1913: Chief Basil of Bonaparte speaks against Sir Richard McBride

Very precious words: A southern interior BC Salish chief’s speech against the government is quoted on the front page of the newspaper.

And this is real live BC Chinook Jargon.


Chief Basil David of St’uxwtéws (Bonaparte) (image credit: firstnations.de)

Sir Richard McBride was born in 1870 in New Westminster, and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography maintains that he spoke CJ with Native people.

So he must’ve understood the scorching critical words of Secwépemc chief “Basil” (I assume Basil David) of the Bonaparte First Nation about the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission that re-drew Indian reserve boundaries in BC.

bonaparte 1

bonaparte 2a

bonaparte 2b

bonaparte 2c

bonaparte 2d

(The article continues beyond what I’ve shown here)

Sir Richard McBride came in for a good deal of criticism and was referred to as the “King George man of delate cultus wawa,” meaning he was “not an artist.” Most bitter of all the chiefs against Sir Richard was Chief Basil, of Bonaparte River country, who, in a stirring peroration in Chinook declared, “McBride wawa, Indian halo rights. Pe halo nika sell nika rights kopa klaxta — nika okok illahe, nika okok fish, nika okok mowich, nika, okok kila-kila, nika okok stick, pe nika okoak tipso. Nesika tumtum okok commission alkie mamook kloosh nesika, pe al ta nesika, kumtux okok commission help kopa government; halo klaska, help nesika.” 

In other words, Basil was conveying the information that when the Indians called on Sir Richard some time ago Sir Richard calmly informed them that they had no rights. He did not believe this for he knew they had rights. The Indians had not been put up to bring up the subject by white men, as McBride intimated, but the Indians were being placed in a tight place and all that was their was being taken away. The land, the chief contended, originally belonged to the Indians and still does. The government never bought it. ‘But they are taking away the land, the fish, the deer, the homes, the timber and giving nothing in return, and the commission would only help the government. The Indians want to be brothers with the whites but cannot when the governments are stealing all they have.

Chief Basil, like the other speakers heard at the gathering, seems born to oratory, and though a white person probably would criticize his delsarte [???], the Indians applauded vigorously his impassioned words, at times English and at other times Chinook.

— from the Vancouver (BC) Sun of December 13, 1913, pages 1 (column 2) & 3 (columns 1-3)

I don’t understand “delsarte” (is it named for this fella?), but I know the Chinuk Wawa that’s quoted is perfect BC stuff, recognizable from comparision with countless other sources.

A couple of extremely BC Chinook Jargon words are the verbs sell and help (kopa), and the noun papoose ‘baby; child’.

Did you understand the words of the kúkpi7 (chief)?

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?