Culture contact: Thanksgiving

thanksgiving 2017

(Image credit: National Geographic)

ɬush masi-san! (Happy Thanksgiving!) That Chinuk Wawa sentence captures the culture contact that we Americans like to see as the basis of our Thanksgiving observances today.

In order, the words come from the indigenous language Nuučaan̓uɬ, Canadian (Métis) French, and American English. This particular way of expressing it in the Jargon goes back pretty far, at least to Father St Onge’s usage since he has it in his 1892 dictionary manuscript, written at the end of a long missionary career. (I’m surprised not to find the extremely common word masi at all in a quick check of the Demers/Blanchet 1871 dictionary and catechism.)

I thought I’d give you a sampler of further Native-White cultural contact for this holiday. Here are the first few words from some Salish Catholic prayers of thanksgiving, found in “Chinook Writing” in the Kamloops Wawa newspaper…with my rough interpretation of them.

The phrasings that we see below may reflect the use of Chinook Jargon by the Oblate priest(s) to get native speakers’ translations of Christian concepts. All of these seem to use what’s literally translatable as ‘it’s good if’; compare Jargon tlus (pus). And the capitalized abbreviations (which are worth a whole article by themselves, as a unique feature of this writing system) mostly stand for ‘God’ expressions parallel to ‘high/above chief’, compare Jargon sáx̣ali táyi. (The Nsyílxcən KSh represents k̓ʷl̓ncútn, which I understand as something like ‘makes himself’.)

St’át’imcets (Lillooet): Ama kŭsh taminim KK… (#203a:188) ‘We should thank God…’

Secwepemctsín (Shuswap): La as lamintam l TK… (#130:107) ‘We should thank God…’

Stó:lō (Halkomelem): A ia ks iamatam a ShK… (#127:57) ‘We should thank God…’

Nsyílxcən (Okanagan): Xast ks limtimintim ShK… (#125:25) ‘We should thank Jesus…’

” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” ” “: Xast ks limtmintim i KSh… (#121:175) ‘We should thank God…’

Much more could be said about all this, over a sumptuous repast with good people.

Happy Thanksgiving!