Alkali Lake letters


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From far northern Secwepemc territory, the winter’s sad tidings…

In another early Chinuk Pipa letter, we’re reminded of mortality.

The only footnotes I’m putting in are in response to questions from a weekly study group who had an advance look at today’s reading.

(Contact me if you’re interested in that group. I can pass your name along to them.)

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     Kanawi ukuk pipa iaka kopit [1] pi chako
     kʰánawi úkuk pípa yaka kʰopit* pi cháku
     all this paper it finished and come
‘This entire issue was finished when there came’ 

pipa kopa Alkalai Lik, iaka nim wiht Ashkat. [2]
pípa kʰupa álkalay*-léyk*, yaka ním wə́x̣t eshkét.
letter from Alkali Lake, its name also Esk’ét.
‘a letter from Alkali Lake, which is also called Esk’ét.’ 

Iaka wawa ukuk pipa: [“]Mokst tanas man klaska
yáka wáwa úkuk pípa: “mákwst tənəs-mán łaska
it say this letter: “two little-man they
‘The letter says: “Two boys ‘

mimlus pi iht ol kluchmin iaka mimlus, pi
míməlus pi íxt úl łúchmən yaka míməlus, pi
die and one old woman she die, and 

‘have died and one old lady has died, and’ 

iht ol man iaka mimlus. Lakit klaska
íxt úl mán yaka míməlus. lákit łaska
one old man he die. four they 

‘one old man has died. Four’

mimlus ukuk sno kopa Alkalai Lik. Kanawi klaksta
míməlus úkuk snó kʰupa álkalay-léyk. kʰánawi łaska
die this winter at Alkali Lake. all they 

‘died this winter at Alkali Lake. Everyone who’

nanich ukuk pipa kopa kanawi kah ilihi klaska
nánich úkuk pípa kʰupa kʰánawi-qʰá ílihi łaska
see this paper in every-where place they 

‘reads this newspaper in places all over’

mamuk hilp kopa styuil kopa ukuk mimlus tilikom.[“]
mamuk-hélp kʰupa st’íʔwił kʰupa úkuk míməlus tílikəm.”
make-help with prayer to these dead people.”

‘can help with prayers for these dead people.” ‘

[3] wach man kopa Alkali Lik, Pit Nhinaskrit iaka nim[,]
likalisti* wách-mán kʰupa álkalay-léyk, pít nxənásq’ət* yaka ním,
eucharist watch-man at Alkali Lake, Pete Nhinaskrit his name, 

‘The watchman of the Eucharist (communion) at Alkali Lake, who is named Pete Nhinaskrit,’

iaka ukuk iaka mamuk tsim kopa nsaika: pi iaka drit
yáka úkuk yaka mámuk-t’sə́m kʰupa nsáyka: pi yaka dlét*
he this he make-write to us: and it really 

‘is the one who wrote to us: and it’s really’ 

alkali lake 02

tlus iaka tsim. Wiht iaka wawa kanawi tilikom
(t)łús(h)* yaka t’sə́m. wə́x̣t yáka wáwa kʰánawi tílikəm
good his writing. also he say all people 

‘good, his [Chinook] writing. He also says that everyone’ 

kopa Alkalai Lik klaska skukum tomtom kopa Chinuk
kʰupa álkalay-léyk łaska skúkum-tə́mtəm kʰupa chinúk
at Alkali Lake they strong-heart for Chinook 

‘at Alkali Lake is devoted to the Chinook’ 

Pipa. Iht man wiht kopa Alkalai Lik, Shoni Dinis
pípa. íxt mán wə́x̣t kʰupa álkalay-léyk, djáni* dénis
writing. one man also from Alkali Lake, Johnny Dennis 

‘writing. One other man at Alkali Lake, Johnny Dennis’

iaka nim[,] klunas kopa wait man < Johnny Harris > [,] [4]
yaka ním, t’łúnas kʰupa wáyt-mán djáni háris*,
his name, maybe to white man Johnny Harris, 

‘by name, (or) to the white people something like Johnny Harris,’ 

iaka mash pipa kopa Kamlups [5]; iaka tiki komtaks kanawi
yaka másh pípa kʰupa kémlups*; yaka tíki kə́mtəks kʰánawi
he send letter to Kamloops; he want know all 

‘sent a letter to Kamloops; he wants to be acquainted with all’

skukum tilikom kopa Chinuk pipa kopa kanawi kah ilihi
skúkum tílikəm kʰupa chinúk pípa kʰupa kʰánawi-qʰá ílihi
strong people for Chinook writing in every-where place 

‘the people who are devoted to Chinook writing in places all over’

pus mamuk pipa kopa klaska pi klaska mamuk pipa kopa
pus mamuk-pípa kʰupa łáska pi łáska mamuk-pípa kʰupa make-writing to them and they make-writing to 

‘to write to them and they can write to’

iaka. < Johnny Harris[,]
him. Johnny Harris, 

‘him. [The way to write his name on a postal envelope is] Johnny Harris,’

Alcali Lake, B.C. >
Alkali Lake, BC.
‘Alkali Lake, BC.’

from Kamloops Wawa #115 (April 1894), pages [19-20]


[1] iaka kopit here means ‘it is/was done/finished’, rather than any other meaning of the multifarious word kopit. My best clue that this is so is one that the study group didn’t have access to (I’m sorry!) : Today’s text occupies the last page or so of an issue of Kamloops Wawa. That is, the Alkali Lake stuff was crammed in at the last moment.

[2] Ashkat is the native Secwepemc Salish name of Alkali Lake, Esk’ét. That’s one of the farthest northern communities in the Secwepemc Nation.

[3] ⊕ is one of the interesting little symbols that’s used a lot in Chinook Pipa writing. It’s pretty much a pictograph of the “communion wafer” as I remember it from Catholic Mass. It’s understood (and actually explained once or twice by Father Le Jeune) that it corresponds to the oldish Chinook Jargon word likalisti, from French l’eucharistie

[4] Johnny Harris and Johnny Dennis are the same guy. Here we’re being told that White people call him one name but many folks know him by the other one. Such a situation wasn’t rare with the non-Aboriginal names of frontier-era BC Indigenous people. One sort of explanation that might in fact apply here is that Johnny might be the son of Dennis Harris, if you see what I mean.

[5] In the setting of today’s reading selection about Chinook Writing letters, mash primarily means ‘send’. (You know it also has senses like ‘throw; get rid of; reject; leave; quit’.) So, here we have the mention of yet another Esk’etemc (Alkali Lake person) who has sent mail to Father Le Jeune (the royal “we/us” that’s narrating).

What have you learned?
What other questions do you have?