My Dear St. Nicholas:–

vernon bc

Vernon, BC (image credit: Tourism Vernon)

So wonderful: a local girl tells about Chinuk Pipa shorthand in a national kids’ magazine.

It would be historically useful to figure out Mary G’s last name; Garcia or Guichon come to mind, but those families didn’t live around Vernon, I think…

The Indian reserve mentioned here is the Okanagan “Head of the Lake” (or in Kamloops Wawa‘s Chinook Jargon, Hid Lik). It was indeed known as a vital hotbed of Chinuk Pipa literacy.

my dear saint nicholas


MY DEAR ST. NICHOLAS: I thought some of your readers would like to hear about what we do in the West. I am only twelve years old. I have been taking you for a year. I enjoy your stories very much. Just now I am reading “A Boy of the First Empire.” I find it very interesting. I do not go to school, for I have a governess in the house to teach my brother and me. I have learned to recite Harriet F. Blodgett‘s pretty verses. My teacher knows Harriet F. Blodgett, for she was a schoolmate of hers. We live on a ranch, and we have a lot of horses and cattle; they feed on the ranges in summer, but we have to gather them up in the winter and feed them till the next spring. Some of them are sold then, and the rest are turned out on the ranges till the next fall. I live seven miles out of the city of Vernon, in Okanagan, British Columbia. It is a very fine country for wheat and fruit of all kinds, and wild fruit is very plentiful. The mountains inclose our valley on all sides. They look very beautiful in the summer, when they are all green and covered with bright flowers of all kinds.

We have a very cold winter here, but it does not last long. There is an Indian reserve not very far from us. The Indians speak a language called Chinook. They are taught shorthand by the missionary priests, and they learn it very quickly, we are told. One day we went to mass at the Reserve, and they all read their prayers and sang hymns out of their shorthand books. They also have calendars for the year, and the calendars also are in the same writing.

Now, dear St. Nicholas, I will say good-by.

Your friend, Mary G—-.

— from St. Nicholas volume 22(2):614 (May, 1895)

What have you learned?