Champness, “To Cariboo and Back in 1862”

A British man is lured by the BC gold rushes, but perhaps makes more money writing about the experience…


(Image credit: Abe Books)

And he doesn’t seem to have absorbed a lot of local cultural flavor. 

Too bad, because this early date of Chinuk Wawa use in mainland British Columbia is of keen interest to us. 

W. Champness, “To Cariboo and Back in 1862” (Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon Press, 1972). Originally published in The Leisure Hour, 1865. 

Page 80, in the “Spring Valley” and “Bridge Creek” (Cácli’p Fountain – Xwisten Bridge River) area of St’át’imc country, written in the heavily racist language that, I might observe, was more typical of people who had little close acquaintance with Indigenous people:

In this part of our journey we again fell in with small parties of Indians. Their squaws (called by them “clootchmen“) were heavily burdened by their lords, some of whom have three wives.

Champness’ spelling of the Chinuk Wawa word ɬúchmən is, true to form, influenced by the English term ‘women’. The fact is that this word of CW was already in frequent use in Settler English. The author perhaps didn’t speak CW. 

Page 90, in the Yale area (Puchil (‘Fort/Port Yale’) Nlaka’pamux / Stó:lō Salish territory), a mule has fallen to its death from the steep Cariboo wagon road:

A small encampment of Indians near by immediately came hastening in to secure the tempting prize as a feast. Men and women, with papooses, all clustered round the carcass, which they speedily cut up and carried off in pieces. Their delight found expression in loud cries of “Muck-muck,” i.e., something good to eat.

Both papus ‘baby’ & mə́kʰmək ‘food’ are common in BC Jargon. It’s unclear to me why a Native group would’ve been exclaiming in this language, if they actually did, unless it was in conversation with the narrator. These, too, are words loaned into Settler English by that time. Again we have little reason to think Champness spoke Jargon.

That’s about all the Chinook Jargon in this maladapting newcomer’s narrative!

Kahta mika tum-tum? What do you think?