Newly discovered Chinuk Wawa: “I am going to Victoria to see the Governor”

You’ve never seen this splendid Chinuk Wawa document.

From what I can make out, Capt. Wilson’s (as the author is attributed) “Report on the Indian Tribes inhabiting the country in the vicinity of the 49th parallel of North Latitude” (Transactions of the Ethnological Society of London Vol. IV (New Series):pages 275-332, 1866) has never been cited in the Chinook Jargon research literature.

What a shame. This information gathered in the course of the Boundary Commission’s work is really fine stuff.

Surely this Capt. Wilson is NOT the eminent Canadian Daniel Wilson (1816-1892) who also wrote books: the 1862 “Prehistoric Man” that’s mentioned in James Constantine Pilling’s well-known 1893 bibliography, and 1892’s “The Lost Atlantis and Other Ethnographic Studies“. DW’s papers, as I take it (the Daniel Wilson Fonds), are at the University of Toronto. Coincidentally, DW is already known to us, via JC Pilling’s 1893 “Bibliography of the Chinookan Languages” (which is almost entirely Jargon items): his 1862 book contains Jargon whose spellings suggest he was drawing on Horatio Hale (1846) and Alexander Anderson (1858).(Take note, the copy of that one includes Anderson’s handwritten disavowal of authorship of its Jargon vocabulary!) His 1892 book uses spellings that look to me more in line with the by-then standardized ones used in so many publications on the language. He also refers to Paul Kane, and generally seems to have had only secondhand knowledge of the Jargon.

Our author must be “Lieutenant [!!] Charles William Wilson, secretary of the British Boundary Commission and commander of the sappers involved in the boundary survey”.  Wikipedia gives you a perfectly good biographical sketch of Wilson (1836-1905), with the useful information that he spent 1858-1862 on the boundary survey.

Charles William Wilson

Charles William Wilson while on the boundary survey (image credit: Wikipedia)

His 1866 article’s Jargon lexicon (pages 322-325) uses a unique spelling system, evidently the one that Capt. Wilson attributes to the ” ‘Admiralty Manual’, under the heading ‘Ethnology’ ” (page 290). We haven’t seen this orthography before, with its “j” for /ay/, “v” for the English “ng” sound, and so on.

And while one of the Salish wordlists that also appear in the article is credited to an HBC employee, Mr. McKay, the other is implicitly the work of Wilson. So maybe the Chinuk Wawa material is original with him too. Here’s that vocabulary:

[page 322:]

transactions 01

[page 323:]

transactions 02[page 324:]

transactions 03[page 325:]

transactions 04

The best evidence I see for a conclusion that this is a new find of Jargon comes in Capt. Wilson’s section of illustrative sentences (pages 325-326). This venerable tradition in Chinuk Wawa dictionaries lets us more easily distinguish among the often liberally borrowed lexicons of the 1800s. Capt. Wilson’s sentences are different from other authors’ (I compared them with Hale’s and Anderson’s, which were the two main published models available at the time). They also reflect the specific geographical circumstances where he would’ve been using the Jargon. Here they are:

transactions 05transactions 06

The mentions of Fort Langley (the first I’ve ever seen in Chinuk Wawa) and Victoria establish this Jargon material as being distinct from the lower Columbia River setting where Hale and Anderson had worked.

I’ll probably be writing more about Capt. Wilson’s contribution in the future. For today, I’m just happy to be sharing a new find!