Sources of CJ recorded in the Inland NW/NEW TO THIS LIST

Mike Cleven ironmtn at BIGFOOT.COM
Fri Mar 5 09:13:22 UTC 1999

At 07:40 PM 3/4/99 -0800, David Robertson wrote:
>and to Bob:  Aaniin tansi bozho (sorry if I'm not saying that well).
>Your conversation with Mike here makes me happy.  Good to see the subject
>of to what extent, and in what way, the voyageurs who contributed French
>nouns to Chinook Wawa "were Metis".
>Was there (at least one) Metis French patois being commonly spoken in the
>19th century, as well as or instead of Michif?
>I often see quotes in old sources of voyageurs speaking to each other in
>French, and singing in French -- But is that just the stuff that their
>non-Metis fellow travelers could understand?  Was there also Cree or
>other related languages mixed in?

I'm sure Bob will back me up on this - that the Metis were and are a
French-speaking community, at least according to the historic definition of
Metis (rather than the new legalistic one).  I have no idea how much Michif
or French were spoken relatively to each other; that's an interesting
subject that it'll be good to hear any info Bob has on it.  Metis French is
an old branch of the French language in North America, and is distinct from
Quebecois as much as Acadien or Ontarien or Manitobaine is; I don't think
it's spoken as much nowadays, though, as English is pretty much the only
intercommunal language in western Canada's land of multi-ethnicity.  I know
franco-manitobaines in the Red River Valley (s. of Winnipeg) still speak
French at home and at the local store, but they're mostly a different
element historically distinct from the Metis, who have been in the West
much longer and have a separate history.  Most Americans, on the other
hand, don't know that the song "Red River Valley" concerns the Metis and
the Selkirk colonists' displacement with the drawing of the British-US
border in the early 19th Century.  The slow rhythm of this song emulates
the clacking of the chick-chick; which raises an interesting question - the
Metis French or Michif name for the Red River Cart, the giant wagon that
typifies early Prairie life as much as the canoe and the York boat?  Also,
what were the Michif/Metis French words for buffalo?  the York boat? etc.
>Regarding Petit Jean, it would be good to know the origin of a surname
>"Littlejohn" which is fairly common in the Northwest USA.
>Regarding Chinook Jargon "lasanjel", is it correct to assume that this
>comes from "la ceinture"?

I don't think so; the phonemic transition from French isn't all that
evident; was this Gibbs' or Shaws' attribution?  "Lashantsoo" would be more
like a Wawa version of "la ceinture".  Lasanjel could be from a Plains or
Midwestern native language, I suppose, if it's not actually French in
origin.  I'll have to ask some of my French friends if there's an archaic
name for an item of clothing that wouldn't be in modern French

>Regarding characteristic voyageur clothing, what an excellent subject to
>look into as a defining parameter on terms coming from "French" into
>Chinook Jargon.  In plainer words :-), what did those guys wear, and what
>were the words for those items?
>And so on...

IIRC there was another word than skin shoes for moccasins; was it
lamacassin?  And the word for leggings?


Mike Cleven
ironmtn at

The thunderbolt steers all things.
                           - Herakleitos

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