March 7th, 2024. Snass Session. August (no date) Salmon Arm

 Snass Sessions 03.07.2024: August letter (eastern Secwépemc), Salmon Arm, no date1

David Douglas Robertson, PhD

Consulting linguist, Spokane, WA, USA 


Visit Juli Baumler’s webpage of “Chinuk Pipa” (BC alphabet) resources.

Background information on this writer:

This August is probably the same writer as we see for other letters in this series! Look and think…

Salmon Arm, BC, is in eastern Secwépemc a.k.a. “Shuswap” territory.

There’s usually little or no punctuation in the Indigenous-written letters, so what you see here is pretty much my additions of commas, periods, and so on. 

If you see [SIC] in square brackets it shows possible mistakes in the writing; other material [in square brackets] is inferred and added by me. 

*Asterisked* material shows an uncertain reading of the Chinuk Pipa writing. 

Underlined material is in other languages than Chinook Jargon. 

Anything < in angled brackets > is non-Chinuk Pipa, i.e. written as standard English in the original document. 

The notation (Ø) shows that you can understand a clause to contain either “silent IT”or a “silent preposition”. 

I have put line breaks between every clause-containing sentence, and added punctuation, to help the reader. (But I’ve preserved each writer’s own idiosyncratic punctuation marks.) I’m sometimes experimenting with extra indentation to show the existence of subordinate clauses. (And to reflect the flow of the speaker’s thoughts.) 

Many thanks to all of you who participated in this Snass Session! 


The Letter.

The letter, transcribed, with a suggested translation: [Interestingly, some of the crossed-out material may be integral to the intended message]

Naika Ogyust mamuk ukuk pipa kopa maika <X> Halo Pir Lshyun Ikta maika mamuk 

I August make this letter to you hello Pere Le Jeune what you make

‘It’s me, August, writing this letter to you. Hello Pere Le Jeune. Why did you’ 

tsim tsim naika nim kopa naika pa pipa

written written my name on my – letter

‘write my name on my letter?’

Naika tlus papa Pir LshyunNaika OgyustNaika mamuk ukuk pipa

my good father Pere Le Jeune I August I make this letter 

‘My dear father Pere Le Jeune:I’m August.I’m writing this letter.’ 

Kanawi2 naika tlap maika patlach pipa3 kopa naikaPi ilo drit kanawiIht pipa 

all I receive your send letter to mebut not really allone letter 

‘I’ve received all of your sent letters to me.But not quite all.One letter’

iaka4 ilo chako kopa naika.Pi ixt5 naika tiki wawa kopa maikaIkta mamuk

“(s)he” not come to meand one.thing I want say to youwhat make

‘didn’t come to me.And another thing I want to say to you:Why’

maika ilo mamuk tsam nim kopa naika pa pipa <+>Pi naika klutshmin ilo 

you not make written name on my — letterand my wife not 

‘didn’t you write a name on my letter?And (also) my wife doesn’t’

mitlait chikmin pus7 iaka klatwa kopa KamlupsIlo naika tlap chikmin kopa8 lisiv 

have money for her go to Kamloopsnot I find money for 

have money for her to go to Kamloops.I haven’t found any money for’ 

lisivik iaka wawa o O alki naika tlo tlap ixt chikmin9 <+> O maika ihi* kopa naika mamuk 

bishop his speechoh eventually I find one moneyoh you laugh at my make 

‘the bishop’s speech (either). Oh, eventually I’ll find a dollar.Oh, you’ll be laughing at my’


Quantities come first!3

Maika patlach pipa ‘your given (i.e. sent) letter’ is not standard Chinook Jargon. But it is a known eastern Secwépemc habit of speaking CJ. Most speakers of CJ would say pipa maika patlach ‘the letter you gave/sent’. 4

Iaka denotes, first and foremost, animate 3rd persons ‘she’ and ‘he’, and even ‘they’. But many speakers will occasionally use iaka to mean ‘it’. 5

Quantities come first! Ixt here means ‘one thing’ or ‘another thing’, not just the basic meaning, ‘one’. 6

Ikta mamuk (literally ‘what makes (it)’) is the totally normal way to ask ‘why’ in Northern Dialect CJ.7

Pus = ‘for’ a verbal purpose, ‘to do’ something.8

Kopa = ‘for’ a noun purpose, ‘for’ a thing.9

It’s clear that August is saying neither his wife nor he has enough money, presumably a $1 train fare, to visit Kamloops for a religious gathering that the bishop will be coming from Vancouver for. 




ilo drit komtaks mamuk pipaPi kakwa naika ilo kwanisim mamuk pipa kopa maikaO ilo 

not really know make writing and so I not always make writing to you oh not

‘without really knowing how to write. And that’s why I don’t often write to you.Oh, don’t’

maika ihi10 

you laugh

‘you laugh’

kopa ma naika mamuk pipaAlta naika mitlait kopa Samin Arm naika Ogyust po 

at my make writing now I be.there at Salmon Arm I August

‘at my writing!I’m at Salmon Arm now.I’m August

Naika OgyustPot.ha11 Pir Lshyun 

I August goodbye Pere Le Jeune

‘I’m August.Goodbye, Pere Le Jeune.’


Negative commands (prohibitions) in Jargon normally include the ‘you’ pronoun, as we see here, literally ‘don’t you laugh!’. 11

Pot.ha is the common Secwépemc word for ‘goodbye