About Louis-Napoleon St. Onge’s Chinook Wawa Bible History

Louis-Napoleon St. Onge was born near Montreal in 1842. The Rt. Rev. AM Blanchet brought him to St. James Church in Vancouver Washington, which had been built when Vancouver was still the Capital of the British territory of Columbia. He learned Chinook Wawa there when it was still the center of the language use.

After the US Army Oregon Volunteers burned down St Joseph Mission near Yakima, St. Onge oversaw its revival. Ill health led him to a Quebec hospital where he spent his time working on Chinook Wawa writing. It may have been here that he began compiling his Bible History.

This text was discovered by Chinook Wawa scholar David Robertson in the St Hyacinthe Seminary in Quebec and was likely typed in the 1880/90s. This is one of the most important documents of early Chinook Wawa.

Chinook Wawa has mutated somewhat over time and place and this recording has some pronunciation errors. However, this recording will give a sense of how the language was used grammatically.

According to George Lang, Chinook Wawa had its roots in an earlier Nootka Jargon but achieved its full form in Vancouver on the Columbia River when it was governed by the Honourable Hudson Bay Company State. Governor John McLoughlin married an aboriginal woman and encouraged others in the hybrid company/government to do likewise. Aboriginal people were central to the economy and Chinook Wawa developed to support the family and commercial relationships.

The priest Modeste Demers arrived in the original Vancouver (now in Washington State) in 1838 and was the first to document and learn the language in a systematic way. His aboriginal informants told him that Chinook Wawa had been ‘invented by the Hudson Bay Company’. Given that European settlement had happened within their lifetimes their opinions carry much weight. The Hudson Bay Company is often mis-described as a fur trading company. It was not.

The ‘Honorable Company’ was the legal government in western Canada similar to the East India Company that governed India. They are both ‘Company States and their headquarters were beside each other in London.

In 1849, after the Border Treaty, Governor James Douglas moved his Capital from Vancouver to Victoria and Chinook Wawa spread throughout British Columbia.

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