Kamloops + other residential schools, as reported to Native people in Chinook (Part 1)

Before they were called “residential schools”, they were “Indian industrial schools”…

tkemlups te secwepemc

(Image credit: Indian Country Today)

…but that’s merely the Canadian government’s official label for them; “industrial” was that era’s equivalent to our “vocational”. 

In the communities of southern interior BC, they were also routinely called just ‘the school’, e.g. skul in Chinuk Wawa and l’école in French. That reference served well; there were no other schools in these Indigenous villages. 

Given the degree of attention to the subject of residential schools among the public lately, I’d like to contribute what one overlooked source, the Kamloops Wawa newspaper, reported about it.

That newspaper was primarily written in Chinook Jargon (Chinuk Wawa), and in a shorthand-based alphabet that few British Columbians outside of 1890s southern interior Indigenous communities have been able to read.

So, let’s make K.W.’s information freely available, translating it as necessary. 

Today’s article is the first in what will be a fairly substantial series. Check this space daily for more.

Let’s start with the first mention of residential schools in this newspaper (which began publication in May of 1891) — 

This is from page 47 of Kamloops Wawa #17 (27 March 1892). Two points about the numbering snarls you can run into in K.W.:

  1. The page numbers in this issue are in the rarely used shorthand numeral system, and this page follows page “42”. We’re looking at the third of four pages in the issue, at any rate. 
  2. This issue #17 is not to be mistaken with the “#17” of 13 March. In the course of reprinting many issues of K.W. for what were basically fundraising purposes, Le Jeune wound up altering many publication dates.

All right, now here’s the relevant article, reporting on the Williams Lake Industrial School (a.k.a. St Joseph’s or Cariboo Indian Residential School), founded 1890:

Pir Kario kanmokst Pir Lshak iaka tlus nanich ukuk skul kopa tilikom kopa Wiliams Lik. Kanawi tanas man pi kanawi tanas kluchmin mitlait kopa skul klaska drit tlus tomtom mitlait kopa ukuk skul: kakwa klaska aiak chako komtaks pipa pi wiht klaska chako komtaks shanti kopa lamas pi kopa ⊕.

Pir Lshak iaka drit tlus tomtom kopa ukuk tilikom klaska tolo iskom ⊕. Iaka wawa pus klaska mamuk hilp iaka kopa styuil. 

Père Carion together with Père Le Jacq is in charge of that school for the (Native) people at Williams Lake. All the boys and all the girls who are staying at the school are really happy to  be at that school: so they quickly learn to write and also they learn to sing at Mass and at Communion. 

Père Le Jacq is really happy with those (Native) people who have succeeded in receiving Communion. He asks that they help him with prayers.


The next occurrence of residential schools in Kamloops Wawa comes in the issue of 15 January 1893 (#61), page 12. Here we have news of St. Mary’s Indian school in Mission, on the lower Fraser River. That was the first such school in BC. Similar to the preceding selection, this one simply reports that all the pupils are doing well. I’ve published it before, so I’ll just reproduce the text, minus my previous linguistic comments:


< Father Peytavin’s Letter. > = Chiam Novimbir < 16, 1892 >
                                                 ‘Cheam [BC], November 16, 1892.’ 

Tlus Pir Lshyun, = Chiam tilikom klaska skukum. Alta klaska tiki tlap 
‘Dear Pere Le Jeune, = The Cheam people are well. Now they want to “get” ‘ 

Chinuk pipa. Pi pus klaska ilo lisi, klaska tlap. = Stalo 
‘the Chinook writing. And if they aren’t too lazy, they’ll get it. = The Stó:lô’

tilikom kwanisim tlap ayu wawa: klaska tlap, pus tanas ankati klaska 
‘people are always receiving a lot of rumors: they found out supposedly a bit ago’

mamuk kort lisivik, Bishop Duriyu, pi maika komtaks pus aias 
‘the bishop was hauled into court, Bishop Durieu, but you know what kind of big’

tliminhwit ukuk wawa. Pi lili klaska wawa kakwa,  pi wik kata pus 
‘lie this talk is. And it’s been being said for a long while, but there’s no way’

chako kakwa. Chiam tilikom ilo mamuk nawitka ukuk wawa: lili klaska 
‘it could happen like that. The Cheam people don’t believe such talk: they’ve’

kolan kakwa tliminhwit. Klaska tomtom pus Mitodist klaska wawa 
‘been hearing such lies for a long time. They think the Methodists are saying’

ukuk tliminhwit. = Tanas min skul boi kopa Mishan klaska skukum: 
‘these lies. The boys, schoolboys, at Mission, are well:’

pi tanas kluchmin wiht klaska skukum. = Alta klaska mamuk ayu pipa. Kanawi  
‘and the girls are also well. = Now they’re writing a great deal. All’

Stalo tilikom iskom plitsh < “temperance pledge.” > 
‘of the Stó:lô people have taken the pledge, the temperance pledge.’

Kanawi mash lam. 
‘They’re all quitting drinking.’

          Pir Pitavi Stalo liplit. 
          ‘Pere Peytavin, the Stó:lô priest.’

That’s it for this first installment; there will be quite a few more here about residential schools as reported by the Kamloops Wawa.

What do you think?