1909: A Jargon invitation…to Native people?
Straight out, this is some wacky (and in some ways wack) Chinuk Wawa that reader Alex Code sent my way…
Extremely interesting stuff anyways, from southern interior BC’s Similkameen region.
A newspaper editor invites nearby First Nations to the civic Dominion Day festival in Princeton, a.k.a. “Coalopolis”.
The spellings are original so they reflect someone’s real knowledge of talking Jargon. The syntax likewise could only come from real experience of fluent Chinook.
No translation whatever is provided, indicating Chinuk Wawa was still widely known in the southern interior, just as it still was across the line in north-central Washington.
A number of silly English words are used for jocular effect.
I’ll show you the article, then do some commenting.
Everything Points to Due Observance of the Day — Invitation to the Earliest Inhabitants.
With the promise of fine weather for tomorrow there is every prospect of a good celebration and a genuine holiday for all. The various committees report encouraging progress. The races, trap shooting contest, Caledonian sports, baseball and the grand ball possess such attractiveness as to warrant a big crowd in any town. The present neat and clear appearnace of the town, its beautiful setting by nature, the profusion of wild flowers, fresh painted buildings, all these are noted by the visitor and impress him favorably. Decorations of evergreens, flags and bunting will enhance the picturesque general view and everyone is privileged to assist. The usual contingent of natives may be expected. In the absence of any specific invitation to them the sportive editor addresses them in his choicest Chinook, as follows, which will tend, no doubt, to make their attendance more binding:
O, kanawa tillicums, chacko kopa Princeton, July 1st, pee nanitch delate skookum cutens coolie, spose mika iskem skookum he he cuten hyas kloosh, mika lulu kopa Princeton, B.C. Hyas kloosh mika icht snow capit Hudson Bay cayuse, Princeton, Jimhillkameen. Pea mika klatawa conamoxed, O, Jim Hill slow, kopa yaka hyas skookum cuten. Princeton yaka delate ticka mika alta. Railroad bumbye. Skookum sun, typsum yaka skookum alta, hiyu fish kopa chuck, hiyu mowitch kopa mountain. No use a-talkin, Jim Hill do jes’ as he likes. Konawa ichta skookum kopa Princeton, hyas kloosh chaco kopa Dominion Day. Hoop la! hoopa la!
— from the Princeton (BC) Similkameen Star of June 30, 1909, page 1, column 2
Taking a look at that goofy (but accurately BC-style) Settler Chinook, let’s first recognize that it wasn’t truly addressed to Native people. Most BC Indigenous folks were not yet literate in English. Chinuk Pipa writing was in fact still a big deal in southern interior BC.
Today’s piece would be the first find ever, in the prolific old genre of “Chinook invitations” to events, to have been addressed to anyone but Whites. Really, it’s not. So it’s meant as humour when the editor lapses into Jargon.
Knowing his White audience well, he digresses into a typical frontier town’s hopes for the railroad being built nearby:
O, kanawa tillicums, chacko kopa Princeton, July 1st, pee nanitch delate skookum cutens coolie, spose
ó, kánawi tílixam-s, cháku kʰupa Princeton, July 1st, pi nánich dlét skúkum kʰíyutən-s kúli, spos
‘Oh, everybody, come to Princeton, July 1st, and see the really fine horses run, if’
mika iskem skookum he he cuten hyas kloosh, mika lulu kopa Princeton, B.C. Hyas kloosh
mayka ískam skúkum híhi kʰíyutən hayas-ɬúsh, mayka lúlu Ø kʰupa Princeton, B.C. hayas-ɬúsh
‘you get (bring) a strong playing (racing) horse(, that’s) great, you bring (it) to Princeton B.C. It’s great (if)’
mika icht snow capit Hudson Bay cayuse, Princeton, Jimhillkameen. Pea mika klatawa conamoxed,
mayka íxt snú kʰəpít Hudson Bay *kʰáyús*, Princeton, Jimhillkameen. pi mayka ɬátwa kʰanamákwst,
‘in a year you quit Hudson Bay cayuses, Princeton in “Jimhillkameen”. And you’ll come along,’
O, Jim Hill slow, kopa yaka hyas skookum cuten. Princeton yaka delate ticka mika alta. Railroad
ó, Jim Hill slow, kʰupa yaka hayas-skúkum kʰíyutən. Princeton yaka dlét tíki mayka álta. *réylrod*
‘oh, Jim Hill is slow, with his mighty horse. Princeton loves you now. There’ll be a railroad’
bumbye. Skookum sun, typsum yaka skookum alta, hiyu fish kopa chuck, hiyu mowitch kopa
*bəmbai*. skúkum sán, típsu yaka skúkum álta, háyú físh kʰupa chə́qw, háyú máwich kʰupa
‘one day. The sun is nice, the grass is excellent now, lots of fish in the river, lots of deer in’
mountain. No use a-talkin, Jim Hill do jes’ as he likes. Konawa ichta skookum kopa Princeton, hyas
máwntin. No use a-talkin, Jim Hill do jes’ as he likes. kánawi-íkta skúkum kʰupa Princeton, hayas-
‘the hills. No use a-talkin, Jim Hill do jes’ as he likes. Everything is wonderful at Princeton, it’ll be great’
kloosh chaco kopa Dominion Day. Hoop la! hoopa la!
ɬúsh cháku kʰupa Dominion Day. Hoop la! hoopa la!
‘(if you) come for Dominion Day. Hoopa la! hoopa la!’
Among the typically British Columbia-style Chinook Jargon words here are:
- and “mountain” meaning ‘wilderness’.
Telltale signs of a Settler speaker include:
- the use of the noun < cayuse > (which is more characteristic of PNW English than of Jargon), and using < skookum > as ‘excellent, great’,
- the English noun plural suffix on < cutens > and < tillicums >,
- the inaccurate use of the inanimate “silent it” pronoun in “mika lulu kopa Princeton” (‘you bring it to Princeton’) to refer to a horse,
- and the inaccurate use of animate yaka for ‘the grass’.
A new find here, possibly an accurate reflection of local Chinuk Wawa usage, is < he he cuten > (‘playing/fun horse’) apparently for a ‘racing horse’.
James Jerome “The Empire Builder” Hill (1838-1916) was the Canadian-American railroad tycoon.
As you can see from the masthead (logo) of the local newspaper up above, Princeton, BC was impatiently anticipating a railroad-enabled coal “boom” in 1909, which indeed happened in the next couple of years.
The “local folks renamed the Similkameen River the ‘Jimhillameen’ [sic].”
Dominion Day is now the Canada Day long weekend.