I’m not surprised that a newspaper partly in Chinook Jargon was published in British Columbia a century ago, but I’m astonished it lasted for over thirty years; the University of Saskatchewan Library has acquired a run of it and is mounting an exhibition, and the corresponding web page has some great images.

U of S Library has just acquired one of the largest and most complete runs in existence of an important 19th century British Columbia newsletter, the Kamloops Wawa, published between 1891 and 1923. The Kamloops Wawa was a multi-lingual publication written in English, French and Chinook Jargon.
The Wawa was published by the missionary Father Jean-Marie Raphael LeJeune out of the backroom of a church on the Kamloops reserve between 1891 and 1923. At its peak it had a distribution of 2000 copies per month, with a circulation that reached as far as Quebec and France. The newsletter is unusual for its time in that Le Jeune actively sought an Aboriginal audience and focused on local and national Native concerns. It is a very valuable and largely untapped source for scholarly research in History, Native Studies, Religious Studies, Linguistics and other disciplines.
Chinook Jargon is a “pidgin” language, a much simplified and easy-to-learn version of traditional Chinook, designed to allow communication between tribes speaking disparate languages and between First Nations people and Europeans. Its primary use was to facilitate trade, but Chinook Jargon was also employed at treaty negotiations. The Wawa featured both the longhand and the Duployan shorthand version of Chinook Jargon, with English and sometimes French translations, and also translations into other Aboriginal languages.

(Via Bill Poser at Language Log, who provides additional information about the language and the shorthand it was written in.)


  1. Wawa got me through college.

  2. The Wawa stores around here (U Penn) made me do a bit of a doubletake for some time when I first got here because to me wawa is the Chinook Jargon word “to speak, language, talk” and I didn’t expect to see it so far from home.

  3. Don’t forget the Chinook loanwords in BC English.
    The hiyah muck-a-muck from my dad’s company trailered his boat down from Cultis Lake last summer and so we got to take his skookum boat out on the salt chuck.
    As a kid I didn’t know that sentence was unintelligible outside my province. I’m still proud of the vocabulary and I’ll use it with outsiders.

  4. Unintelligible outside of your province? Uhhh, I’m an Oregonian and it was perfectly intelligible to me.

  5. joe tomei says

    This from the email newsletter of SSILA
    * 6th Chinook Jargon Workshop (Portland, May 14-16)
    From Jeffrey Kopp ( 23 Mar 2004:
    Native Americans, linguists and historians will meet from May 14th to
    16th at the Native American Center at Portland State University in
    Portland, Oregon for the Sixth Chinook Jargon Workshop. The Workshop
    consists of language classes, discussion groups and presentations
    designed to encourage the use and preservation of Chinook Jargon in
    the Pacific Northwest.
    Chinuk Wawa (the Native term) was a language that served as a powerful
    communication tool in a variety of environments. Not just a “jargon,”
    it was used as an important vehicle for artistic expression and cultural
    transmission, and was the primary language of many Native Americans
    along the northwest coast. This was especially true for the Grand Ronde
    community of northern Oregon, where a revival of the language is under
    way. Grand Ronde has a Chinuk Wawa immersion preschool and a university
    sponsored adult education class.
    Workshop details are available on the Web at:
    or by contacting Jim Holton (510-483-3725).
    A Chinook Jargon discussion group, moderated by SSILA member Dave
    Robertson, is also available on the Web at:

  6. Hi, Henry Z., if you’re out there!

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