Kamloops Wawa humour (Part 1)

Jokes, fun quips, recreative wordplay: the classic Chinuk Wawa newspaper Kamloops Wawa had plenty of humour.A subtle example from Kamloops Wawa #149, February 1897:


An 1883 Duployan shorthand medal from France (image credit: cgbfr.com)

To set it up, here’s editor JMR Le Jeune’s reporting in English on BC folks winning prizes in an international shorthand composition (by writing in Chinuk Wawa) —

Since the last issue of the “Wawa” has been prepared, one gold medal, two bronze ones, and a silver palm have been received from Monthlery [Montlhéry] in France, where a Concourse of Shorthand took place last May, and where a set of the “Wawa” and a few compositions from our Indians attracted much attention and interest. The gold medal is awarded to the Editor of the “Wawa,” the silver palm, to the first contributor of reading matter for its pages, who is no other than His Lordship, Rt. Rev. P. Durieu, of New Westminster. The two bronze medals to Miss Caroline Falardeau of Kamloops, and Jamie Michel of Quilchena. 

Another gold medal has been awarded to the “Wawa” as early as January, 1894, but has not been received yet, owing to the difficulty of sending such articles through the French mail. This medal was awarded in Paris by a society for the diffusion of shorthand, of which Mr. Richardet, 10 Rue Belle chasse, is the president. 

A silver medal, with a diploma of honor for the Editor of the “Wawa,” and another diploma for his Indian pupils was awarded last October by the “Shorthand Exposition of Nancy.” [In France.] 

Our Kamloops Indians have sent over 100 compositions for the “Shorthand Exposition and Concours of Roubaix, Nord, France, which is open from January till May, 1897. 

Besides, 50 postcards taken at random from our [Le Jeune’s] collection, have been sent to the same exhibition, where they cannot fail to attract the attention of European stenographers. These have been written by Indians from all parts of British Columbia, and are mostly in a very correct shorthand writing.

Our shorthand is going to be represented also in the exhibition which is going to take place in Montreal next spring and summer. A number of Indians intend sending in their compositions.

— page 19

Now, compare that with the way Le Jeune tells it in Chinuk Wawa; as always, my asterisks mark words whose CW pronunciation we technically don’t know, typically because they’re newer loans, made after the “classic” Jargon dictionaries were published…



–page 24

<Medals awarded.>

Kopa Montliri*, Pasayuks ilihi, British Kolombia
kʰupa Montlerí*, Pʰasáyuks-ílihi, Brítish* Kʰolə́mbiya* [1]
‘At Montlhéry, France, the British Columbia’ 

tilikom tolo mokst aias midals kopa
tílixam túlu mákwst (h)áyás(h) médal-s* [2] kʰupa
‘folks have won 2 big medals for’ 

klaska Chinuk pipa. Klaska mash komposishons
ɬaska Chinúk pípa. [3] ɬaska másh kampəsíshən-s* [4]
‘their Chinook writing. They sent compositions’ 

kopa iawa, pi kakwa klaska tolo ukuk midals.
kʰupa yawá, pi kákwa ɬaska túlu úkuk médal-s.
‘over there, and that’s how they won those medals.’ 

Kamlups Wawa tolo iht midal sitkom gol.
Kámlups* Wáwa túlu íxt médal sítkum gól. [5]
‘The Kamloops Wawa won a medal that’s half gold.’ 

Pi livisik iaka tolo iht palm, kanawi silvir
pi lesevék yaka túlu íxt pálm*, [6] kánawi sílvər*(,) [7]
‘And the bishop won a palm that’s completely silver,’

tkop chikmin. Pi Klarina Falardo kopa Kamlups iaka
tk’úp-chíkʰəmin. pi Klarína* Falado* [8] kʰupa Kámlups yaka
‘(what’s known in Chinook as) white metal. And Clarina Falardeau from Kamloops’ 

tlap iht brons midal, pi wiht Shimi Mishil
t’ɬáp íxt bróns* médal, pi wə́x̣t Djími* Mishél* [9]
‘won a bronze medal, and also Jimmy Michel’ 

kopa Kwilshana iaka tolo iht brons midal.
kʰupa Kwilshéna* yaka túlu íxt bróns médal.
‘from Quilchena won a bronze medal.’

Wiht kopa iht tawn iaka nim Nansi, Kamlups
wə́x̣t kʰupa íxt tʰáwn yaka ním Nánsi*, Kámlups
‘Also at a town called Nancy, the Kamloops‘ 

Wawa tolo iht tkop chikmin midal, pi tilikom
Wáwa túlu íxt tk’úp-chíkʰəmin médal, pi tílixam
Wawa won a white-metal medal, and the people’ 

tolo iht diploma. [10] Tkop tilikom kopa Pasayuks ilihi
túlu íxt diplóma*. tk’úp-tílixam kʰupa Pʰasáyuks-ílihi
‘won a diploma. The white people in France’ 

ayu tomtom kopa British Kolombia tilikom chako
(h)ayu-tə́mtəm kʰupa Brítish Kʰolə́mbiya tílixam chaku-
‘are impressed with the British Columbia folks’ 

komtaks Chinuk pipa.
kə́mtəks Chinúk pípa.
‘who are learning Chinook writing.’

Chi alta wiht iht taii kopa Pasayuks ilihi
chxí álta wə́x̣t íxt táyí kʰupa Pʰasáyuks-ílihi
‘Just recently another leader in France’ 

iaka mash pipa kopa Kamlups, iaka aias tiki
yaka másh pípa kʰupa Kámlups, yaka (h)ayas-tíki
‘sent a letter to Kamloops, (and) he really hopes’ 

pus msaika mash komposishon kopa saia. Kakwa
pus msayka másh kʰampəsíshən kʰupa sayá. kákwa
‘that you folks will send a composition overseas. So’ 

naika mamuk ayu pipa, pi kopa Krismas
nayka mámuk (h)áyú pípa, pi kʰupa Krísmas*
‘I wrote a lot of letters, and at Christmas’ 

ukuk tilikom mitlait kopa Kamlups klaska mamuk
úkuk tílixam míɬayt kʰupa Kámlups ɬaska mámuk
‘these folks living at Kamloops made’ 

wik saia <500> komposishons. Alki ukuk komposishons
wík-sayá fáyv-hə́ndred kampəsíshən-s. áɬqi úkuk kampəsíshən-s

‘almost 500 compositions. These compositions will’ 

kuli saia, pi klunas iht iht alki tolo.
kúli sayá, pi t’ɬúnas íxt-ixt áɬqi túlu.
‘go abroad, and maybe one or another will win.’ 


Brítish* Kʰolə́mbiya* [1] — a synonym of this in 1890s Kamloops Chinuk Wawa is Bisi 🙂  

(h)áyás(h) médal-s* [2]‘big medals’ may be a new word to you, as a modern CW learner, but in the environment of southern interior BC at the time, where Catholic priests ran the churches and schools in Indigenous communities, devotional medals would’ve already been a familiar item. So readers of today’s piece would’ve easily pictured what was awarded.

Chinúk pípa [3] — A reminder to you, pipa meant any kind of written material, not just paper.

kampəsíshən-s* [4] — This word may have been familiar to a segment of Kamloops Wawa‘s reading public, the kids who attended the still-new Kamloops Industrial (residential) School, founded in late 1895. 

sítkum gól [5] ‘half gold’ might mean ‘vermeil’, but in English, Le Jeune called it a ‘gold medal’. Maybe here his characteristic sense of humour is showing; it could be that he’s humbly downplaying the fact that his superior, Bishop Durieu, only won a silver prize 🙂 

pálm* [6] is another word that Le Jeune’s Native readers would know, again from church, where Palm Sunday was a big celebration written about more than once in Kamloops Wawa

sílvər* [7] would be a perfectly familiar term from local commerce, which by the 1890s was dominated by English speakers, and probably from the mining industry, e.g. in the Kootenays district. 

Klarína* Falado* [8] was variously known as Clarine or Clarina or Caroline Falardeau, from one of the big Kamloops Métis families (is she Adam Larue’s daughter whose death Kamloops Wawa reports in 1917?). This raises an interesting point. As I’ve observed of the Salish communities of the region, 19th-century Métis folks and French Canadian speakers in general were typically not able to read or write, so when “Chinook writing” came along, it was usually their communities’ first literacy. Clarina’s elder relative “Old Jenny/Janie” Falardeau, aged nearly 100, participated in an 1894 Chinuk Pipa lesson at the Kamloops “catechism house” that was built for teaching before the Industrial School was started.  

Djími* Mishél* [9] “Jamie/Jimmy Michell”, said to be the brother of Upper Nicola Chief Johnny Chillihitzia, was known as a passionate supporter of the new Chinuk Pipa literacy, teaching plenty of other Indigenous people how to read and write it, and often assisting Father Le Jeune in his visits to Nicola. 

diploma [10] — A later 1897 issue of Kamloops Wawa tells its readers that “diplomas” are “beautiful papers like pictures”.

kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?