Does 1896 Chinook Manual rely on 1838 Fort Vancouver material?

Further proof of the strong connection between early-creolized, lower Columbia River Chinuk Wawa and BC…


1977 “Chinook Manual” 🙂 (image credit: Toyota Chinook blog)

I consider it an established fact that the 1890s-1900s Chinuk Pipa writing of Father JMR Le Jeune of Kamloops, BC consciously imitates the late-1830s vintage Chinuk Wawa of Fathers Demers, Blanchet, and St Onge — but only when it comes to religious teaching.

This we know because Le Jeune is the only CW writer so late in the language’s life to use certain old grammatical structures, notably the Yes/No question marker =na.

(But Le Jeune’s teachings don’t use old/southern-dialect words no longer known in BC; they studiously replace the oldies with current terms, new coinages, and borrowings from BC Salish languages.)

The rest of the time, Le Jeune’s CW is a French-accented but fluent representation of the pidgin as spoken in southern interior British Columbia.

This we know because there exist dozens of letters written by newly literate Indigenous people of that region, who almost certainly wrote the way they talked, having no previously existing written tradition to imitate. 

One of the potential dimensions of influence from older CW religious texts on newer ones hasn’t been looked into yet: imitation or even plagiarism of phrasings. 

To address that, I decided to compare several selections from the Jargon catechisms published by both sets of writers…

LJ = Le Jeune’s Chinook Manual 

DBS = Demers-Blanchet-St Onge 

Question 1 (in LJ’s numbering) shows very close resemblances: 
LJ Klaksta mamuk maika? = ST mamuk naika. 
‘Who made you?’ — ‘God made me.’
DBS Tlaksta mamuk nsaIka? | SaHali TaI iaka mamuk nsaIka. 
‘Who made us?’ — ‘God made us.’

Question 2 runs almost as parallel: 
LJ Kopa ikta ST mamuk maika? = ST mamuk
naika pus naika komtaks iaka, pus naika tiki iaka, pus naika iskom iaka wawa,
pi kakwa naika tolo sahali ilihi.
‘For what (i.e. why) did God make you?’ — ‘God made 
me so that I would know him, so that I’d love him, so that I’d heed his 
and in that way I’d achieve heaven.’
DBS Pus ikta SaHali TaI iaka mamuk nsaIka? | SaHali TaI iaka mamuk nsaIka pus nsaIka komtoks pi tiKeH iaka Iakwa kopa elehi,
pus alke nsaIka nanich iaka kwanesom kopa SaHali. 
‘For what did God make us?’ — ‘God made 
us so that we would know and love him here on earth, 
so that eventually we’d see him always in heaven.’

Question 3 diverges quite a lot, though: 
LJ Kata ST? = ST kopit tomtom iaka, kwanisim iaka mitlait, iip tlus, ilip skukum iaka; iaka nanich kanawi ikta.
‘How is God?’ (i.e. what is God like) — ‘God is only spirit, he’s always existed, he’s the best, the strongest; he sees everything.’
DBS Ikta, na, okok SaHali TaI? | SaHali TaI, okok aIas TaI, iaka mamuk kanewe ikta kopa SaHali pi kanewe ikta kopa kikwile. 
‘What is this God?’ — ‘God is the great chief who made 
everything in heaven and everything below.’

Interestingly, at this point the LJ catechism diverges completely, going into a number of probing questions to try making sure that the person being interrogated actually understands the theological ideas involved.

When the ability to compare the texts resumes at Question 11, we again see quite close structural resemblances (note the unexpected use of =na only by LJ, not by DBS, for whom it would’ve reflected CW usage in their contemporary environment!)

LJ Ayu na ST? = Wik; ST kopit iht iaka. 
‘Are there many Gods?’ — ‘No; God is just the one.’
DBS KansiH aIu SaHali TaI mitlaIt? | Wek aIu, kopet iHt SaHali TaI mitlaIt. 
‘How many Gods are there?’ — ‘Not many, there’s just one God.’

Here once again the texts diverge, with DBS making a different set of enquiries into theological details. I expect this is partly due to changes made by the church leadership over the decades. 

Question 12, though, is paralleled by what DBS eventually wind up asking: 
LJ ST papa, drit na ST iaka? = Nawitka, ST papa, drit ST iaka. 
‘God the father, is he really God?’ — ‘Yes, God the father is really God.’ 
DBS SaHali TaI, na, okuk iaka Papa? | Nawitka Sahali TaI okuk iaka Papa. 
‘Is it God that’s that one’s father?’ — ‘Yes(,) it’s God that’s that one’s father.’

(DBS’s phrasing there is weird to me. My translation shows what their words actually ask, but I suspect they intended ‘…is that one the father?’ Which, by the way, would be using < okuk > as an animate pronoun, something I’ve pointed out as an oddity also in Coquelle Thompson’s southwest Oregon CW. Anyways, the above from DBS strikes me as another of their French-“accented” expressions, as if it came from a sentence that was thought up first in French as something between perhaps a more formal ~ ‘Dieu le Père, est-il Dieu?‘ and a more informal ‘Dieu le Père, c’est Dieu?’)

The same form of questioning goes on to ask about the rest of the Trinity: the Son & the Holy Spirit.

The two catechisms then diverge in terms of which theological points each devotes a lot of questions to.

But I get the overall impression that the earlier, DBS, was known to the later, Le Jeune.

In fact, the Kamloops Wawa newspaper and archival documents show that LJ corresponded with DBS editor St Onge, who learned to write Chinuk Pipa and contributed material for LJ to publish. 

And each generation of these priests taught Chinuk Wawa to its successors, so that Le Jeune was intellectually the grandson of Demers and Blanchet, who nurtured LJ’s own mentor Paul Durieu. 

It looks as if there was a good deal of continuity from Fort Vancouver’s Chinuk Wawa to British Columbia’s late frontier. 

What do you think?