A remarkable document from a Native Chinuk pipa writer.
In Kamloops Wawa #152 of May 1897, Father Le Jeune tantalizes us with news of a “curious letter”, apparently illustrated, from Pit N’hinaskret (a.k.a. Pete Nhinaskrit) of ‘Alcali’ (Alkali) Lake, which Le Jeune showed to the news agent on board the train from Kamloops to Vancouver:
The first picture shows Pit last fall at the top of his third big stack of hay, with hat and hay fork high in the air. ‘I have now plenty of hay for the winter. Let us go up in the woods and kill and eat some deer in the meantime.’
The second shows Pit as he must have felt after the first fall of snow last November: ‘I did not put up plenty of hay for nothing! Let us go and feed our cows.’
The third shows Pit in the middle of the winter; two of his stacks are gone already. ‘I am getting afraid now,’ says he.
In the fourth picture Pit is feeding out his last handful of hay to his cows. No more hay left and plenty of snow on the ground.
In the fifth Pit is trying to lift up his last cow, which is dying, but it is no use. All are gone! ‘But, after all,’ says he, ‘I am no worse off than many other people. I am an Indian and not a white man. White man is repining over his losses day and night and does not sleep, but I can sleep plenty all the time. And what is the use getting sick-hearted over it? I cannot make my dead cattle come to life again.
Quite a few of Pete’s shorthand Chinuk Wawa letters are preserved in archives, although I haven’t found the original of this one. So the following issue of KW, #153, fortunately lets us lay eyes on N’hinaskret’s creation, which captures a riveting transitional moment in the Aboriginal history of BC with what I’m sure many will recognize as classic Native humour. There’s a lot going on here (*asterisked words are unclear in the original):
Hihihi alta naika kopit mamuk naika tipso, naika tiki klatwa makmak mawich kopa stik.
Hahaha, now I’m done haying! I want to go eat deer in the woods.
Drit ayu naika tipso: wik kata
I have a whole lot of hay: there’s no way
pus naika kwash pus mimlus naika
that I’d ever be afraid my
musmus pi naika kyutan
cows and horses would die.
Alki chako sno naika kilapai
(When) the snow comes I’ll come back
iakwa pi naika patlach ayu makmak
here and I’ll give lots of feed
kopa naika musmus pi kopa naika
to my cows and to my
kyutan mitlait* kopa Alkalai Lik
horses that are at Alkali Lake.
[on center haystack:]
Get up, boys!
Klunas aias til ukuk lod
This load might be awful heavy
pi wik naika kwash pus
but (at least) I’m not afraid of
naika musmus mimlus
my cows dying
Chako sno ayu sno
Snow is falling, lots of snow
Wik kaltash naika mamuk ayu tipso
Not for nothing did I make a lot of hay
Naika tiki patlach [NULL] kopa naika musmus
I want to give (some) to my cows
Ilo ayu naika tipso
I don’t have much hay
Ilo aias ukuk lod
This load isn’t so big
Naika chako kwash alta
I’m getting afraid now
Ho! Isi bois
Ho! Easy, boys!
Sitkom kol ilihi
Ankati ukuk lamiai musmus
This old lady cow was
aias olo iaka tiki makmak
(always) plenty hungry, she wanted to eat
naika tipso* kopa naika*
(all) my hay on me
Ikta maika tiki kopa naika Ilo ayu kaltash tipso mitlait kopa naika
What do you want from me?! I don’t (even) have that much crummy hay
Alki* tamolo* mitlait* makmak* kopa maika
There’ll be food for you tomorrow
Ilo kopit sno
The snow hasn’t gone away
pi kopit naika tipso
but my hay ran out
pi kopit tlun naika musmus
and I only have three cows (left)
Alta nsaika klahawiam
Now we’re done for
Naika ilo tiki fork* alta
I don’t need a fork now
[left side, vertically:]
Tlus naika ilo sik tomtom Naika sawash
I shouldn’t worry. I’m an Indian.
Wik kata pus sawash tlap ayu iktas kopa ukuk ilihi.
An Indian can’t get much stuff in this world.
Tlus pus naika tolo sahali ilihi.
Hopefully I’ll earn (my way to) heaven.
Klunas iawa ilo naika komtaks klahawiam
I reckon there I won’t know any misery.
[on Pit’s sleeve, diagonally:]
Wik kata pus naika tolo
I just can’t win
[on the hill above Pit, diagonally:]
Kopit ukuk naika musmus pi wik kata iaka gitop
I just have this cow and she can’t stand up
[on the cow, diagonally:]
[right side, vertically:]
Nanich tilikom kata ST patlach aias lapilitas kopa
Look, (my) people, how God gives big punishments to
nsaika ilihi. Pi klunas kata kopa Kamlups. Klunas msaika
our earth. And who knows how things are at Kamloops. Maybe you folks
wiht tlap kakwa lapilitas Tlus nanich tilikom
are also getting this kind of punishment. Watch out, people
Pus kwanisim nsaika cipi alki klunas nsaika wiht
If we keep doing wrong we may
tlap ilip skukum lapilitas / Iawa nsaika drit klahawiam.
get even tougher punishments / Then we’ll really be miserable.
[beneath the illustration:]
Kopit naika tipso pi kopit naika musmus…alki pus chako wam ilihi naika
My hay ran out and my cows are finished…when springtime comes I’ll
wiht klatwa mamuk tipso. Pi klunas klaksta makmak naika tipso.
go make hay again. But who on earth is going to eat my hay?!
Kopit naika musmus: A! Kaltash kopa naika, tlus klaska mimlus.
My cows are gone. Ah, I don’t care, let ’em die.
Ilo kopit naika klahawiam kopa ukuk ilihi. Wiht kanawi boston man klaska ilip
My troubles on this earth never end. Still all of the white people are worse
klahawiam kopa naika. Alta klaska ilo slip
off than me. They don’t sleep now,
kanawi son pi kanawi pulakli klaska klahawiam tomtom. Pi naika sawash; naika
every day and every night they’re in a pitiful state. But I’m an Indian, I
kwanisim skukum slip. Naika komtaks,
always sleep just fine. I know
ilo ikta naika tolo pus naika mamuk aias sik naika tomtom kopa ukuk.
I won’t gain anything if I get myself all worked up about this.
1 IV: Alki tamolo: this is written in large thick letters, perhaps as an emendation of an original ilo – which would mean that the sentence originally was ‘There’s no food for you.’.