Mid-1880s: A Red River & Grand Ronde Métis signer of a letter in Chinuk Wawa

Previously, thanks to the kind help of Dr. Henry Zenk (Grand Ronde Tribes), we’ve seen a petition in Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa for the sainthood of the Indigenous woman Kateri Tekakwitha, sent in approximately 1880.


Look how close Rupert’s Land came to the Oregon Country! (image credit: Confluence Library)

Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about one of the adult signers — there were also numerous kids’ names signed.

It’s quite interesting to note that this gentleman, Louis Vassal, was a Red River-born Métis.

Reproducing something I’ve previously shared about him in another connection:

VASSAL, Louis (c.1823-1896) (Mixed descent). Chinook Wawa Zone 1835-1896; settled there, member of the creole Chinook Wawa-speaking Grand Ronde Reservation community. A signer of the 1885 Chinook Wawa letter from “Nsaika sauvage pi sitcom sauvage Kopa Grand Rond, Oregon” (‘We Indians and Half-Breeds from Grand Ronde, Oregon’) asking the pope to declare Kateri Tekakwitha a saint.

Just figured I’d point out once again the strong connections that have always linked the Fort Vancouver-origin Métis language, Chinuk Wawa, with the historic Métis community of Red River in modern-day Manitoba.

This just can’t be a surprise. It’s been observed that “in the late 19th century a little more than a quarter of the people at Grand Ronde [Reservation] were considered Métis.”

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?