A 3rd Kamloops Indigenous letter in CW from the WW1 front

From Kamloops Wawa #270 (January-April 1917), I present a third Indigenous-written Chinuk Pipa letter from the battlefields of Europe.


< Quansem Ilep >, kwánsəm íləp, Always First: how fitting that the successor to the 2nd CMR is these guys with a Chinook Jargon motto! (image credit: Wikipedia)

Before I get to that, I’d like to note that the editor, Father JMR Le Jeune, also mentions having received another letter from the Front, from Allan Lavigueur. Le Jeune reproduces it in French translation only. He comments that this young local man, son of “Canadian halfbreeds” (i.e. a Métis with roots in the Prairies), can speak a little French and reads and writes English “comme il faut”. Perhaps he wrote to Le Jeune in standard English, but maybe it was in Chinuk Pipa; should I post it here on my site? Conflicting telegrams arrived soon after his letter, one stating that Lavigueur had been killed, another that he was only injured. So, plenty of uncertainty surrounds that soldier.

What we know for certain is that a third letter from the Front that must’ve been originally in Chinuk Pipa, from William Pierriche, got published in Kamloops Wawa in French translation. It’s the second such from Pierriche. If you know BC Chinuk Wawa well, you’ll see that the French version below is an obvious close translation from it.

This is another text that I hope a competent speaker of BC Chinuk Wawa will “back-translate” to Jargon, and put it into the “Chinook writing” alphabet!

All of these World War 1 Chinuk Pipa letters came from the battle zone in France, and it must have caused him some heartache to read the words of young men he knew well, who were participating in the massive violence taking place in his homeland.

Seeing a fluent French translation from the original Jargon is quite a gift — I feel it gives us some insight into how previous generations of Métis/French Canadians thought about the Chinuk Wawa that they were helping to shape in the Fort Vancouver community.

This letter also has value for its mention of a community member’s feelings about the Kamloops Industrial [Residential] School.

Le 6 Mars 1917
‘6th March 1917’

Bien cher Père,
‘Dear Father’

J’ai reçu
‘I received’ 

hier soir votre lettre du 31 Janvier.
‘yesterday your letter of 31 January.’

J’étais bien heureux de recevoir de vous
‘I was quite happy to receive from you’ 

des nouvelles de mes connaissances, et de
‘some news of my acquaintances, and of’ 

mes gens de par là. J’étais juste à penser
‘my people over there. I was just thinking’ 

à eux et à vous, mon père, désirant beau-
‘of them and you, my father, wishing’ 

coup de savoir de leurs nouvelles.
‘to know some news about them.’ 

Nous avons été en haut la ligne il y
‘We were up the line’ 

a quelque temps le mois dernier, et nous
‘some time ago last month, and we’ 

vinmes ensuite sur l’arrière et restâmes
‘came to the rear and stayed’ 

dans une ville quelque part en France,
‘in a town somewhere in France,’ 

et nous allons en avant encore sous peu.
‘and we’re going forward again shortly.’ 

Je regrette, père, de n’avoir pas beaucoup
‘I’m sorry, father, not to have much’ 

à dire, car on ne nous laisse pas écrire
‘to tell, because they don’t let us write’ 

aucuns détails sur ce qui arrive…
‘any details about what happens…’

Je me porte bien, ainsi que mes camarades
‘I’m well, as are my comrades’ 

Jos. Dick, Auguste Jules, et Abel François.
‘Joseph Dick, August Jules, and Abel Francois.’ 

Je n’ai pas revu mon frère François depuis
‘I haven’t seen my brother Francois again since’ 

que je l’ai quitté au Camp Bramshott avec
‘I left him at Camp Bramshott [England] with’ 

les autres et Tom André.
‘the others and Tom Andrew.’ 

Mon addresse est différente maintenant:
‘My address is different now:’

Ecrivez mon nom et numéro d’ordre et
‘Write my name and serial number and’ 

ajoutez C.M.R. 2e France. Cela me
‘add “2nd C[anadian] M[ounted] R[ifles], France”. That’

trouvera toujours.
‘will always find me.’ 

Je suis bien heureux père de ce que vous
‘I’m very happy(,) father(,) that you’ 

pensez à moi dans vos prières à la Ste Messe.
‘think of me in your prayers at Mass.’

Je me rappelle toujours ce que vous nous
‘I always remember what you’ 

avez dit à Salmon Arm, que vous prieriez
‘told us at Salmon Arm, that you would pray’ 

toujours pour que le Bon Dieu nous ramène
‘always that God would bring us back’ 

sains et saufs chez nous après la guerre.
‘healthy and safe to our own place after the war.’

Je suis toujours heureux de trouver des
‘I’m always happy to find’ 

prêtres partout où nous allons, heureux
‘priests everywhere we go, happy’ 

d’écouter les bonnes choses qu’ils ont à
‘to hear the good things that they have to’ 

nous dire, et d’assister à la Messe soit
‘say to us, and to help at Mass whether’ 

le jour, soit la nuit. Je n’ai rien à l’esprit
‘during the day or at night. I have in my mind’ 

que le Bon Dieu, et mon pays, et je me
‘only God, and my country, and I’ 

tiens toujours prêt à toute minute.
‘keep always ready at every moment.’

Et je pense toujours à mes pauvres gens
‘And I always think of my poor people’ 

dans mon pays, et j’espère qu’ils se con-
‘in my country, and I hope that they will’ 

duiront en bons Chrêtiens, regrettant leurs
‘act like good Christians, sorry for their’ 

fautes passées, et que le Bon Dieu les bénisse.
‘past faults, and that God will bless them.’ 

Je souhaite, mon père, que Jésus-Christ
‘I wish, my father, that Jesus’ 

exance nos prières et nous accorde de nous
‘will advance our prayers and grant us that we’ll’ 

trouver ensemble encore, pour travailler
‘find ourselves together again, to work’ 

de concert au bien de nos pauvres gens.
‘together for the good of our poor people.’ 

J’étais content d’apprendre que les enfants
‘I was happy to learn that the kids’ 

étaient en bonne santé à l’Ecole, et que
‘were in good health at the School, and that’ 

mes gens à Shouswap se portaient bien.
‘my people at Shuswap [Lake] were doing well.’

Je n’ai pas pu m’empêcher de rire, quand
‘I couldn’t help laughing, when’ 

vous m’avez écrit à propos du vieux barbu
‘you wrote to me about the bearded’ 

Felix de Salmon River.
‘Felix at Salmon River.’ 

Quand j’ai reçu votre lettre je l’ai lue
‘When I got your letter I read it’ 

à mes camarades de Shouswap, et ils
‘to my buddies from Shuswap, and they’ 

étaient tous contents d’avoir de vos nouvelles.
‘were all happy to have some news from you.’ 

Il [sic] vous disent tous au revoir et à nos
‘They all say goodbye to you and to our’ 

amis de là-bas. Voilà tout, c’est
‘friends over there. That’s all, it’s’ 

temps que je finisse ma lettre, et que
‘time for me to finish my letter, and’ 

j’aille me coucher.
‘to go sleep.’ 

Au revoir cher Père,
‘Goodbye dear Father,’ 

de Guillaume Pierriche.
‘from William Pierriche.’ 

What do you think?