De Québec à Victoria

routhier

Adolphe-Basile Routhier, painted by Mel Crawford (image credit: artworkoriginals.com)

The writer of the original lyrics to “O Canada” (they were in French!) witnesses BC intertribal protocols conducted in Chinook Jargon…

That man, Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier (1839-1920), turns out to have a couple of connections with Chinuk Wawa.

For one thing, it was he as a judge who decided an election that brought Father of Confederation Hector-Louis Langevin to office; Langevin is the credited author of one of our historical dictionaries of the Jargon.

Routhier also wrote the book “De Québec à Victoria” (Québec: L.J. Demers & Frère, 1893), which we’ll take a peek at today.

In it, chapter XXVII, “Un Congrès Catholique de Sauvages”, describes what he saw at St. Mary’s Mission on the lower Fraser River in British Columbia, during one of the periodic province-wide religious festivals thrown by the misionary Oblate Catholic order.

This episode involves a  less well-known priest who must have learned his fluent Chinuk Wawa — see pages 126-127 of Routhier’s book — at (Fort) Vancouver, Washington, in frontier days: Jean-Baptiste Brondel (1842-1903). It would be interesting to look through whatever papers of his survive.

The Passion Play referred to was the periodic reenactment, circa 1900, of the death of Jesus staged by Indigenous people, primarily Salish groups, of southern British Columbia at festivals held by the Catholic Oblate missionaries. It seems to have been performed in Chinuk Wawa; it’s written about in CW and other languages in the Kamloops Wawa newspaper, and we’ve seen a long article about it by Harlan Smith.

The following bit tells of Bishop (Monsignor) Brondel’s fluency in Chinook Jargon:

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page 312

…et un chef Sichell, s’avançant en tête des
sauvages, adresse aux distingués visiteurs un discours
de bienvenue en chinook.

Le chinook est le volapilk des sauvages, et presque
toutes les tribus le comprennent. C’est une langue
formée d’anglais, de français et de plusieurs idiomes
indiens.

Mgr Brondel, qui a été missionnaire dans la Colombie
pendant quatre ans, et qui parle le chinook très cou-
ramment, est chargé de répondre ; et, si j’en puis juger
par l’attitude et l’impression des sauvages, il le fait
avec un grand succès.

(… and a Sichell [Sechelt] leader, approaching in the lead of
the Indians, addresses to the distinguished visitors a speech of
welcome in Chinook.

The Chinook is the Volapük of the Indians, and almost
all the tribes understand it. It’s a language
composed of English, French and several Indian languages.

Bishop Brondel, who was a missionary on the Columbia
for four years, and who speaks Chinook very fluently,
is responsible for answering; and, if I can judge
by the attitude and the impression of the Indians, he does it
with great success.)

And this selection describes intertribal protocols conducted via Jargon:

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quebec victoria 02c

pages 315-316

La procession de la Passion va donc être possible, et
les sauvages sont à en faire les derniers préparatifs.

En attendant, nous assistons à un échange de
discours entre les sauvages de la Colombie, représentés
par le chef des Kamloops, et les sauvages des terri-
toires, représentés par notre ami Peau d’Hermine, de
la nation des Cris.

Ce dernier avait revêtu son grand costume d’apparat,
et il était vraiment magnifique à voir. Il portait plus
d’hermine que tous les professeurs de l’Université Laval
ensemble, et plus de verroteries qu’on n’en voit dans
nos bals — avec cette différence qu’il ne prétendait pas
les faire passer pour des diamants.

Le chef des Kamloops parla en chinook, et son dis-

— 316 —

cours était traduit en français par le R. P. Lejeune,
puis retraduit en cris par le P. Lacombe, La réponse
de Peau d’Hermine fut aussi l’objet d’une double
traduction pour être comprise par les sauvages de la
Colombie.

Ces discours improvisés n’avaient rien de bien remar-
quable au fond. Les orateurs exprimaient le plaisir
qu’ils éprouvaient de se rencontrer et se félicitaient
mutuellement d’appartenir à l’Eglise catholique, qui
leur avait enseigné la vérité et la pratique des vertus
chrétiennes. Ils s’applaudissaient d’être devenus des
frères en Jésus-Christ, et s’encourageaient à persévérer
dans les mêmes croyances et dans une conduite morale
conforme aux enseignements des hommes de la prière…

Au point de vue du débit, j’ai trouvé les discours
irréprochables. Le ton, le geste, la tenue, la voix et
les inflexions étaient parfaitement naturels.

Les Pères Oblats qui comprennent leurs langues
assurent que les sauvages parlent d’ailleurs avec une
grande correction.

(The Passion [Play] procession will therefore be possible, and
the Indians are to make the last preparations.

In the meantime, we are witnessing an exchange of
speeches between the Indians of [British] Columbia, represented
by the chief of the Kamloops, and the Indians of the {then “Northwest”] Territories represented by our friend, Peau d’Hermine [“Ermine Skin”, Osikkusiweyân], from
the Cree Nation.

The latter had donned his great ceremonial costume,
and it was really beautiful to see. He wore more
of ermine than all the professors of Laval University
together, and more glassware than we see at
our balls — with this difference that he did not pretend
pass them off as diamonds.

The chief of the Kamloops spoke in Chinook, and his

– 316 –

speech was translated into French by Reverend Father [Jean-Marie-Raphaël] Lejeune [Le Jeune],
then retranslated into Cree by Father Lacombe. The answer from
Ermine Skin was also the subject of a double
translation to be understood by the Indians of [British]
Columbia.

These improvised speeches had nothing very remarkable in them fundamentally. Speakers expressed pleasure which
they experienced at meeting and congratulated each other
mutually at belonging to the Catholic Church, which
taught them the truth and the practice of Christian virtues.
They applauded one another for having become
brothers in Christ Jesus, and encouraged each other to persevere
in the same beliefs and in moral conduct
in accordance with the teachings of men of prayer …)

From the point of view of the flow, I found the speeches
irreproachable. The tone, the gesture, the dress, the voice and
the inflections were perfectly natural.

Oblate Fathers who understand their languages
ensure that the savages speak elsewhere with a
great correction.)

Pretty interesting reporting, isn’t it?

What do you think?