ca. 1880: Grand Ronde discovery: Schoolkids’ letter in Chinuk Wawa (Henry Zenk guest post)

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St. Kateri Tekakwitha (image credit: Fine Art America)

Today’s post was kindly contributed by Henry Zenk (Grand Ronde Tribes language program)……and we have to thank David G. Lewis of Ethnohistory Research LLC for discovering this letter and sharing it. Hayu masi to both of you!

(Dave Robertson’s note: I will add a couple of remarks after Henry’s essay, which starts here: )

An excerpt from the book
Beatificationis Seu Declarationis Martyrii Servorum Dei,
published in 1916 (Rome: Guerra et Mirri) and preserved at the Library of Université Montréal, Canada

Pages 125-127 of this source consist of a “supplication” to the pope in support of the beatifications of Kateri Tekakwitha and two martyred French priests. It opens with three paragraphs composed entirely in Chinuk Wawa. Following this are:

  • the names of 15 men of Grand Ronde Reservation, Oregon;
  • some lines of Latin followed by the name of Grand Ronde’s Catholic Missionary priest from 1860 to 1898, Fr Adrien-Joseph Croquet;
  • a short one-paragraph English declaration purporting to be from “pupils of the Indian school of Grand Ronde Reservation, Oregon”;
  • and the names of 24 Grand Ronde school students and one teacher.

Most of the names are recognizable to me (Henry Zenk), though there are many typos. The presence of the following names on the two lists leads me to my conjectured date of c1880 for this source (the mark * here and in the text below flags what I take to be typos):

  • (men of Grand Ronde: )
    • Alexander Day,
    • Peter Ménard,
    • Peter Cosnoyer* (Conoyer, more usually: Kenoyer),
    • William Heartless (more usually: Hartless),
    • Thomas Norwest,
    • John Warren,
    • James Winoslow* (Winslow),
    • John Baptiste Ménard,
    • Peter Vandsin* (Voutrin),
    • Francis Norwest,
    • Louis Nepissing,
    • Peter Joseph Selkea;
  • (Grand Ronde school children: )
    • Louis Hernoyer* (Kenoyer),
    • Félicite Menor* (Menard),
    • Maggie Henoyer* (Kenoyer),
    • Susette Norwest,
    • Louis Fuller,
    • Joseph Michal (more usually: Michelle or Michel).

The following transcript of the Chinuk Wawa text displays the original Chinuk Wawa (line 1) with a CTGR chinuk-wawa alphabet transliteration (line 2) and a free translation (line 3). The Chinuk Wawa is for the most part quite straightforward (and quite congruent with the Grand Ronde variety of the language as we know it from elder speakers), albeit the translation raises some points of interpretation that may justify further discussion.

— Henry Zenk, 1/5/2020.

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19. — E Missione S. Michaelis, Grand Ronde,
‘From the Mission of St. Michael, Grand Ronde,’

dioec. Oregonensis.
‘diocese of Oregon.’

(Lingua vulgo Chinouk)
‘(The language generally [called] Chinook)’

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Nsaïka sauvage pi sitkom sauvage Kopa Grand Rond, Oregon.
nsayka sawash pi sitkum-sawash kʰupa Grand Ronde, Oregon
‘We Indians and mixed-bloods of Grand Ronde, Oregon,’

     Kopa nsaïka Papa, lepape
     kʰupa nsayka papa, < lepape >
     ‘to our father, the pope:’

         Nsaïka Papa, lepape.
          nsayka papa, < lepape >.
          ‘Our Father, The Pope:’

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[Paragraph 1]

Kahsi nsaïka tlahawiam pi nsaïka sauvage,
qʰex̣chi nsayka ɬax̣ayam pi nsayka sawash,
‘Although we are wretched and we are Indians,’

Sahale-Taï iaka mamouk tlahawiam nsaïka,
sax̣ali-tayi yaka mamuk-ɬax̣ayam nsayka,
‘God took pity on us,’

iaka patlach la Religion Catholique Kopa nsaïka.
yaka palach < la Religion Catholique > kʰupa nsayka.
‘He gave the Holy Catholic Religion to us.’

Pi weht iaka mamouk nanich nsaïka okouk tlosh tluchmen Catherine Tegakwita.
pi wəx̣t yaka mamuk-nanich nsayka ukuk ɬush ɬuchmən < Catherine Tagakwita >.
‘And in addition He has shown us that blessed woman, Kateri Tekakwitha.’

Okouk tluchmen sauvage kakwa nsaïka, heloman iaka,
ukuk ɬuchmən sawash kakwa nsayka, hilu-man yaka,
‘This woman was Indian like us, she was a virgin,’

pi Kopa Jesus-Christ iaka patlach iaka tomtom;
pi kʰupa < Jesus Christ > yaka palach yaka təmtəm;
‘and to Jesus Christ she gave her heart.’

pi weht Jesus Christ iaka tlosh tomtom Kopa iaka.
pi wəx̣t < Jesus Christ > yaka ɬush-təmtəm kʰupa yaka.
‘And also, Jesus Christ had goodness of heart towards her.’

Pi kakwa iaka chako aïas tlosh, pi iaka aïas tikeh Kopa Sahale Taï,
pi kakwa yaka chaku-hayash-ɬush pi yaka hayash tqʼix̣ kʰupa sax̣ali-tayi,
‘And accordingly, she became most blessed and she was most beloved of God.’1

pi alakts* iaka memeloust tlosh pi saint; pi alta iaka mitlaït Kopa sahale,
pi ?alaxti yaka miməlust ɬush pi saint; pi alta yaka miɬayt kʰupa sax̣ali,
‘and finally she died well and (as?) a saint; and so she dwells in heaven,’

pi iaka nana* Kopa Sahale Taï pous Kanawé nsaïka:
pi yaka ?wawa kʰupa sax̣ali-tayi pus kʰanawi nsayka:
‘and she speaks to God for all of us.’

nowilka* kakwa nsaïka tomtom.
nawitka kakwa nsayka təmtəm.
‘This is as we firmly believe.’

Nowitka nsaïka Komtoks Sahale Taï patlach okouk tlosh tluchmen Kopa nsaïka,
nawitka nsayka kəmtəks sax̣ali-tayi palach ukuk ɬush ɬuchmən kʰupa nsayka,
‘We firmly believe God gave this good woman to us,’

kakna* aias tlosh ikta pous nsaïka; iaka mamouk nsaïka ats iaka.
kakwa hayash ɬush ikta pus nsayka; yaka mamuk nsayka ats yaka.
‘as a great blessing for us; He made her our sister.’

Pi alta, nsaïka Papa, kakna* pous Jesus-Christ nsaïka:
pi alta, nsayka papa, kakwa pus < Jesus Christ > nsayka:
‘And now, our Father, we are akin (?) to Jesus Christ:’

nsaïka tikeh kakwa maïka patlach tlosh tomtom Kopa nsaïka,
nsayka tqʼix̣ kakwa mayka palach ɬush-təmtəm kʰupa nsayka,
‘We desire that you give blessing to us.’

tlosh maïka wawa kakwa, ≪ Msaïka sauvage, naïka tanas,
ɬush mayka wawa kakwa, “msayka sawash, nayka tənas,
‘May you speak thus, “You Indians, my children,’

tlosh msaïka eskam Catherine Tegakwila kakwa Saint,
“ɬush msayka iskam < Catherine Tegakwila > kakwa < Saint >,
‘you should obtain Kateri Tekakwitha as a saint,’

pi msaïka pray Kopa iaka Kopa Church,
“pi msayka < pray > kʰupa yaka kʰupa < church >,
‘and pray to her in church,’

Kewa iaka aïas tlosh pi ïaka mitlaït Kopa Sahale. ≫
“qʰiwa yaka hayash ɬush pi yaka miɬayt kʰupa sax̣ali.”
‘because she is most blessed and she dwells in heaven.” ‘

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[Paragraph 2]

Pi weht mokst Pasaiouks kakwa pous sauvage tlaska,
pi wəx̣t makwst pasayuks kakwa pus sawash ɬaska,
‘And in addition, two French persons, like unto Indians they were,’

kewa tlaska mitlaït Kopa sauvage
qʰiwa ɬaska miɬayt kʰupa sawash
‘because they lived among Indians’

pous mamouk komtoks Jesus-Christ pi tlosh oïhot Kopa Sahale,
pus mamuk-kəmtəks < Jesus Christ > pi ɬush uyxat kʰupa sax̣ali,
‘to teach (about) Jesus Christ and the good path to heaven,’

pi Kopa akok* chako sik tomtom masachi telekom,
pi kʰupa-ukuk chaku-sik-təmtəm masachi-tilixam,
‘and on account of this evil people became resentful,’

pi tlaska mamouk memeloust tlaska.
pi ɬaska mamuk-miməlust ɬaska.
‘and they killed them.’

Tlaska nèm leplèt Isaac Jogues pi René Goupil.
ɬaska nim lipʰlit < Isaac Jogues > pi < René Goupil >.
‘Their names are Fathers Isaac Jogues and Rene Goupil.’

Kanamokst okouk weht nsaïka tikeh pous nsaïka iskam tlaska kakwa ‘saint,
kʰanumakwst ukuk wəx̣t nsayka tqʼix̤ pus nsayka iskam ɬaska kakwa < saint >,
‘Together with that (our previous request?), we also want to obtain them as saints,’

pi pous tlaska elahau* nsaïka Kopa Sahale.
pi pus ɬaska ?yeʔlan nsayka kʰupa sax̣ali.
‘and for them to help us from heaven.’

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[Paragraph 3]

Pous maïka patlach okouk tloun pous tlaska elahau* nsaïka Kopa Sahale,
pus mayka palach ukuk ɬun pus ɬaska ?yeʔlan nsayka kʰupa sax̣ali,
Should you give these three for them to help us from heaven,

pi tlaska wawa Kopa Sahale Taï pous nsaïka,
pi ɬaska wawa kʰupa sax̣ali-tayi pus nsayka,
‘and (for) them to speak to God for us,’

nsaïka tomtom chako ioutl pi tlosh kwaiussom* nsaïka;
nsayka təmtəm chaku-yutɬiɬ pi ɬush kwanisim nsayka;
‘our hearts will become glad and we will be blessed forever;’

pi alke nsaïka tanas chako aïas tlosh,
pi aɬqi nsayka tənas chaku-hayash-ɬush,
‘and our children will become most blessed,’

pi weht aïo sauvage Kawèk tlaska eskam le baptême,
pi wəx̣t hayu sawash kʰa-wik ɬaska iskam < le baptême >,
‘and also, many Indians not having yet gotten baptism,’

alké tlaska chako Catholic
aɬqi ɬaska chaku-< Catholic >.
‘they will become Catholic.’

pi tlaska nanich Sahale Taï Kopa Sahale pous Kwanissom.
pi ɬaska nanich sax̣ali-tayi kʰupa sax̣ali pus kwanisim.
‘and they will look towards God in heaven for always.’

1 yaka hayash tqʼix̣ kʰupa sax̣ali-tayi [she | greatly | tqʼix̣ | preposition | God]. A question of interpretation arises as to whether to read tqʼix̣ as an active verb (‘want/desire/love’) or as a non-verbal predicate (‘beloved’). My free translation reflects the latter interpretation. On the other interpretation, the translation would be: she has great love towards God.

(Dave Robertson again: Here are the Latin remarks and lists of signers.)

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Sequentes viri indigenae, inter praecipuos et digniores suae gentis in hoc loco, subscripserunt nomine omnium fidelium hujus Missionis S. Michaelis apud Ind[i]os. Grand Ronde[e], Oregon…
(‘The following Native men, among the preeminent and most worthy of their people in this place, have signed in the name of all the faithful of this St. Michael Mission among the Indans, Grand Ronde, Oregon …’)

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Beatissime Pater, Ad pedes Sanctitatis Vestrae provolutus subscribor humillimus ac devotissimus filius vester. Adrianus Jos. Croquet, Missionarius. Grand Rond, Oregon.
(‘Oh Most Holy Father, prostrated at the feet of Your Holiness, your most devoted son signs himself[:] Adrian Jos. Croquet, missionary, Grand Ronde, Oregon.’)

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Ex parte puerorum et puellarum scholae Sororum O.S.B. Gran Ronde, archidioec. Oregonensis,

(‘On behalf of the boys and girls of the Benedictine Sisters’ school, Grand Ronde, Oregon archdiocese…’)

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(And a further comment by Dave Robertson — )

The preceding Jargon letter appears to be the earliest creole Chinuk Wawa text from Grand Ronde Reservation. That in itself makes it a remarkable find.

Further analysis of it, which I won’t be able to resist doing, should demonstrate its specifically lower Columbia and creole nature, and give clues about it authorship.

About the dating of it, Henry Zenk has also sent me an article by Kellie Jean Hogue, “A Saint of Their Own: Native Petitions Supporting the Canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, 1884-1885” (U.S. Catholic Historian 32(3):25-44 (Summer 2014). So the conjecture that the letter was written in the first half of the 1880s appears to be spot on!

What do you think?