The Mission Field and “Chinhook” (Part 5 of 6)

Another British Protestant missionary to Vancouver Island, BC, in the frontier era, reports Chinuk Wawa in use a number of times…

It’s always true that the social patterns and environments where CW was used, and those in which it wasn’t used, are worth pointing out.

Here we’ll see that the more a given Native community interacted with newcomers, the more “Chinook” was known there. That contact might include visits from Catholic missionaries (who preceded these Protestants locally), participation in the Settler economy in nearby Victoria, and intermarriage with Métis workers of the Hudsons Bay Company fort there.

Chiefs — elder males — were likely to do the talking for their community, so they often knew Jargon.

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From page 137, where the missionary work of Chinook dictionary-publishing JB Good inland, around Yale & Lytton, is noted



James Reynard (image credit:

In Volume 13 of this publication, in 1868, Rev. James Reynard (1831-1875) tells of a visit to some “Saanich” (W̱SÁNEĆ) Salish villages with Reverend J.X. Willemar, a recent convert from the Catholic priesthood (who went on to work with former Cariboo gold-rusher Harry Guillod, author of a Chinook Jargon manuscript dictionary).

[Page 138, at “Millacott village … on the north bank of the Saanich Inlet”] We proceeded on landing to the chief’s house, and addressed the inmates in Chinook. The elder people could not understand us, but a young woman who had lived in Victoria interpreted … All the younger men of the tribe were away fishing; but we learnt that one man was left, and that he could speak Chinook. He was out hunting, but returned before we quitted the village with two deer in his canoe. He answered all our direct questions very dubiously. Mr. Willemar asked him if he was a chief, and, much to our surprise, he answered that he was a slave.

From this village we crossed over to ‘The [Puget’s Sound Agricultural Company’s?] Farm,’ pausing on landing to inspect the Indian hamlet on its border. [This is a visibly more acculturated village.] … The old chief spoke warmly of Mr. [R.C.L.?] Brown’s kindness in helping them with his superior farm-lore and implements: ‘Hyass kloosh Tyhe jaka;’ [hayas-ɬúsh táyí yaka ‘he is an excellent chief’] and as he nodded his head, emphasizing, the mother-of-pearl ornaments in his ears fairly rattled. 

[Page 139:] The next (Friday) morning we rode over to East Saanich…I was very sorry not to reach this village, for I have many ‘kla-how-ya’ (salutation) [ɬax̣á(w)ya(m) ‘hello’] acquaintances resident there. When coming to Victoria they cross over to Cedar Plains in canoes, and walk the rest of the way. I thus frequently meet them, finding them very civil and talkative … 

[Moving on to South Saanich village:] We saluted the old chief on entering; he returned our greeting courteously, though eyeing us over curiously. Many opinions of us were exchanged in pure Isongus [“Songish” Salish?] speech, not altogether uncomplimentary. [The place is highly acculturated compared to those previously visited in this narrative.] …he produced two English sovereigns and two American ‘bits’ (ten cents), and asked us to give him in exchange five-dollar pieces. I asked him if he drank whisky. The wife answered emphatically, ‘No; he is a Christian,’ upon which he produced his rosary, crucifixes, and other symbolic plenishings … The wife had charge of a fine half-bre[e]d boy of eight or ten years, the son of her sister by a Canadian voyageur. Both parents were dead…She was anxious for a school for him, considering education a natural necessity for him more than the others…

[Page 141, at North Saanich village:] They speak warmly of Mr. Anderson’s care for them, seeming to consider themselves as his poor clients, and him the head of their clan.

— from “Columbia — Indian Missions” in The Mission Field, May 1868, pages 137-141

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