Father Le Jeune and the Indians

A picturesque contemporary article about Father Le Jeune’s wildly popular Chinuk pipa (Chinook Writing):

father le jeune and the indians

Father Le Jeune and the Indians. Under date of September 20th, Father Le Jeune, O.M.I., of Kamloops, B.C., writes to THE STENOGRAPHER a very interesting letter. He says that he is in regular receipt of THE STENOGRAPHER, which, after perusal, is treasured up in the most honored part of his little library. He has favored us with a copy of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Bibliography of the Chinookan Languages,” which, under his name, gives all the information required concerning Chinook shorthand up to date of publication, March, 1893.

Since then his progress has been going on, sometimes slowly but yet steadily. He says: “Last April I had occasion to make a trip out of my own district as far as Pentikton, in the Okanagon Valley. In three days I initiated the natives there in the knowledge of the new writing, and their zealous pastor, Father Marchal continued the work after my departure. I had to send that way 150 copies of the Chinook First Readers, of which over 800 have now gone out of my hands. As I am writing to you my Indian printers are turning out 500 more copies of the same on the mimeograph. During the Summer the work is slow, as the Indians are scattered about trying to make their living — some at the salmon canneries, some along the railroads where they are considered the best of workmen, some at picking hops, others, still old-fashioned, at their hunting grounds, while their women are picking the huckle, blue and other berries, or putting up their supply of dried salmon for the winter. The best, who have given up their Indian ways of securing their sustenance, stick to the ground, farming and raising stock. One Indian last fall sold over $1,000 worth of wheat, retaining sufficient for himself and family. So you see there is little time left for the study of shorthand. Still, not a few take a course of instruction. Among them there are some good stenographers. The start has now been made and I hope rapid success will follow. Last week I visited a settler, some 4,000 feet above the sea level. He is a half-breed and married to an Indian woman who is very bright, understanding shorthand. While there, I copied out four or five pages of an English book, writing it in shorthand, and asked the young woman to read it, which she did quite readily and intelligently, although she hardly understands “yes” and “no” in English. I tell you my half-breed friend was proud of his little wife.”

Father Le Jeune then gives a detailed account of his journeyings up and down the country, meeting Indians here and there at places many miles apart, teaching them, assisting them in very many ways, both as clergyman and as a friend, administering to their wants physical and spiritual. The letter is exceedingly interesting, and we regret we have not space to print it in full.

Father Le Jeune is a feeble man and in delicate health, and very anxious of having some one to second him in his efforts. Since he went into this country in 1879, there have been fifteen chapels built, which are attended to by him, giving him a heavy financial burden to carry. He says: “I always feel very unwilling to apply to anybody’s generosity for my needs. Everlasting blessings on those who may be inspired to do something to help in the good work in which I am engaged.”

In one of his circulars Father Le Jeune says: “Our good Indians are now thankful to God for the blessing of being able to read shorthand. Some of them were saying lately, ‘we receive now as much instruction in one week as we were able to learn before in several months, when we had no other way of learning than by endless repetitions.’ ” He says: “We have the full encouragement and co-operation of the Right Rev. Bishop Durieu, of New Westminster and the other missionaries in the province, whose names he gives for reference: Rev. Father J.M. Le Jacq, O.M.I., William’s Lake; Rev. Father Chiappini, O.M.I., William’s Lake; Rev. Father E.C. Chirouse, O.M.I., Mission City; Rev. Father Bunoz, O.M.I., Mission City; Rev. Father C. Marchal, O.M.I., Okanagon Mission; Rev. Father N. Coccla [Coccola], O.M.I., St. Eugene’s Mission, and others. A letter addressed to Father Le Jeune, at Kamloops, B.C., asking for information or proffering assistance will be thankfully received.

— The Stenographer, Volume 5 Number 1 (November 1893), page 323