Modeste’s mouse ad


(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Modeste has been out hunting big game, and now he needs help catching small prey!

This is another of the Indigenous-written want ads from Secwepemc Salish people in Williams Lake’s Sugarcane Tintin newspaper, published as an insert to the Kamloops Wawa:

ayu maws

     Naika nim Modist. Naika chi kilapai kopa stik, pi naika aias
     nayka ním Modést* [1]. náyka ch(x)í [2] k’ílapay kʰupa stík [3], pi náyka (h)ayas-
     my name Modeste. I return from woods, and I very-
‘My name is Modeste. I’ve just come back from the bush, and I’m very’

klahawiam, ayu maws mitlait kopa naika haws, pi klaska kakshit
łax̣áwyam, (h)áyú máws míłayt kʰupa nayka háws, pi łáska kákshət
pitiful, many mouse be.present in my house, and they destroy
‘pitiful, a bunch of mice are living in my house, and they’ve ruined’

kanawi naika iktas. Pus klaksta mitlait skukum pus, tlus iaka
kʰánawi nayka íkta-s. pus łáksta míłayt skúkum pús [4], łús(h) yáka
all my belonging-s. if someone have excellent cat, good they
‘all my stuff. If anyone has a fine cat, they should’

patlach kopa naika pi naika wawa mirsi kopa iaka.
pátlach Ø [5] kʰupa náyka pi náyka wáwa mérsi* [6] kʰupa yáka.
give it to me and I say thanks to them.
‘give me it and I’ll thank them.’

— from Kamloops Wawa #126 (March 1895), page 37


[1] Modeste may very well have been given this baptismal name in honor of Father Modeste Demers, one of the first serious documentors of early-creolized lower Columbia River Chinuk Wawa, who helped trained successive generations of missionary priests to speak the language.

[2] Modeste’s pronunciation may have been chi or the original (as we see at Grand Ronde) chxi. Recent findings have shown that the older pronunciation made its way north into some people’s BC usage, with variations including ski, believe it or not.

[3] In Kamloops regional usage, going to the stik meant ‘to the bush (to hunt for a while)’.

[4] If you’re used to Grand Ronde’s pronunciation p’us for ‘cat’, you might find Kamloops pus kind of confusing, since it’s a homonym of the word for ‘if, when’ — but as a noun, this ‘cat’ word is stressed, while ‘if, when’ isn’t.

[5] The circle with a slash through it symbolizes the lovely “null” (silent) way of saying the object ‘it’ in the most fluent Chinuk Wawa.

[6] Kamloops-area folks always wrote mirsi for ‘thanks’, so it’s not totally clear whether they said masi like people in all other regions…

Ikta maika chako komtaks ukuk son?
What have you learned today?

And what questions do you have?