Johnny Skuzzy, Catholic outcast in Lytton, BC

Quite a bit of interesting Chinuk Wawa stuff came out of the Catholic/Protestant turf border town of Lytton, BC…

…that is, both denominations claimed Lytton as “their” missionary territory.

Both erected churches for Indigenous people there.

Both sent fluent Chinook Jargon-speaking preachers there, JMR Le Jeune and John Booth Good.

(Both men published precious documentation of the Jargon as locally spoken.)

So Lytton wasn’t as solid a Catholic stronghold as many of the nearby Aboriginal villages were.

Consequently, here a Nłeʔképmx (Thompson Salish) man writes telling how lonesome it is to be a learner of Chinuk Pipa writing — a Catholic invention — there.

His surname is Skuzzy or Scuzzy, after a well-known Salish place-name, sq’ázix (‘jumped over’), from that neck of the woods.

A creek and even a steamboat have been named that.

My comments after the letter have once again benefited from the questions sent me by the “Saturday Group”. (You can still join them!)

Stay tuned for a post here about how to join them live, online, in their studies & get first crack at these Jargon exercises!

johnny skuzzy letter

     < Letter from Lytton.> Ipril < 15, 1893 >
                                              Eypril fíftin*, éytin-náynti-trí*

                                              April 15, 1893
‘April 15, 1893’

     Naika papa Pir Lshyun. 
   náyka pápá Pér Lədjə́n. 

     my father Pere Le.Jeune.
‘My father Pere Le Jeune.’ 

                    Naika tiki wawa kopa maika. Naika 
                    náyka tíki wáwa kʰupa máyka. [1] náyka 

                    I want talk to you. My
‘I want to talk to you. My’ 

kluchmin iaka sik pi ilo naika mamuk alta, pi naika kwanisim 
łúchmən yaka sík pi (h)ílu náyka mámuk álta [2], pi náyka kwánsəm 
woman she sick and not I work now, and/but I always
‘wife is ill and I’m not working now, so I’m still’

mitlait kopa Liton. Ilo aiak naika komtaks mamuk tsim pipa. 
míłayt [3] kʰupa Lítən. (h)ílu (h)áyáq [4] náyka kə́mtəks mamuk-t’sə́m pipa. [5]
be at Lytton. Not fast I know make-written writing.
‘staying at Lytton. I know how to write, slowly.’

Ilo klaksta man mamuk komtaks kopa naika. Kakwa ilo aiak naika 
(h)ílu-łáksta-mán [6] mamuk-kə́mtəks (Ø) kʰupa náyka. kákwa (h)ílu (h)áyáq náyka 
Not-any-man make-know (it) to me. So not fast I
‘Nobody is teaching (it to) me. So it’s (only) slowly that I’m’

chako komtaks ukuk Chinuk pipa. Klahawiam kanawi tilikom
chako-kə́mtəks úkuk Chinúk-pípa. łax̣áwyam [7] kʰánawi tílikəm 
come-know this Chinook-writing. Goodbye all people
‘learning this Chinook writing. Goodbye everyone’

kopa Kamlups. Klahawiam Pir Lshyun.
kʰupa Kémlups*. łax̣áwyam Pér Lədjə́n. 
at Kamloops. Goodbye Pere Le Jeune.
‘at Kamloops. Goodbye Pere Le Jeune.’

Naika Shoni Skasi 
náyka Djóni Skə́zi* 
I Johnny Skuzzy
‘I’m Johnny Skuzzy’

< Johnny Skuzzy.>
< Lytton, B.C. > 

— from Kamloops Wawa #80 (May 28, 1893), page 86


náyka tíki wáwa kʰupa máyka [1] ‘I want to talk to you’ is the typical way to start a Chinuk Pipa letter.

(h)ílu náyka mámuk álta [2] could be taken really generall, as ‘I’m not doing anything now’. But as is always important with the Jargon, we have to take context clues into account. My understanding is that Johnny is saying it’s due to his wife’s condition that he’s not able to travel and do wage labour, as many Indigenous men of 1890s BC did. So I translate this as ‘I’m not working now’. 

kwánsəm míłayt [3]literally ‘always be.located’, is the typical expression for ‘stay; still be (t)here’. 

(h)ílu (h)áyáq [4], literally ‘not fast’, is another common fixed expression. It’s used to express ‘slow(ly)’. 

mamuk-t’sə́m pipa [5], literally ‘make-written writing’ or ‘make-written paper’ is a typical fluent BC Jargon way to say ‘write’ — much more common around Kamloops than the simple mamuk-t’sə́m suggested by so many popular dictionaries. 

łax̣áwyam [7], when found at the end of a letter, almost always means ‘goodbye’. This word is hardly ever used as an adverb ‘pitifully’, and if it were modifying some noun, that noun would be right up next to it. So it’s unmistakable that here Johnny is giving a parting salutation. 

What have you learned?