1917: Xmas musings in Kitamaat

Ask a linguist: “Xmas” has a looooooong history of being said by Christians, like this early-1900s BC missionary.

[Pupils of the girls home levelling ground]

Pupils leveling the ground in front of the Elizabeth Long Memorial Home, Kitamaat, BC 1911 (image credit: The Children Remembered)

Oh, and she has things to say about local use of Chinuk Wawa!

Fair warning, my friends, the following tells of life at a residential school, and it’s told in a not entirely bias-free way.





I shall never forget my first Xmas at Kitamaat. It was such a happy day. The filling of the stockings belongs to my dept. Every child has a new pair for Christmas. They were all marked beforehand & filed on the Sat. Each child had a book, a toy, 1 handkerchief, 2 oranges, a bag of candy, peanuts, the boys braces and hose, the girls a hair ribbon, a doll, soap, tooth brushes, beads, wool crochet hooks etc., etc. The Senior Girls had fool dolls only. Sun. night each child hung up old stockings. About nine o’clock, Miss Clark dressed up as Santa Clause & we went the round of the dormitories waking the little ones to see. It was comical. Some children hurried themselves under the bedclothes & would not look, others gazed awhile & then retired beneath the clothes, one boy sprang out of bed & made a dash for landing where the new, filled stocking had been substituted for the empty old ones. Next morn. the bell was rung at 6:30 the children crowded out to the corridors & got their stockings. Was there ever such a happy crowd? Each child sat on its bed and examined the contents. The boys yelled & shouted with delight over each article; one would think braces were priceless treasures by the fuss they made. They wore their new pants and stockings & braces & sweaters & looked such a nice bunch for once. The girls put on their ribbons (I tied every one) & a new Apron, all made alike so they too looked smart.

I was on duty to take them to Church & had them sing as they walked. It was a bit of a failure for 36 children in single file, in the open & slipping & sliding could not keep together but Mrs. Allan, who was at Home, said it sounded well. Zero weather, bright sunshine, lofty mountains, snow capped, narrow path through deep snow, clear calm water, a line of happy children going to church to sing Christmas carols in a village where 30 yrs ago the people were savages & the medicine man ran naked through the village in a frenzy. That thought alone was uplifting.

The concert was good. Miss Clark teaches the songs & attains a precision & finish that would do credit to a white school. The little girls (16 of them) gave a doll drill and song. The 7 boys sang a cadet song & drill. The whole school drilled-marched. They can do everything save recite. They are too uncivilized to modulate their voices. There is no interest to the old folk in recitations for of course it is all in English. I suppose that in a few years time Kitamaat speech will be extinct for the young folks learn to speak Eng. in the schools & one of our senior girls told me they cannot understand all the Kitamaat of the old folks. Chinook is a jargon understood by all the Indians but the young people here do not understand it.

— pages 40-41 of “The Letters of Margaret Butcher: Missionary-imperialism on the North Pacific Coast”

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?