October 21st, 2023. Snass Session:  August Andre, Spuzzum

The Video for this session is not available due to technical issues the day of recording.

 Snass Sessions 10.21.2023: August Andre, Spuzzum, 18941

David Douglas Robertson, PhD

Consulting linguist, Spokane, WA, USA 

Link to the Nez Perce 1911 Chinook Jargon song we listened to today:

Link to the whole Sam Morris Collection of 60 songs including that one:

No background information on today’s writer is known to me. Please proceed to the next page! 

Spuzzum, BC is a Nłeʔképmx (“Thompson River”) Salish community in south-central British Columbia. 

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 experimenting with extra indentation to show the existence of subordinate clauses. (And to reflect the flow of the speaker’s thoughts.) 

The Letter

The letter, transcribed & translated:

Spisom, Novimbir < 25, 1894 >.‘Spuzzum, November 25, 1894.’ 

Naika tlus papa Pir Lshyun: alta naika mamuk-tsim kopa maika. ‘My dear father Père Le Jeune: now I’m writing to you.’ 

Naika ilo drit komtakst2 ukuk Chinuk pipa, ‘I don’t really know this Chinook writing,’ kakwa,3 ‘so,’ 

naika ilo kwanisim tsim4 kopa maika. ‘I don’t always write to you.’ 

Pi alta naika mamuk-tsim kopa maika. ‘But now I’m writing to you.’ 

Naika skukum-tomtom kopa5 ukuk Chinuk pipa. ‘I’m excited about this Chinook writing.’ 

Tlus naika piii kopa ukuk Chinuk pipa,6 kanamokst naika kluchmin, ‘I should pay for this Chinook newspaper, along with my wife,’ iaka piii kopa ukuk Chinuk pipa. ‘who is paying for this Chinook newspaper.’ 

Naika mamuk-stik7 kopa Spisom. ‘I’m logging at Spuzzum.’ 

Pus naika kopit-mamuk-stik, ‘When I’m done logging,’ pi8 naika palach mokst tala kopa maika, kanamokst naika kluchmin, ‘then I’ll give two dollars to you, along with my wife,’ 


Komtakst is the way some Salish people of BC wrote and pronounced komtaks, ‘to know’. The ending of the word resembles the sufix -akst ‘hand’ in their languages. Maybe the Chinook Jargon word sounded like ‘to grasp’, to them?3

When you find kakwa between two full statements, you can take it as ‘so’ (‘therefore’). There’s another example of this, below. 4

For lots of speakers, tsim and mamuk-tsim can both be used to mean ‘to write’. For others, tsim can only mean ‘be written; something written’ and mamuk-tsim (‘make-written’) is their only way to say ‘to write’. 5

Naika skukum-tomtom kopa… (‘I’m strong-hearted about…’) is what a lot of Northern Dialect speakers say when they mean ‘I like’ something. An even more common synonym is naika tlus-tomtom kopa… (I’m good-hearted about…; my heart is good about…’). I point this out to help you avoid saying naika tiki… (‘I want…’), which can mean ‘I like’ something, but is less clear and less common than naika tlus-tomtom kopa… 6

Notice that Chinuk pipa is used in two distinct meanings, ‘Chinook writing’ and ‘the Chinook newspaper’ Kamloops Wawa. I think it’s pretty easy to tell the meanings apart as you hear this man talk. Would you agree?7

Mamuk-stik is a good example of Chinook Jargon’s expression, mamuk- (‘do’) + a natural resource = ‘harvesting’ that resource. 8

What can seem like an extra pi (‘and’) often shows up from Northern Dialect speakers to mean ‘then’. It’s especially common, and useful, in expressions like we have here: ‘When/if’ such-and-such happens, ‘then’ I’ll do this… Take note (thanks to Jedd Schrock’s question for bringing this up) – much like the Southern Dialect, ‘then’ is often expressed by alta (‘now’) in a different setting, telling a story or a sequence of events that happened.

palach9 chikmin kopa maika. ‘giving money to you.’ 

Kwanisim naika skukum-tomtom kopa kanawi-ikta.10 ‘I’m always enthused about all of these things.’ 

Klahawiam; ‘Goodbye;’ 

Naika Ogyust Andri kopa Spisom.‘I’m August Andre from Spuzzum.’

O, pus naika tlap chikmin, ‘Oh, when I get some money,’ pi11 naika mash (Ø)12 kopa Kamlups kopa maika. ‘then I’ll send it to Kamloops for you.’ 

Naika brothir13 iaka tiki Chinuk pipa kopa maika. ‘My brother wants the Chinook newspaper from you.’ 

Ukuk man iaka nim Shimi Andri kopa Spisom. ‘This guy’s name is Jimmy Andre from Spuzzum.’ 

Iaka chako-komtaks ukuk Chinuk pipa, ‘He’s learning this Chinook writing,’ kakwa, ‘so,’ 

iaka tiki ukuk Chinuk pipa kopa maika. ‘he wants that Chinook newspaper from you.’ 

Klahawiam, naika tilikom kopa Kamlups, klahawiam; ‘Goodbye, my friend at Kamloops, goodbye;’ 

Naika Ogyust Andri.‘I’m August Andre.’


Palach chikmin kopa maika: there’s no pronoun ‘we’ with this phrase, so I translate it faithfully as just ‘giving money to you’.10

…skukum-tomtom kopa kanawi-ikta (‘…enthused about everything’) pretty clearly here is saying, for my understanding, ‘enthused about all of these things; enthused about all of this’ that’s been discussed in the letter.11

Here’s another “extra” pi, again meaning ‘then’. 12

Silent “it”!13

Brothir is a common Northern Dialect word for ‘brother’, because the older/Southern Dialect word aw is not so well known.