1906: BC Dene talk Chinook


“Camp on the south shore of Te-ootsa Bunkut” (image credit: BC Archives)

V.M. Scribner of Spokane, Washington wrote an informative letter to a sportsmen’s magazine editor, published as “A Good Game District”.

Scribner, who also comments on the lack of moose in coastal areas, tells how interior BC Dene (Athabaskan) people of the time speak good Chinuk Wawa, as well as some English — confirming our consistent impression that Jargon stayed in use longer in that region than elsewhere.

That’s one of the overlooked niches that CW occupied, especially in BC; it was a major way for Native hunting guides to communicate with visiting, prosperous sport hunters from the later 1800s well into the 1900s. We’ve seen many examples on my website.

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There are no moose between the Fraser and the coast range, until one gets North of the Ootsa Lake district. Moose are found at Babine and Tacla lakes, also at the head waters of Peace river. The only deer I found East of the range, were the mule deer. In some localities, particularly around Ootsa-bunkat and on Entahtah lakes, they were plentiful.

The Indians were all friendly and honest, and conversed readily in the Chinook jargon; some of them speak a little English. They all have ponies and in the summer travel from place to place, stopping usually on the shore of some lake or beside a river to catch and dry fish, which is their principal food.

— from Shields’ Magazine II:6 (June 1906), pages 401-402

What do you think?