1889: Another Chinook interpreter in BC court (and “Second Charlie”?)

Back-translation, anyone?

From the late frontier era in British Columbia, a region where Chinook Jargon held on longer and stronger than in others, we have another “Chinook in the courts” example.

Today’s news clipping is from an article that reports several different cases. The courtroom was “occupied with a mixture of white, Mongolian [Chinese] and Siwash [Native] humanity”.

In this particular case, Regina vs. Jim, “Mr. Moresby interpreted in Chinook for the prisoner, but was relieved later by Felix, an Indian” of unspecified ethnicity and language. Felix probably articulated defendant Jim’s testimony to the court via Chinuk Wawa, which was still more widely known by Indigenous British Columbians than English was. So a back-translated reconstruction, from English to CW, of the courtroom dialogue is a reasonable project.

It’s a pleasure to point your attention also to the observation that “there were two Charlies” in the Native crowd. It’s possible one of them was known as Ixt Charlie and the other as Makwst Charlie — First and Second Charlie — in a Jargon naming custom that I’ve only found in Indigenous communities of BC. I’ve seen this numbering system go as high as 4, in the person of Lakit Joe of Squamish Reserve, also in the Vancouver, BC area.

Landmarks referred to in today’s piece include Coal HarbourFalse CreekSpratt’s Cannery, and Cordova Street.

Thus oriented, have a read through this interesting article.


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— from the New Westminster (BC) British Columbian of November 20, 1889, page 8, columns 3 & 4

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