Letter: “I’m off with my tent to Kluskus & Ulkatcho”


Lhoosk’uz (image credit: Presbyterian Record)

Another unpublished letter, one of the latest known in Chinook Writing, suggests Father Thomas preaching in Chinook Jargon up in the Dakelh (Carrier) and Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin) country of BC, Canada:

This is written in fluent, totally typical Kamloops-region dialect, down to the use of recent English loanwords like taim ‘time’, hilp ‘help’, and last. Footnotes about other points of interest follow the text…

< Quesnel 25 mai 1915 > 

Kopa naika tlus papa Pir L Shyun 
To my dear father Pere Le Jeune

Alta wik saia [1] naika klatwa kopa stik [2] kanamokst naika 
Soon now I’ll be heading for the country with my

sil haws [3] kopa Kloskyus Lik pi wiht kopa Alkacho
tent, to Kluskus Lake and also to Ulkatcho,

< 350 > mail kilapai kopa Chilkotin < X > Iht taim 
350 miles, returning via the Chilcotin. Once

iht sno naika klatwa iawa < X > Ayu Sawash kanamokst
a year I go there. Many Indians are with

naika < X > < 120 > mail klaska chako iskom naika < X >
me. They came 120 miles in fetching me.

Naika aias buk wik saia kopit < X > Tlus pus maika mash [Ø] [4] 
My big books are just about gone. Please send [some]

kopa naika kopa mison kopa Wiliams Lik kakwa ankati
to me at the mission at Williams Lake like before,

pi dosin < 12 > aias katisiam (?) buks [5] < 68 > piktyurs
and a dozen (12) of the big catechism books (with) 68 illustrations.

Pus naika kilapai kopa mison wik saia kopit
When I get back to the mission near the end

Shun naika paiii maika kopa ukuk < X >
of June I’ll pay you for these.

Alta < 2 > wiks naika mash mison kuli kopa naika
It’s now 2 weeks since I left the mission traveling for my 

mamuk < X > Nsaika tlus pi tlus tomtom
duties. We’re healthy and happy 

kopa mison < X > Nsaika tlun liplit kanamokst Pir 
at the mission. There are three of us priests with Pere

Madin (?) [6] pi kanawi nsaika iht tomtom [7] < X >
Madden (?), and we all get along with each other.

Wik saia naika tilikom klaska ridi
My people are just about ready 

kakwa naika wawa poto[h] [8] kopa maika < X >
so I’ll say “pútucw” to you. 

Tlus pus maika styuil pus ST (?) kwansim hilp
Please pray that God will always help

kopa naika pi kopa naika Sawash wiht kopa naika
me and my Indians, also my

tikop man < X > Ayu klaska lamis kopa Kinil tawn last
Whites. There were many of them attending Mass at Quesnel last

Sondi kopa klaska styuil [h]aws
Sunday at their church.


Naika maika tilikom 
I’m your friend

Pir Toma < X >
Pere Thomas


[1] wik saia as noted in yesterday’s letter is a “White” use of this phrase to mean ‘soon’; normally it means ‘almost’, as indeed seen later in today’s letter.

[2] stik (literally ‘forest, woods’) used in the sense of ‘wilderness, the bush, the (back)country’ possibly is the source of the informal English expression ‘out in the sticks’. A synonym that’s common in Kamloops-region Chinuk Wawa is mawntin, literally ‘the mountains’.

[3] sil haws ‘tent’ (literally ‘cloth building’) is a general Chinook Jargon word, known in all dialects. But in the Kamloops region’s Chinook Writing, it happens to have a connotation of a religious ‘tent revival’, which is more explicitly called a sil haws mison ‘tent mission’.

[4] My [Ø] here indicates that Thomas is using the well-established “null” pronoun, which is not pronounced (believe it or not!) but which is the fluent and proper Chinuk Wawa form for ‘it’ and ‘some’ — basically, for third-person inanimates. It can be hard for English- and French-speakers to learn to use right, but on the bright side, it’s the easiest word of the Jargon to pronounce 🙂

[5] The ‘catechism books’ mentioned here Father Le Jeune’s “Shushwap Manual” and/or “Chinook Manual“, both written in the same Chinook Writing alphabet that today’s letter uses.

[6] Pere Madden (?): this is the mystery person in yesterday’s letter. Father Thomas’s Chinook handwriting is not the clearest, so there remains a little doubt about the right reading of this name.

[7] iht tomtom generally means ‘be in agreement’, but its slightly extended use here to mean ‘to get along with each other’ is perfectly clear. Could it be at least partly inspired by Father Thomas’s native French, where d’accord means ‘to agree’ as well as ‘go along with, see eye to eye’ and such?

[8] poto[h] is a Secwepemctsin (Shuswap Salish) word for saying ‘goodbye’ to one person, in common use in Kamloops-region Chinuk Wawa.