What is the Kaltash Wawa?

The Kaltash Wawa is a Chinook Jargon (aka Chinuk Wawa) language newspaper published in BC’s shorthand alphabet – Chinuk Pipa – once widely used to write Chinook Jargon and other Indigenous language in British Columbia. This paper is written in Chinook Jargon as spoken and written in British Columbia as we can see in historical documents and as I have been taught (to the best of my ability of course).

It is my intention to spread awareness of this language and writing system as it played such a major role in our history that goes, for the most part, unrecognized. When Chinook Jargon does get recognized, it is often dusty old dictionaries and lifeless wordlists that get brought up rather than this amazing example of Indigenous literacy rich with vivid stories. More documents of historical Chinook Jargon were written in Chinuk Pipa than in any other writing system and mostly by Indigenous authors or for a mostly Indigenous audience – Letters, newspapers like the Kamloops Wawa and Sugar Cane Bell, notes, and even grave markers!

Chinuk Pipa is an alphabetic shorthand based on the French Duployan system. It was introduced by the French Catholic Priest Jean-Marie-Raphael Le Jeune. It was quickly taken up by the Indigenous peoples of British Columbia, particularly in the interior. This includes mainly the Secwepemc (Shuswap) and Nlaka’pamux (Thompson) people, though also others. Primarily it was used to write Chinook Jargon, but we can also find French, English, Latin, Greek, Cree, Secwepemctsin (Shuswap), Nlaka’pamuctsin (Thompson), Sḵwx̱wu7mesh (Squamish), and Halq̓eméylem (Halkomelem) written in Chinuk Pipa – among other language as well.

If you would like to learn more about the history of this language and writing system, I highly recommend that you visit www.chinookjargon.com – a blog run by linguist and Chinook Jargon expert Dr. David Robertson.  

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