March 29, 2004

The Kamloops Wawa

The University of Saskatchewan Library recently acquired a full run of the Kamloops Wawa, a newspaper published primarily in Chinook Jargon between 1891 and 1923 in Kamloops, British Columbia. The information about the exhibit that the library put on to celebrate the new acquisition contains images of several pages.

Chinook Jargon is a pidgin based primarily on Chinook and Nuuchanulth (Nootka) that served as a trade language throughout the Pacific Northwest. Very few settlers learned the native languages, such as Secwepmectsín (Shuswap), the native language of the area around Kamloops, so Chinook Jargon played a major role in communication between settlers and native people.

The Kamloops Wawa was published in a French shorthand known as the Duployé shorthand, which the Oblates of Mary Immaculate had decided was the easiest way to write the various native languages that they dealt with in Southern British Columbia. They used this writing system not only for Chinook Jargon but for English, French, Latin, Lillooet, Secwepmectsín (Shuswap), and Nlaka'pamux (Thompson). Here is the first page of the Shushwap Manual or Prayers, Hymns and Catechism, in Shushwap published at Kamloops in 1906.

A page from the Shuswap Manual

Duployé shorthand was a good writing system for the languages whose sound systems it was designed for, such as English. Indeed, because it was easier to write English in Duployé shorthand, which had no arbitrary spellings, than in the usual English spelling with which we are still encumbered, the Oblates encouraged settlers to learn it as a stepping-stone to English literacy. It was a less than adequate way of writing the native languages since it did not provide enough letters for all of their sounds.

Posted by Bill Poser at March 29, 2004 06:44 PM