Franz Boas learns Chinook shorthand in an evening & writes a want ad in it!

File this under Believe It Or Not!

Perhaps THE most amazing case of synchronicity in our Chinook Jargon world: the, well, legendary Franz Boas (he founded the Department of Anthropology and indirectly the Department of Linguistics at my alma mater, Columbia University) meets the world’s hardest-working Chinook writer, Father Le Jeune.

This incident isn’t recorded anywhere else in the historical literature that I’ve scoured through for years, and it’s a doozy.

So sink your teeth into this chunk of Chinook:

Boas Chinuk pipa

(Image credit: University of Saskatchewan  “Our Legacy” Portal)

     <5o Dr. Franz Boaz> [SIC] Chi nsaika nanich kopa Nort Bind iht
5. Dr. Franz Boaz [sic].     We [ = Father J.M.R. Le Jeune] have just met at North Bend [BC] a 

man iaka nim doktor Frans Bos. Iaka mamuk cim kanawi Sawash lalan.g kopa
man called Doctor Franz Boas. He writes down all the Indian languages in 

ukuk ilihi; iaka iskom Chinuk pipa, pi iaka aiak chako komtaks [NULL]. Kopit iht
this country; he picked up a Chinook newspaper, and he quickly learned [how to read it]. For just one 

pulakli iaka nanich ukuk Kamlups Wawa pipa, pi iaka mamuk cim kopa
evening he read this “Kamloops Wawa” paper, and he wrote in 

Chinuk kopa tilikom kopa Nort Bind, pus klaska mamuk cim kopa pipa ankati
Chinuk Wawa to the [Indian] people at North Bend, for them to write on paper the old-time 

siisim, Kayuti iaka siisim ItS, pi iaka wawa pus alki iaka piii
stories, Coyote’s stories etc., and he said that he would pay 

klaska mokst tala iht pish kopa ukuk mamuk.
them two dollars a page for that work.

— Kamloops Wawa #123 (December 1894), page 200

I’ve always thought it would be splendid to find any shorthand Jargon stories that people may have sent Boas’s way!

They might be in North Bend’s Thompson Salish language, which a few people were good at writing.


(Image credit: BC Gold Rush Press)

More likely these would be in the Jargon. That was the language that was prototypically associated with literacy among the southern interior BC Native people of the time. Thus the name “Chinook writing” (Chinuk pipa) for Kamloops Wawa‘s shorthand alphabet.

Not to mention that Franz Boas put his solicitation into the Jargon. That alone would prime any respondents to compose their stories in the same language.

Boas is so, well, legendary at this point in history that whoever discovers any of the tales people may have sent him in response to this notice would be able to publish it in the scholarly journal of their choice.

Grad students: go!