s first New Westminster cannery About 1912 John Broder standing

Let’s turn to pages 141-142 of Kamloops Wawa‘s July 1894 issue #118c (yes, Father Le Jeune was so energetic about sharing Chinuk Wawa that he sometimes issued three different numbers in a month).

cannery first page (2)

Pus kopit aias styuil kopa Sint Mari ayu
tilikom klatwa kopa Wisminstir pus mamuk samon.
Kopa ukuk haws kah klaska mamuk samon kopa kan[,]
klaska nim kanri ukuk haws, mitlait alta ayu
tilikom klaksta komtaks Shinuk pipa; pi ayu tilikom[…]

“When the great praying [festival] at St. Mary’s [Mission, BC] was done, a lot of
the [Indigenous] people went to [New] Westminster to work [on] salmon.
At the buildings where they put salmon into cans,
those building are called canneries, there are currently a lot of
[Indigenous] people who know Chinook writing; but a lot of the people…”

cannery second page (2)

[…]mitlait kanamokst klaska ilo komtaks Shinuk[.]
Nsaika komtaks, klaska mamuk skul kanamoks[t]
kakwa iht iht tilikom chako komtaks Shinuk pipa
kopa kanri. Stikin tilikom mitlait kopa kanri pi
klaska tiki chako komtaks ukuk Shinuk pipa.
Pus klaska chako tolo ukuk Chinuk pipa, alki
klaska chako drit yutl tomtom kopa ukuk,
pi wiht nsaika chako drit yutl tomtom kopa klaska.

“…who are with them don’t know Chinook Jargon.
We are aware that they are teaching each other
so this and that person is learning Chinook writing
at the canneries. There are Stikine [Alaskan Tlingit] people at the canneries and
they want to learn this Chinook writing.
When they succeed [at] this Chinook writing,
they are going to be really glad for them,
and we [Father Le Jeune] too will be really glad about it.”

     Pus maika komtaks Shinuk pipa, tlus wik maika
kwash mamuk komtaks kopa hloima tilikom. Pus
maika mamuk kakwa, maika tolo hloima tilikom kopa
styuil, maika hilp ST kopa tilikom, maika hilp
ShK kopa tilikom. Alki ST iaka piii kopa maika
ukuk maika mamuk.

“If you know Chinook writing, you shouldn’t
be reluctant to teach [it] to other [Indigenous] people. If
you do so, you will win other people over to
praying, you will help God with the [Indigenous] people, you will help
Jesus with the people. God will pay you
[for] this action of yours.”

(Stikin is the usual word for Tlingits in Kamloops-area Chinook Jargon.)

Pretty intriguing to contemplate finding Chinuk Wawa writings up in Alaska! None are known…yet.

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