Consumption Cured! BC Chinook Jargon’s visual appeal in peddling quackery to Settlers
Older generations of my family called it “T.B.”
That’s tuberculosis, which once was common, untreatable, and deadly in Canada and the States.
I grew up hearing stories of Spokane neighbours quarantined in their homes with diseases like this.
But TB has now become rare, and rarely fatal, here.
However…TBFacts.org says that currently, “TB is one of the top ten leading causes of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent, ranking above HIV/AIDS.”
And more to the point, a recent report bluntly tells, “Even today rates of TB among First Nations Indian and Inuit peoples remain unreasonably higher than for the general population…”
So, on the ad we’ll be reading today, the headline…
< Consumption Cured >
…is straight-out quackery.
Not outrageous — for its time.
Mercifully enough, I guess, the following English-language list of complaints claimed to be alleviated by this miracle cure is not translated into Chinook Jargon.
In a mixed blessing, the CJ section of this advertisement skips the offer of “a recipe, in German, French or English” to its Indigenous readers (who were newly literate, but only in Chinuk Pipa — “Chinook Writing”).
What’s presented to them as an unexplained alternative is a finished over-the-counter cold medicine!
You’ll note that CJ readers are not instructed actually to mail stamps or payment to the New York address, unlike English readers. Any Indians who were interested in this medicine would likely approach Kamloops Wawa publisher and local missionary, Father J.M.R. Le Jeune, who (A) possibly had some of it on hand in his historically documented dispensary, and (B) was likely to guilt-trip them to give the money to the church.
I could go on.
Chinook Jargon recipes for medicines were in fact published in the Kamloops Wawa sometimes.
And there were locally current CJ words and expressions for various of the diseases that are mentioned in English in this ad.
In any case, other considerations prevailed:
- of page space (Kamloops Wawa was small, about the size of my hand laid flat),
- of the low likelihood of Aboriginal people having money to actually send off for medications at a time when they’re reported as having difficulty paying their subscriptions to K.W., and
- perhaps of the greater real value of Chinuk Pipa for its visual appeal to Settler sponsors and readers than for making money off Natives.
Well, that’s enough background information to launch you into today’s short reading practice.
Let’s skip over the English words now, and get into learning some Chinook Jargon…
Ukuk midsin, drit skukum midsin pus mamuk
úkuk métsin* , dlét skúkum métsin pus mamuk-
This medicine really strong medicine in.order.to CAUSE-
‘This medicine is a powerful medicine for’
stop kol sik, pi pus mamuk skukum tilikom.
stóp*  kʰúl-sík, pi pus mamuk-skúkum tílikam* .
stop cold illness, and in.order.to CAUSE-strong people.
‘stopping colds, and to make people healthy.’
Msaika tlap iht aias botl kopa iht tala pi kwata.
msáyka t’łáp  íxt (h)áyás* bótl*  kʰupa íxt tála pi kʰwáta.
You.folks get one big bottle with one dollar and quarter.
‘You folks can get a bottle for $1.25.’
Mokst tala pi stitkom kopa mokst botl: ukuk mokst botl
mákwst tála pi sítkum kʰupa mákwst bótl: úkuk mákwst bótl
Two dollar and half for two bottle: these two bottle
‘$2.50 for two bottles: those two bottles’
iaka skukum pus mamuk tlus ayu tilikom.
yaka  skúkum pus mamuk-(t)łús(h)* (h)áyú*  tílikam.
3RD.PERSON strong in.order.to CAUSE-good many people.
‘are able to cure a lot of people.’
— Kamloops Wawa #201 (June 1902), page 126
THAT’S A SURPRISING AMOUNT OF NOTES TO THIS TINY AD!
There’s a theme…the asterisks show pronunciations wer’e not sure of…
- métsin*  appears to be one of the many new (1890s-ish) loans from English into Kamloops-region…or it may show recent English influence on the existing Chinuk Wawa word (from French) lamatsín.
- stóp*  is one of the most typical British Columbia-dialect Chinook Jargon words. I always hear a British influence when I see it. UK and colonial English of the turn-of-the-century era used this word in multiple ways (including ‘to be located somewhere; to be staying somewhere’) that match how BC Jargon used it. Besides, we hardly know of this stop as a Jargon word outside of BC, whereas it occurs both on the coast and in the interior of that province.
- tílikam*  may have been pronounced with a “K” sound in BC more often than with its older, original “CH-as-in-Bach” sound. I’m still researching this question.
- msáyka t’łáp  clearly means, in this setting, “you folks will get” or “you folks can get”. There is no “word for WILL” or “word for CAN” in BC’s Chinook Jargon.
- (h)áyás* bótl*  shows us two things.
- One is a possible pronunciation difference from other Jargon dialects, where the original “H” sound at the start of háyás(h) ‘big’ may have been dropped.
- The other is again the replacement, with new English-sourced words, of an older Jargon word from southern regions.
- The most commonly used old word was lapotʰáy — ironically from Canadian/Métis French (la bouteille).
- That word, itself, ironically enough displaced older Indigenous-based metaphors like k’ílxchu (‘literally ‘flint’ in Chinookan) and lawúlich* (seemingly ~’booze container’ in Lower Chehalis Salish).
- But, buyer beware: some third-party reference sources reproduce a word from John Booth Good’s 1880 dictionary of southern interior BC Chinuk Wawa as < kottle > and say it means ‘bottle’. But in reality he writes it as < kettle > and tells us that locally it meant ‘cup, vessel’.
- yaka  here is a brilliant example of the “resumptive pronoun” or “agreement marker” that was used when the Subject of a sentence was a noun/name. Typical for all of BC’s Jargon-speaking regions, this yaka was used for both singular and plural. (In older times down south, it was typically singular only, being used for ‘she, he’.) So, here, Ukuk mokst botl iaka skukum pus… means ‘Those two bottles (they) are able to…’
- (t)łús(h)* and (h)áyú*  again show us probable differences in pronunciation between Chinook Jargon words later in BC (tłús; áyú) and earlier down south (łúsh; háyú).
What do you think?
Kata msaika tomtom?