From the pages of the Kamloops Wawa newspaper we find another Chinook letter translated into French by editor JMR Le Jeune. Again, we find traces of the original Chinook in the French and David Robertson has put out the challenge to translate it back into its original Chinook. The following is my attempt – though keep in mind I am not necessarily trying to translate it word for word. The spelling is what is most typical for the shorthand Chinuk Pipa alphabet and I’m writing in the Northern Dialect of Chinuk Wawa spoken in British Columbia; you will find some words and structures you might be unfamiliar with if you only know Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa or Chinook Jargon out of one of the old dictionaries. Pardon any mistakes or awkward wording. With that in mind, let’s jump in:
1 fibrwari 1917
o naika tlus papa pir lshyun
Naika mamuk pipa kopa maika. Naika tiki mamuk komtaks kopa maika pus naika tlus pi wiht abil franswa, shosif dik, pi wiliam pirish klaska tlus. Alta nsaika mitlait kanamokst. Nsaika mash tom andri kopa ingland pi ilo nsaika tlap siisim kata iaka. mokst mun alta nsaika mitlait pasayuks ilihi pi nsaika nanich tanas ukuk ilihi. mitlait tanas ayu sno kah nsaika mitlait, pi aias kol.
ilo sno kopa iht ilihi pi kopa iawa naika nanich ayu tilikom mamuk tyurnips kopa klaska ilihi. wik kansih kopa kol ilihi nsaika mamuk kakwa kopa nsaika ilihi.
Papa, naika tiki mamuk komtaks kopa maika ikta mamuk naika chako iakwa: ilo naika tiki pli. ilo naika tiki kuli saia ilo piii. ilo naika tiki klatwa nanich saia ilihi. naika tiki chako iakwa mamuk kakwa ST iaka wawa, pi kakwa nsaika aias taii kopa ukuk ilihi iaka wawa. naika mash naika klahawiam mama pi naika sistir – kopit iht naika sistir – pi wiht kopit iht tanas man naika mama mitlait. wiht naika mash naika iktas pi naika ilihi pus mamuk nanich kata aias naika tiki mamuk ST iaka wawa: naika komtaks ilo kopa kaltash naika chako iakwa pi ayu klahawiam naika tlap iakwa. kanawi ikta naika mamuk iakwa, kopa tlus ukuk.
papa, naika milait drit saia, pi naika wawa maika pus maika mamuk hilp naika kopa styuil. alki wiht nsaika chako kanamokst, pus kakwa ST iaka tomtom. nsaika patlach nsaika tomtom kopa iaka. kwanisim naika mitlait ukuk tanas buk kata aias haha tomtom maika patlach kopa naika pi ukuk buk styuil naika tlap pus naika skul. kwanisim ukuk buk mitlait kopa naika pokit.
Pus naika komtaks kah mitlait pir karion, wiht naika mamuk pipa kopa iaka.
potoh naika papa.
Naika ogyust shyuls
<August Jules 687724>
<B Company, 2nd Canadian Mounted Riles>
Please let me know what you think of my translation! If you’ve tried to translate this letter, I’d love to see your work. Also if you’d like to put this back into Chinuk Pipa I’d love to see it!
If you’d spare me a moment, reading this letter made me think back to the stories that I heard about my family members who fought in the war, specifically my great-grandpa Alfred Salter (his father didn’t believe in middle names). I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve been told with you.
Alfred was born in Cromer, England and moved to Notch Hill, BC in 1908 where he started an apple orchard. When the war broke out he enlisted right away in 1914 and eventually ended up in the machine gun section of the 48th Highlanders.
The war left its mark on Alfred – it left him permanently scarred. Instead of telling you myself, here is what G. L. Ormsby – friend and fellow soldier – had to say about Alfred’s service:
I never met Alfred – he died in 1954 – but I do have fond childhood memories of his wife, my ‘Grandma Deedee’ (Edith Salter née Jessop), who lived until 2002. She was born in 1899 and so lived through three centuries. They had lots of interaction with the local Secwépemc people and my Grandma Deedee and Grandma Anne (her daughter, my actual Grandmother) had lots of stories about the ladies coming onto their farm staying for tea and selling what they had made – baskets, gloves, etc. You might remember the picture of the basket I posted a while back. Maybe they knew Chinook? Sadly I never asked.
Had Alfred not gone to war, he would not have met my Grandma Deedee, but also had one of those shells that buried him landed a few feet closer, I would not be here to type this. It’s sobering to think of every little action, whether by luck or by choice, that leads to us being here now, able to read this. Let’s not make choices that deprive future generations of that ability.
Here’s a little slideshow of some of Alfred’s photos:
- My family’s home overlooking Shuswap Lake built c. 1920, still standing today
- Alfred on his sleigh
- One of the labels for the apples my family grew
- Alfred and my Grandmother, c. 1922
- Alfred visiting his mother, Sarah Anne Salter, back in England c.1914-1918
- Grandpa Alfred and Grandma Deedee working in the orchard
- Alfred (left) with friend Stanley Frost and another man in Notch Hill c. 1908
- Captain William Salter (seated left), Alfred’s brother who died at Ypres