“Builders by the Sea” by Bonnycastle Dale

builders by the sea title.PNG

from British Columbia Magazine of August 1911 (Vol. VII no. 8)

The author, Ontario-born BC naturalist Henry William Johnstone Bonnycastle Dale (Waddingham) (1868-1936), has a double surname and a double publishing credit here…

And his cheechako Chinuk Wawa (he lived in Sooke, but not for long, around 1910) is creditable, other than his flub of < tum-tum > in the following.

builders by the sea 01.PNG

builders by the sea 02.PNG

pages 873-874

To understand these coast tribes aright you must divide each tribe according to language, and then subdivide according to dialect. The unskilled lump everything with a red skin under the vulgar title of “siwash,” which in the Chinook means simply “Indian.” Chinook is the ordinary inter-tribal means of communication, but each subdivision has its own peculiar, clicking, deeply guttural language, and when the prospector or other traveller comes across an Indian who does not talk the Chinook, strange difficulties sometimes arise.

For instance, a prospector of my acquaintance making the inside route [the Inside Passagein his Fraser River [flat-bottomed boat came across a lonely Indian house in a little cove of an island. Anchoring and going ashore in his punt, he shook the rude door, and was answered only by a faint crying, like that of a puppy. Opening the door and entering the dimly-lighted low-raftered room, he saw a boy lying beside the strangely contorted figure of an old man, and moaning softly. 

Chah-co-yah-wah?” he asked in Chinook.
[cháku yáwá? ‘(Can I) come there?’]

Cole! cole!” (cold) the lad, shy as a sick animal, moaned.
[kʰúl! kʰúl!]

“Cold?” said the prospector. “Itamika [sic] cly — sick tum-tum?” (Why do you cry? Sick stomach?)
[íkta máyka kʰláy — sík-tə́mtəm? ‘what are you crying (for) — hurting heart (the usual Jargon expression for ‘sad’)?’]

Cole! cole!” the boy repeated. “Hyas kwass.” (Very much frightened.)
[hayas-k’wás ‘very afraid’]

Yah-ka chope?” asked the prospector, questioning if the dead man were his grandfather.
[yáka chúp? ‘Is he Grandpa?’]

Na-wit-ka!” (Yes). “Cole! Hyas kwass!” cried the boy, and with that he broke into a torrent of frightened screams.
[nawítka!]

Moments later…

builders by the sea 03

builders by the sea 04

page 874

The prospector picked up the metal for which as many as five hundred
pairs of blankets would be a fair exchange among the Indians, and said to the boy:
Chaco!” (Come.)

But the boy would have none of him.

“Gok-watse-taglis!” he cried. “Gok-watse-taglis!”

Now, this was no Chinook, but one of these incomprehensible Indian tongues, the prospector was at a loss.

It was not till months afterward that the prospector, having given the boy over to a male relative, and almost having forgotten the incident, learned what “Gok-watse-taglis” meant. It was a plea for the last tribal rites over the body of his dead grandfather. “Burn the house; burn the canoe; burn everything!” it meant, and who knows how much of a tragedy it may have been to the boy!

There’s also a “canoe-making chief” in this short piece who’s said (but not quoted) to speak a blend of Chinuk Wawa, Kwak’wala, and English.

What have you learned?