SO MANY Métis words in interior PNW languages (Part 1: Dakelh)

In this mini-series, I’m not going to list all the Chinuk Wawa, and later English, loans found in each language. I’ll do that in separate articles. The idea here is to demonstrate to you the powerful historical presence of Métis people in British Columbia, via the traces that their way of speaking has left.

(Data sources include the “Central Carrier Bilingual Dictionary” [CCBD] of 1974, Nak’azdli Dakelh on First Voices, and linguist Bill Poser’s online Stuart Lake Carrier Dictionary, Saik’uz Carrier Dictionary, Lheidli Carrier Dictionary)

There are, with virtual certainty, many more loanwords from Métis speakers’ French, Plains Cree, and Ojibwe in Dakelh and its close neighbours. Dictionaries of tribal and endangered languages rarely get anywhere close to documenting speakers’ full repertoire. (It’s also just about impossible to find old specialized terminology in dictionaries of Michif or Métis French, e.g. ‘cap rifle’, ‘hulled barley’.)

First I’ll note that there are lots of French names in Dakelh country, and they’re a very similar selection to what we see in the Kamloops area. These are less likely to be due to direct Métis influence, as you’d be given a name by a priest from Europe in the 1800s; here’s only a sampling:

  • ‘Alposhin ‘Alphonsine’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Abel ‘Abel’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Adel ‘Adele’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Agat ‘Agathe’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Albos ‘Alphonse’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Ani ‘Annie’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Arma ‘Armand’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Atwan ‘Antoine’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Badis ‘Baptiste’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Belnar ‘Bernard’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Edwar ‘Edouard’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Filumun ‘Philomène’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Gadren ~ Gatren ‘Catherine’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Gasbar ‘Gaspard’ (Stuart Lake) 
  • Izidor ‘Isidore’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Luzar ‘Lazare’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Mari ‘Marie’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Marluwiz ‘Marie-Louise’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Melya ‘Amelia’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Ogis ‘Auguste [man’s name]’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Unadol ‘Anatole’ (Stuart Lake)
  • Zanfiluk ‘Jean Felix’ (Stuart Lake) 
  • Zamari ~ Zammari ‘Jean-Marie’ (Stuart Lake)

But there are dozens of words relating to daily life that look like a slice of Métis speech. Even the religious words tend to reflect Métis pronunciations. There’s also the fact that they’re not all of French origin (often signaled by the sounds /f/ or /r/ which are foreign to Dakelh). Some are from other Métis languages, including Ojibwe and Plains Cree (perhaps Michif as well).

Take note that the Dakelh vowel < u > = /ə/.

  • ‘Abot[-]ne ‘Apostles’ (CCBD 165) ← apôtres with a Dakelh suffix for duoplural (nonsingular) number; we’d expect Métis pronunciation to be ~ apot, comparable with ‘priest’ below
  • banuk ‘Indian bread’ (CCBD 58) ← bannock, the Gaelic-origin English word characteristic of Red River Métis culture
  • bonani ‘happy New Year; Merry Christmas’ (Stuart Lake) ← bonne année in Métis pronunciation [bonani]; note the semantic drift to a Christmas greeting, typical of a word learned from conversation rather than from the church
  • bosdun ‘American, White person’ (Stuart Lake) — the /o/ suggests the old Métis/Canadian French bostonnais ‘American’ as an influence on the pronunciation of this Chinook Jargon word in Dakelh, contrasting with usual CJ bástən
  • bozoo ‘hello’ (Stuart Lake, “disused” which suggests it’s an old Métis word and perhaps specifically Ojibwe boozhoo) ← bonjour
    (On a tangent, I wonder if some dialects’ hadih/adi ‘hello’ is from frontier spoken English howdy! I remember anthropologist Tad McIlwraith telling me that Tahltan Athabaskans use the English borrowing pāne (from ‘pardner’) for ‘friend’.)
  • Dimos[-]dzin ‘Sunday’ (CCBD 81) ← dimanche; Dakelh dialects have at most 3 days of the week from French, tending to coin new words based on ‘Sunday’ and/or saying ‘third day’, etc.
  • doso ‘burlap (cloth)’ (CCBD 83) ← torchon ‘rag’
  • ? – Dushine ‘Cree’ (CCBD 91); perhaps a native Dakelh word
  • dloz[-]mondin ‘wheat/barley’ (CCBD 95; < dl > is a single phoneme), Saik’uz loz ← Canadian French (de) l’orge mondaine ‘(some) hulled barley’ (standard French (de) l’orge mondée)
  • fizi[-]gab ~ bizi[-]gab ‘muzzle-loading musket’ (Stuart Lake) ← fusil (à) cap(s) (?) in Métis pronunciation [fizi…]; a previously undocumented Métis phrase as far as I’m aware
  • Fraswe ‘François’ (Stuart Lake) ← François in Métis pronunciation [frãswε]
  • Gadulek ‘Catholic person’ (Stuart Lake) ← catholique
  • gayi ‘sour milk’ (CCBD 97; unrelated to the Dakelh words for ‘sour’) ← [crème] caillée ‘clotted [cream]’ in Métis pronunciation [kayi]
  • gugoos ‘pig’ (CCBD 99) ← cocoche, a French dialect word
  • landi ‘Monday’ (CCBD 130) ← lundi
  • lelwe ‘king’ (CCBD 131) ← le roi in Métis pronunciation [lιrwε]
  • liba ‘bread’ (CCBD 131) ← le pain
  • liga ‘gloves’ (Stuart Lake) ← les gants
  • lilet ‘milk’ (CCBD 131) ← le lait in Métis pronunciation [lιlεt]
  • lili ‘bed’ (CCBD 131) ← le lit
  • lisel ‘salt’ (CCBD 131) ← le sel
  • lisman ‘week’ (CCBD 131) ← la semaine, cf. the Michif pronunciation < smenn >
  • liyab ‘devil’ (Lheidli) ← le diable in Canadian/Métis pronunciation [lι(d)yab ~ lιdž(iy)ab]
  • lizanyo ‘onion’ (CCBD 131) ← les oignons, cf. the Michif pronunciation < lee zayoun >
  • lizwif ‘Jew’ (Stuart Lake) ← le(s) juif(s)
  • lizas ‘angel’ (CCBD 131) ← les anges
  • lodel ‘altar’ (Stuart Lake) ← l’autel
  • lubari ‘barrel’ (CCBD 131) ← le barril, cf. the Michif pronunciation < baree > ‘bushel’
  • lubaz ‘lumber boat’ (CCBD 131, with illustration of a wide, flat-bottomed boat) ← la barge
  • lubegin ‘bacon’ (CCBD 132) ← the typically Métis< li bakinn > (this citation is Michif)
  • lubeni ‘Holy Water’ (Lheidli) ← l’eau béni
  • lubenidas ‘penance’ (Stuart Lake) ← la pénitence
  • lubeshi ‘sin’ (CCBD 132) ← le pêché in Métis pronunciation [lιpεši]
  • lubezo ‘poison’ (CCBD 132) ← le poison, cf. the Michif pronunciation < pwayzoon >
  • luboodai ‘bottle’ (CCBD 226) ← la boutaille
  • lubot ‘cup’ (CCBD 132) ← le pot in Canadian/Métis pronunciation with final consonant preserved; borrowed French ‘pot’ as ‘cup’ is widespread in PNW languages, is this a Métis-ism?
  • lubred ‘priest’ (CCBD 218) ← le prêtre, cf. the Michif pronunciation < li pret >
  • lubrot ‘ball’ (CCBD 18) ← la pelote, note the “hypercorrect” foreign /r/ sound, cf. the Michif pronunciation < la plot >
  • lubudak ‘potato’ (CCBD 132) ← la pataque, typical Canadian/Métis pronunciation of la patate
  • lubeyos ~ lubiyos ~ lubuyos ~ lumilo ‘hay pile’ (CCBD 132) < le m(e)ulon, a Canadianism according to the Stuart Lake dictionary; possibly influenced by la pioche ‘hoe’ (some possibility that that word could’ve come via Chinook Jargon lapʰəyush) — see lumilo below
  • ludab ‘table’ (CCBD 132) ← la table
  • ludan ‘tent’ (CCBD 132) ← la tente
  • ludi ‘tea’ (CCBD 132) ← le thé in Métis pronunciation [lιti]
  • ludi musjek ‘Labrador tea (plant)’ (CCBD 132) ← le thé < mushkeg > ‘muskeg tea’, in Métis pronunciation) (Bill Poser argues convincingly that Dakelh borrowed the second word as ~“muskek” and then palatalized it, cf. Witsuwit’en lïdi misgik and Fort Ware Sekani másgét; this seems to imply that the loan occurred by about 1819); a previously undocumented Métis phrase as far as I’m aware
  • Ludoosa ‘November 1 (All Saint’s Day)’ (CCBD 132) ← la Tous Saints
  • lufinel ‘flannel’ (CCBD 132; note foreign /f/ sound) ← la flanelle; the reduction of /fl/ to /f/ perhaps reflects Dakelh influence
  • lugafi ‘coffee’ (Stuart Lake) ← le café in Métis pronunciation < kafii >
  • lugar ‘playing cards’ (Stuart Lake) ← les cartes / la carte
  • lugarat ‘carrot’ (CCBD 102) ← la carotte in Métis pronunciation [karɔt ~ karʌt]
  • lugarem ‘Lent’ (Stuart Lake) ← le carême
  • lugari ‘log house’ (CCBD 104) ← le(s) carré(s) ‘the squared (one(s))’ in Métis pronunciation [kari], Stuart Lake also has lugari[-]beyoh ‘building of squared logs’ using a native Dakelh word for ‘building’
  • lugli ‘key’ (CCBD 133) ← la clef in Métis pronunciation [lakli]
  • lugliz ‘a church’ (CCBD 133) ← l’église
  • lugloo ‘a nail’ (CCBD 133) ← le clou
  • luglos ‘bell’ (CCBD 133) ← la cloche 
  • lugok ‘domestic chicken’ (CCBD 133) ← le coq
  • lugulyoh ‘toboggan (original Carrier Indian toboggan)’ (CCBD 133) ← le carriole ‘sleigh’
  • lugurma ‘government’ (Stuart Lake) ← le gouvernement
  • lukarisdi ‘Eucharist’ (Stuart Lake) ← l’eucharistie
  • lumajoo ~ lumeljah ~ meljah ‘White person’ (Stuart Lake) ← l’américain ~ informal “méricain“, in Métis pronunciation [(la)maričæ̃], presumably historically [(la)mæričæ̃]; as far as I’m aware, Dakelh doesn’t palatalize /k/ like this
  • lumes ‘Mass’ [Catholic ritual] (Stuart Lake) ← la messe
  • lumilo ‘haystack’ (CCBD 133) ← le meulon / la mulon according to Bill Poser, the second variant being an apparent North Americanism, cf. Louisiana French mulon ‘haystack’ — see lubeyos etc. above
  • Luminis ‘Protestant’ (CCBD 133) ← le ministre
  • lunab ‘table cloth’ (Stuart Lake) ← la nappe
  • lusal ‘shawl’ (Saik’uz) ← la châle
  • lushumune ‘chimney’ (Stuart Lake) ← la cheminée
  • lusoocham ‘turnip’ (CCBD 133) ← le chou de Siam ‘Siamese [Thai] cabbage’ according to Bill Poser in Stuart Lake dictionary, cf. Michif pronunciation < lii soochyem > with the typical Métis mutations of /s ~ š/
  • lusooma ‘towel’ (CCBD 134) ← l’essuie-mains ‘hand towel’, cf. Michif pronunciation < seumaen ~ niseumaen >
  • luswe ‘silk’ (CCBD 134) ← la soie in Métis pronunciation [lιswε]
  • lusyet ‘plate’ (CCBD 134) ← l’assiette
  • luwagin ‘wagon’ (CCBD 134) ← la waguine, cf. Michif < wawginn ~ wawgoon >
  • luwel ‘sail’ (CCBD 134) ← la voile in Métis pronunciation [la wεl]
  • monsenyor ~ mosunyer ‘bishop’ (Stuart Lake) ← monseigneur (in BC frontier days, bush communities would see a bishop only when e.g. Paul Durieu would visit from New Westminster; “monsignor” is a title of respectful address when that person is in your presence)
  • musdoos ‘cow (domestic)’ CCBD 148 ← Plains Cree mostos
  • musi ‘thank you’ (CCBD 148) ← merci, Michif & Métis French pronunciation marsi
  • roomudis ~ loomudis ‘rheumatism’ (Stuart Lake) ← rheumatism(e), from French and/or English; cf. Michif pronunciation < lii romachis > ~ < reumachis > (In dialect / older informal English, a pronunciation “rheumatiz” is also known)
  • sagunaz ‘Englishman’ (Stuart Lake) ← Ojibwe zhaaganaash- 
  • saldan ‘soldier’ (CCBD 199) ← soldat(s) 
  • Sizi ‘Jesus’ (CCBD 201), Sizi Gri ‘Jesus [Christ]’ CCBD 292 ← Jésus-Christ, cf. Michif pronunciation < Zeezeu > ~ < Zhiizeu > and traditional [kri]
  • soogah ‘sugar’ (CCBD 204) ← sucre, cf. Michif pronunciation < seuk >, probably blending with the borrowed English word / Chinuk Wawa shuk(w)a
  • sooniya ‘money’ (CCBD 205) ← Plain Cree sooniiyaaw
  • Sumdi ‘Saturday’ (CCBD 207) ← samedi 
  • Tooti bun ‘Chuchi lake (the Great Lake)’ CCBD 219; this is a Dakelh name, but it’s very interesting that the location is commonly known in a pronunciation where /t/ becomes /č/, Métis-style. 
  • Wanderdi ‘Friday’ (Stuart Lake) ← vendredi, cf. Michif pronunciation < vaandarjii > ~ < vaendarjee >
  • Zooldubak ‘Easter’ (CCBD 292) ← jour de Pâques, Zooldubak[-]dzin ‘Easter Day’ (CCBD 133) with a suffixed Dakelh root for ‘day’ 

Some of the words above may very well have come from the standard-French speaking European missionary priests’ formal language.

But the majority of these words carry traces of informal Métis speech.

The circumstantial evidence suggests these words came into Dakelh about 200 years ago; on this point, also see below. 

All in all, quite a big chunk of data indicating an early and ongoing Red River connection with BC. This stuff has not been researched before.

Bonus fact:

Bill Poser’s 2004 paper mentioned above in connection with “muskeg” also shares this informative timeline of non-BC people’s historical presence in central British Columbia: 

poser forts

What do you think?
qʰata mayka təmtəm?