Mamook Komtax Chinuk Pipa / Learning to Write Chinook Jargon: Indigenous Peoples and Literacy Strategies in the South Central Interior of British Columbia in the Late Nineteenth Century

Emma Battell Lowman

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Abstract

During the mid-nineteenth century, the advent of multiple gold rushes swept foreign populations into what is now known as the British Columbia interior, bringing a variety of European languages to the homeland of a multitude of Indigenous languages. In order to bridge communication gaps between these populations, Chinook Jargon, a composite trade pidgin, quickly spread. The Jargon or “Wawa” became so common that, in the last decade of the century, Catholic priest, Father JMR Le Jeune developed and standardized a shorthand writing system for the Jargon – Chinuk pipa – and used it to publish a popular local newspaper. At the same time, residential schools began operation in the region, and English was aggressively promoted; however, contrary to expectations at the time and perceptions since, English literacy developed slowly in the British Columbia interior. By contrast, Chinook pipa spread quickly and literacy in the Chinook Jargon – for a time – outstripped English literacy. Drawing on primary research in the archives of the missionary order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, this article considers the different learning and teaching strategies of English and Chinook literacy, and their subsequent successes or failures. Missionaries and Indigenous people were involved in both cases but with strikingly different outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Studies in Education/ Revue d'histoire de l'education
Volume29
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2017

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