“Catechism house”: a BC regionalism in Jargon

I often point out words that you should add to your Chinuk Wawa dictionary, because they got left out for the first 200 years.

From the old Kamloops Wawa newspaper, I’ve learned a term for a big building where people would hold meetings. A community hall. It was a space for community meetings, mass lessons in Chinuk pipa “Chinook writing”, and more.

The word is katikism haws, and variations like likatishism haws. Literally “catechism house”, which shows that this was also a place for religious instruction. It’s very common in the old Chinook writing.

Nadleh church

It turns out that this same phrase catechism house is found in other parts of British Columbia (but not elsewhere).

David Mulhall’s book “Will to Power: The Missionary Career of Father Morice” has catechism house (1986:50) in a Nadleh Whut’en context (west of modern Prince George, BC) from 1886, mentioned in English because it happens to sound like English.

The catch is, as you can tell if you google it, the phrase hardly existed in English! It was common in BC Jargon, though.

Just to quote you an example from a third region of the province, in the Lower Mainland of BC, Roy’s book “These Mysterious People: Shaping History and Archaeology in a Northwest Coast Community” has catechism house (2010:56) in the context of the Roman Catholic mission at Musqueam — essentially modern-day Vancouver.

So, yet another new Jargon word for you!