November 30th, 2023. Snass Sessions. Louis James Spuzzum 1899.

 Snass Sessions 11.30.2023: Louis James, Spuzzum, 18991

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:

Louis James of Spuzzum is referred to in letter [116.012] and wrote letters [035], [112], [129].

In the Kamloops Wawa newspaper: 

March 1894 #114[b] – an issue that carried this address label…

 “73. Agnes Kukupinak”

English in shorthand:

Spuzzum is a historically Nłeʔképmx (“Thompson”) Salish village on the Fraser River in south-central British Columbia, about 40km/25mi straight north of Hope.

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! 


[In Chinuk Wawa, Le Jeune notes that various people write to him in English shorthand; he switches into English shorthand to list them:]

Kansih man kopa kanawi kah several man from all where‘Several men from all over the’ 

ilihi klaska mamuk Inglish wawa place they make English language ‘place are putting the English language’ 

kopa Chinuk pipa. into Chinook writing‘into the Chinook alphabet.’ 

Lui Shims from Spisom ‘Louis James from Spuzzum,’ 

olso Itiin from Shushwap ‘also Etienne from Shuswap,’ 

olso Frank Makki from ‘also Frank McKee* from’ 

Nort Bind an som bodi ils ‘North Bend and somebody else’ 

hav ritin tu mi in Inglish. ‘have written to me in English.’ 

Ai am glad: and ai si ‘I am glad: and I see’ 

that thi wil no viri ‘that they will know very’ 

sun haw tu rid and ‘soon how to read and’ 

rait ivri thing in Inglish.‘write everything in English.’

July 1894 #118[b] – our Louis James is a subscriber from “SP” (Chinuk Pipa abbreviation for Spuzzum)

Probably different Louis James’es:

March 1898 #162 — Eleven people in Skookumchuck have written to Kamloops: Paul Joe Dick (double surname), William Jim, Louis James

June 1916 #263 — Visit to Head Lake (Okanagan), a big reserve. Chief Pierre [Peter?] leads the prayers. Visitors from Enderby, Shuswap. People forget how to confess there. Father Nobili was the first priest to visit this country; Fort George [Prince George], Fort Alexander [Alexandria], Fort Thompson [/Thomson] (original name of Kamloops). Names of those who had robbed Nobili, told by a 90-year-old man to Le Jeune: the sons of Shou-ar-rempt-khén, probably the uncle and father of one “Louis James” (?—illegible) who is described as a renegade. Chief Nicola was away when the robbery occurred; on learning of it when he returned, he tracked them down and had them whipped.

The Letter

The letter, transcribed & with a suggested translation:

Spisom Oktobir < 29 1899 >Spuzzum October 29, 1899‘Spuzzum, October 29, 1899.’ 

Wal naika papa Pir Lshyun naika tiki mamuk- well my father Père LeJeune I want make‘Well, my father Pere Le Jeune, I want to write’ 

tanas-pipa kopa maika. Naika tiki pus2 maika mamuk-klahawiam3 little writing to you. I want so.that you make poor ‘a note to you. I want you to do a favour’ 

kopa naika. Naika tiki pus maika iskom mawich-skin for me. I want so.that you fetch deer skin ‘for me.I want you to go get deer skins’ 

kopa naika Pi. alki naika piii maika pus maika chako kopa 

for me. and someday I pay you when you come to‘for me.And some day I’ll pay you when you come to’ 

Spisom Naika ilo tiki (Ø)4 drit tanas Pus tanas-aias Spuzzum. I not want them really little. If little big ‘Spuzzum. I don’t want real little ones. If they’re kind of big’ 

mawich skin naika tiki (Ø). Fraswa Lui iaka kluchmin iaka deer skin, I want them. François Louis his wife she ‘deer skins, I’ll want them. Francois Louis’s wife’ 

drit skukum sik kopa iaka latit5 Wal klahawiam really powerfully sick in her head. well goodbye ‘is really awful sick in her head. Well, goodbye,’ 

Pir Lshyun Pere Le Jeune‘Pere Le Jeune.’ 


Pus winds up having several translations into English, but it’s got a single meaning in the Indigenous-oriented grammar of Chinook Jargon. It signals a situation that’s seen as not yet having become a reality. So you’ll see pus translated in ways like ‘in order to’, ‘if’, and ‘when’!3

Mamuk-klahawiam (literally ‘make-poor’, ‘to treat as poor’) has a couple of common meanings: ‘have mercy/take pity’ and ‘do a favour’. Which do think fits best here? 4

(Ø) shows you where we can understand Chinook Jargon as using its “silent IT/THEM” pronoun. This lack-of-pronoun, if you want to think of it like that, is the correct way to express inanimate & indefinite objects. It can be translated into English as ‘it’, ‘them’, ‘some’, etc., but again it’s a single Indigenous idea. 5

Sik kopa iaka latit (‘hurting/sick in her head’) could equally well mean ‘have a headache’. What do you think?

Naika Lui ShimsI Louis James‘I’m Louis James.’