Poetic BC family history and Chinook

wolves at evelyn

(Image credit: All Lit Up)

The view I have of this book unfortunately doesn’t tell me the page numbers, so let’s call these “Snippet 1” and “Snippet 2”.

Okanagan-born Canadian poet Harold Rhenisch (1958-) published “The Wolves at Evelyn: Journeys through a Dark Century” in 2008 ([Edmonton, AB]: Brindle & Glass).

Among Rhenisch’s teachers was Chinook Jargon’s poet laureate Charles Lillard (1944-1997), of “A Voice Great within Us” fame. That book, which you ought to own, is referenced here.

Rhenisch tells some mid-century recent German immigrant family history that’s intertwined with BC Chinook Jargon…

Snippet 1, meditating on the inadequacy of any English words for the endless forest environment of BC, settles on Chinuk Wawa:

Rhenisch 01

Rhenisch 02

Rhenisch 03

…Stick. This is from Chinook Jargon — or Wawa — British Columbia’s own language. Stick: a tree. As in, “I’m going out to the sticks.” Whim stick: a fallen tree. As in, “I’m going out to the clearcut.” You can hear the sound of the stick falling: whim. Still, this one has legs, as in: “He really lives out in the sticks.” That’s usable. Thing is, it’s come to mean: “What a hick.” If you used this to describe a forest, no one would be quite sure what you meant…

Snippet 2, discussing the family’s move to the Bulkley Valley in northwest BC, brings in Lillard’s name “West Talk” for the province’s blending of Native and European elements:

Rhenisch 04

…The trip was like driving across Siberia. Frank ended up speaking West Talk. He ended up speaking Chinook. By the time the North was finished with him, he no longer lived within the state at all. He would have been at home sitting down with Louis Riel over tea.

Pretty evocative stuff,eh?

What have you learned?