Bible translations into Chinook Jargon? Mostly in a book you’ve never seen

For decades, there’s been an ongoing interest in having a Chinuk Wawa translation of the Christian Bible — but despite rumors, little progress.Only one “book” of the Bible has been published in anything approaching a reliable translation: “St Marks Kloosh Yiem Kopa Nesika Saviour Jesus Christ“. I say approaching because the translator, C.M. Tate, filled his text with English words whenever his Jargon skills gave out, resulting in passage after passage looking like this from page 4…

st marks

…which I imagine left a lot of mystified listeners in its wake. Tate wasn’t teaching BC Indians how to read Chinook Jargon, so it’d take a White man to read this stuff aloud to them.

A closer approximation to translating the whole Bible is Bishop Durieu’s “Chinook Bible History” (Kamloops, 1899), written in Chinuk pipa shorthand by Father J.M.R. Le Jeune. If you’re able to read that alphabet, you’ll find highly fluent Jargon summaries of the good book’s contents — here’s a snippet from page 4:

durieu history

It’s quality stuff, but it’s only a sort of Chinook “Cliff’s Notes” outlining what the Bible actually says. I think of it as the most promising structure for someone to build an actual full translation on.

(You can see I’m looking at doing the job! As with all laborious linguistic work, it’s only a question of funding, to free up the time.)

But for the broadest and best sampling of actual, complete translated Bible content, you need to turn to a book you’ve probably never heard of. Father Le Jeune’s “Chinook Book of Devotions” (Kamloops, 1902) — which I’m gradually transcribing — hasn’t been researched, for a number of odd reasons. To list only one, it was published after its era’s great authoritative bibliography of Chinook Jargon resources was put out by James C. Pilling.

The big point here is that the “Chinook Book of Devotions” does present selections from all around the Bible, actually translated into full, fluent sentences. From page 2, here’s the first reading, from Romans 13:

chinook book of devotions

<Epistle. Rom. 13.>

     Iaka ukuk Sint Pol lisapotr siisim
This is what Saint Paul the apostle tells  

kopa nsaika:
to us: 

     “Naika tilikom, tlus msaika komtaks:
“My people, you should know: 

iaka taim alta pus nsaika mituit kopa
it’s now time for us to get up from 

slip. Ankati nsaika mamuk nawitka
sleeping. In the past we believed 

kopa ST; wik lili alta pi iaka chako
in God; soon he will come 

mamuk klahawiam nsaika. Pulakli alta
and take pity on us. The night’s now 

kopit, pi iaka chako son: tlus nsaika
over, and the day is coming: let’s 

mash kanawi pulakli mamuk, pi nsaika
be done with all the things we do at night, and let’s 

kuli kopa tlus oihat kakwa kopa son.
travel on the good path like during daytime. 

Wik kopa ayu makmak pi ayu patlam; wik
No to eating a lot and drinking a lot; no  

kopa ipsut pi shim mamuk kopa kliskis;
to secrets and shameful things done in bed; 

wik kopa fait pi saliks tomtom kana=
no to fighting and anger between 

mokst, pi tlus msaika chako kakwa hloima
ourselves, and you folks should become like another 

ShK.”
Jesus.”

—–

(I have an extremely strong idea where the whole manuscript Bible translation may be. Again, funding is the missing piece, to let me make the necessary research trip.)

What do you think?

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