Jay Powell is the last remaining speaker of Chinook Wawa in British Columbia who learned it from native elders. He is inspiring other British Columbians to revive this important language as a reminder of our past and in inspiration for our future. In this video, one of Jay’s students, Sam Sullivan, interviews him about the language.

Jay Powell interviewed by Sam Sullivan in Chinook Wawa

Chinook Wawa is linked with the history of British Columbia. Chinook Wawa is linked with the history of British Columbia. We might even call one form of it British Columbian. James Cook and his midshipman George Vancouver sojourned at Nootka Sound. Their Nuuchahnulth word lists became a Nootka Jargon that spread through the Maritime Fur Trade. Supported by Chief Concomly and the Chinook Nation, Fort George became the Canadian depot for Columbia furs. French-speaking traders married into Chinook families and learned a Broken Chinook. Proto-British Columbia Britain granted governmental powers to the Hudson Bay Company, although First Nations remained sovereign. Vancouver became the capital of Columbia, or proto British Columbia. Governor John McLoughlin’s son married the daughter of Chief Concomly. It may have been after the move to Vancouver that Broken Chinook, Nootka Jargon, French and other languages combined to form Chinook Wawa. No one had described or named the new language at Fort George. The first record of Wawa was among the mixed race families of Vancouver. Their schoolteacher made the earliest wordlist; Sunday School was conducted in Wawa. The Governor, his officers and workers used it among the thirty-five ethnic groups in multicultural Vancouver. Priests reached Vancouver and compiled the first dictionary. They noted the fathers spoke French, but mothers and children spoke only Wawa. And people who came to Vancouver for trade spread it widely. Aboriginal eyewitnesses confirmed the language arose from the Hudson Bay Company milieu. The 1849 Border Treaty shocked all; it gave away Columbia to the United States. Governor James Douglas led a caravan to his new capital, Victoria The US waged a dozen wars against native people, annulled their mixed marriages and banned black and Hawaiian people. Many went north and established a new Vancouver and a new… Read More »Can You Speak British Columbian?

Can You Speak British Columbian?