Nicola Auxime, Indian cowboy and “watchman”

felix auxime

Pinto Jack, Alex Camille, and Nicola’s brother Felix Auxime at Kamloops reserve (image credit: BC Archives)

Somebody who I’ve seen mentioned often in the oldtime Kamloops Wawa newspaper, and wished I could’ve met, is Nicola Auxime.

You can tell from the way he’s talked about — and the way he talked — that this was a remarkable man. He certainly did a great deal to popularize the Chinuk Pipa literacy in the 1890s.

Plus, he’s one of the few people whose Chinuk Wawa we see directly quoted in Kamloops Wawa…that’s really precious stuff!

Nicola must’ve been the son of the incredibly unfortunate former HBC cattleman Auxime of Kamloops, who died in mid-1892 when his horse fell on a rock and broke the rider’s back while simultaneously causing his gun to fire through his shoulder. (Kamloops Wawa #35)

Nicola married Nancy Eunice (?), who seems to have been a northern Secwepemc, around half a year later. (Kamloops Wawa #62)

About a year after that, he’s noted as a “wach man of the men” (an Indian teacher) at Chinuk Pipa shorthand lessons held at Kamloops Reserve. “Watchman” was a rank in the Catholic missionaries’ local governance structure of Indigenous villages assigned to their control. The sentence that this study group started with was Ankati ST mamuk… (‘Long ago God created…’) from the start of the book of Genesis.  (Kamloops Wawa #112)

Nicola took first communion soon after. (Kamloops Wawa #113).

One website says he was brother to Felix Auxime, whose name is on a subscriber mailing label stuck on an issue of Kamloops Wawa at USask. (Kamloops Wawa #115)

Nicola quickly learned how to count in Chinese while he was with a group of Native youth at a Kamloops store. Father Le Jeune seems to have written these words down in Chinuk Pipa, and Nicola read them until he had them memorized. (Kamloops Wawa #131)

One of the first kids at Kamloops Industrial School (residential school), Minnie Auxime, may have been his sister. (Kamloops Wawa #133)

By 1896, Nicola, now living at North Thompson reserve (Chu Chua), corresponded with a lot of people — sometimes writing letters for people he knew — and it was all in Chinuk Pipa. This includes writing in English, which he only knew how to write in shorthand. (Kamloops Wawa #139)

Later that year, Father Le Jeune quoted from one of Nicola’s shorthand English-language letters to a William Buckley in Denver, Colorado:

North Thompson, away up in the Mountains of British Columbia,
June 1st, 1896.

To Mr. William Buckley,
Denver, Colorado.

My Dear Sir,–Will you allow me to write you a few words in shorthand. I am only an Indian cow-boy in the mountains of British Columbia, and I use only cow-boy English, because I know no other. But I will be happy and proud of receiving from you cards written in Shorthand. If you do not find it too bold, I will call myself your friend,

NICOLA AUXIME

His sentiments stand in close relation with my perpetual reminders that Chinuk Wawa speakers borrowed words of spoken English as heard in real life, since they were not literate in the English alphabet. (Kamloops Wawa #143)

Nicola Auxime spent a fair bit of time hanging around with Father Le Jeune, maybe providing the priest with transportation from village to village, as some Native leaders did at the time. In 1897, he was present when the “Marseillaise of Whiskey” song was composed in Jargon by Le Jeune, and immediately learned and popularized it, first at Spahomin (Douglas Lake), then at Clearwater and Kamloops. (Kamloops Wawa #150)

On the trip back from Coldwater, via Shulus, to Kamloops, Nicola joked in response to a white woman’s expression of horror at the condition of the roads:

Ukuk kluchmin iaka wawa pus klaksta patlach iaka < 100 > tala pus klatwa Kamlups, wik iaka klatwa. Tlus iaka patlach naika < 100 > tala pi naika aiak klatwa kopa Kamlups.

(“This lady says she wouldn’t travel to Kamloops if someone gave her $100. She ought to give me the $100 and I’d head straight for Kamloops!”) (Kamloops Wawa #150)

Nicola won a “diploma” in late 1897 as a prize in a shorthand-writing competition that involved his writing being sent to France. (Kamloops Wawa #159)

He must have been getting remarried in 1902, when his wedding to Amelia/Amélie Celestin of North Thompson, a chief’s daughter, was reported in the Chinook paper. (Kamloops Wawa #201 & #202)

“Nicolas” Auxime’s fatal illness and last rites at North Thompson are reported in 1915. (Kamloops Wawa #254)

One of his nieces, it seems, died not much later: Charlotte Felix Oxim, in 1917. (Kamloops Wawa #551) His widow Amelie, meanwhile, married Antoine Celestin (Wawantem) in 1918. (Kamloops Wawa #”2″)

Because of Kamloops Wawa we have quite a few details of this interesting man’s life, and its intersection with Chinook Jargon.

I wish I had a photo of Nicola Auxime to show you; it would be nice to put a face to his name. Instead, I’ve only managed to find a photo of his brother (above).

kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?

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