Mrs. Jamie Boston Bar writes to the editor

An early female Indigenous-written letter in Chinuk Pipa (Chinook Writing) from British Columbia’s southern interior asks to know more about this Christian stuff…

It’s signed “Mrs. Jamie Boston Bar”, not an unusual nim kopa tkop man (‘name [by which you’re known] to the White man’) in those Salish communities in the 1890s.

Mrs Jamie Boston Bar

< A letter from North Bend. >

[The editor notes:] Nsaika tlap ukuk pipa kopa Krapashishin.
Nsáyka t’łáp úkuk pípa kʰupa Q’apeʔcícn [1].
we get this writing from North.Bend

‘We got this letter from North Bend.’

     Krapashishin Ipril < 16. 1893 >.
     Q’apeʔcícn, Eypril* 16, 1893 [2].
     North.Bend April 16 1893

     ‘North Bend, April 16, 1893.’

Klahaw [sic] naika papa Pir Lshyun.
£ax̣áwyam [3], nayka pápa Pér Lədjə́n [4].
greetings my father Père Le.Jeune

‘Greetings, my father Père Le Jeune.”

Naika Misis Shimi Boston Bar. Naika mamuk pipa kopa
Náyka Mísis* Djéymi* Bástən Bár. Náyka mámuk pípa kʰupa
I Mrs. Jamie Boston Bar I make writing to
‘I’m Mrs. Jamie Boston Bar. I’m writing to’

maika pi naika aias lili ilo mamuk pipa kopa maika. Naika ilo sik
máyka pi náyka (h)ayas*-líli (h)ílu* [5] mámuk pípa kʰupa máyka. Náyka (h)ílu sík(,)
you and I very-long.time not make writing to you I not sick

‘you but I haven’t written to you in a very long time. I’m not sick,’

naika drit skukum pi kanawi tilikom kopa Krapashishin ilo
náyka dlét* skúkum pi kʰánawi tílikam* kʰupa Q’apeʔcícn (h)ílu
I really healthy and all people at North.Bend not 

‘I’m really healthy and everyone at North Bend is not’

klaska sik. Kanawi skukum. Naika wawa kopa maika tlus
łaska sík. Kʰánawi skúkum. Náyka wáwa kʰupa máyka łús(h) [6]
they sick all healthy I say to you IMPERATIVE
sick. They’re all healthy. I say to you, please’

hilp naika kopa ST. Ilo naika komtaks styuil pi naika tiki
hélp náyka kʰupa Sáx̣ali-Táyí. (H)ílu náyka kə́mtəks st’íʔwił* [7] pi náyka tíki
help me with Above Chief not I know pray but I want 

‘help me with God. I don’t know how to pray but I want’

komtaks. Naika tanas komtaks kopa Chinuk pipa. Naika drit tlus
kə́mtəks (Ø). Náyka tənəs-kə́mtəks kʰupa Chinúk-pípa. Náyka dlét łús(h)-
know it I little-know about Chinook writing I really good

‘to know (it). I know a bit about Chinook Writing. I have a very good’

tomtom kopa maika. Kopit naika wawa maika. Tlus mamuk pipa
tə́mtəm kʰupa máyka. Kəpit* náyka wáwa máyka. £ús(h) mámuk pípa
heart to you finished I talk you IMPERATIVE make writing
‘opinion of you. I’m done talking to you. Please write’

kopa naika. Naika tiki komtaks.
kʰupa náyka. Náyka tíki kə́mtəks.
to me I want know
‘to me. I want to know.’

Klahawiam maika.
£ax̣áwyam máyka.
greetings you

‘Goodbye (to) you.’

Naika nim < Mrs Jamie Boston Bar North-Bend. B.C. >
Náyka ním Mrs. Jamie Boston Bar, North Bend, BC.
my name Mrs. Jamie Boston Bar North Bend BC

‘My name is Mrs. Jamie Boston Bar, North Bend, BC.’

— from Kamloops Wawa #78 of May 14, 1893, page 78

Notes to the above:

Q’apeʔcícn [1] is the Indigenous Thompson Salish name for the location of North Bend, BC. In that language it means ‘little sandy beach’. 

Eypril* 16, 1893 [2]: The names of months were recently taken from spoken English into Kamloops-region Chinook Jargon, as were the spoken words for numbers larger than about 5. (There’s that “bottleneck” effect again, where much of the older vocabulary was left behind in this language’s sudden move from an older, southern location to a newer, northern one.) I’d suggest the numbers for year dates are especially good candidates for being learned pidgin-style: you might hear them spoken more than reading them, if you knew Chinuk Wawa but not English. But note: the Chinuk Pipa numeral symbols, which were identical with ten of the alphabetical letters and therefore caused some confusion, quickly got dropped by Indigenous writers in favour of the so-called “Arabic” numerals of English. It’s easy to imagine some or most Indigenous people, in fact, as having learned English numerals long before they learned to write anything else; my kids took that path, anyway.

£ax̣áwyam [3]: In the first occurrence of this word, we see the final syllable left off (klahaw!), which I mentioned the other day as a typical “typo” by Father Le Jeune. So, here, it’s an indication of him copying from the writer’s original letter. In a conference paper a few years ago, I showed that Le Jeune edited Indigenous people’s letters quite a bit when he reproduced them in his Kamloops Wawa newspaper — and here the use of łax̣áwyam as an opening salutation may also show his editing. Virtually all Indigenous Chinuk Pipa writers used that word only as a ‘goodbye’. 

Pér Lədjə́n [4]: This “dj” pronunciation in Le Jeune’s last name is what I’ve heard from the local Indigenous community of Kamloops. Maybe it reflects local English influence. It certainly differs from how the priest would say his own name, [ləžœn].

(h)ayas* and (h)ílu* [5]: Even though Chinuk Pipa writes both of these words without an “H” at the beginning, which was presumably influenced by the French-speaking priests who invented it (and were accustomed to a “silent H” rule in their own language), I’ve found no evidence of local Chinook Jargon speakers dropping their H’s.

łús(h) hilp [6]: Mrs. Jamie is in a minority of local Chinuk Wawa speakers in forming her two requests/commands without the pronoun maika ‘you’. The more common way of phrasing them would be like this: tlus maika hilp and tlus maika mamuk pipa

st’íʔwił* [7]: This is a Coast Salish word for ‘pray, prayer, religion’, which became Kamloops-area Chinook Jargon. There, I have only found it referring to European-style (Christian) praying, not to Aboriginal religion. The latter is frequently, and inaccurately, called things like tamanawas mamuk ‘Indian-doctor activities; spirit-power activities’. I’ve been asked why this word styuil is used in the Kamloops region rather than good old synonyms like pʰliyé and wáwa kʰupa sáx̣ali-táyí…Sure enough, the explanation is the same one we saw above, for the prevalence of English numeral words. Chinook Jargon was transported northward in a series of sudden moves, and one of those events was the 1850s transplantation of Catholic missionaries from the lower Columbia region to the Puget Sound area. While the older, experienced priests did pass along their own knowledge of the Jargon to successive generations of Catholic missionaries, not all of the older words survived the journey. Long story short, we wound up with Coast Salish styuil as a consequence, and this word was then brought inland when the Fathers chose to use the Jargon for preaching there.

Kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?