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

bob rock bobrockproductions at INET2000.COM
Fri Mar 5 21:14:39 UTC 1999

Tansi Mike and Dave and All:

This is truly a great forum and exchange of ideas.  Being so new to the
list...I wasn't sure of the extent and nature of the topics under
discussion here so I am happy to hear our conversation (between Mike and
I primarily...but others as well) "makes you happy."

> At 07:40 PM 3/4/99 -0800, David Robertson wrote:
> >Klahowyam,
> >
> >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?

The Metis patois varied both culturally and geographically according to
the proximity of the Metis to the linguistic Indian group in question.
Gabriel Dumont--my Great-Great Uncle (my Great-Great Grandfather, Moise
Ouellette was marreid to Gabriel's sister, Elizabeth)--it is still
recounted around these parts, had a slightly different accent and
vocabulary than some of the other mainly Cree-speaking Michif speakers
around here because of his Sarcee relations and linguuistic connections
from further west.

> >
> >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?

Around these parts, Batoche-St. Louis-Duck Lake--the Michif spoken (or
previously spoken, as the great English tidal wave continues to
overwhelm other tongues), is primarily Cree-related (i.e. Swampy Cree
from the Beardy's and Okemasis Reserves; and Plains Cree from the One
Arrow Reserve)

> 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).

Initially yes (as far asthe French-speaking community comment is
concerned), especially as long as the fur-trade, the exploration and the
initial settlement of Canada continued to develop in an east-west
manner.  But, more and more, as the English and the Hudson's Bay Company
began their inroads into the fur-trade via the Hudson's Bay route...more
and more English and especially Scottish words began making their way
into the Michif language (of course, once again, it was very much
hinging on the "balance of power" and "balance of economics" in a given

For instance, both my paternal and maternal ancestors are from the Red
River Settlement...the Bremners, the Ouellettes and the Dumonts and the
Bouchers were all instrumental in injecting my "Metisness" in this
fragile vessel that is me.  My uncle Josie Bremner spoke French, Michif,
Cree and he still had a slight "Scottish" accent to his spoken
English...consequently, his brand of Michif, would be sprinkled with
certain Scottish words and references.  He loved haggis and he loved his
Scoch (mon medcine--he'd call it).  I just mention all of the above to
try and relate the complexities involved in trying to decipher the
"Frenchness" or the "Englishness" or the "Creeness" of the overall
umbrella Michif language.

And to complicate matters further...there was a great influx of French
from France people to the Domremy, St. Isadore de Bellevue, St. Louis
and Duck Lake the local Michif around Batoche, St. Louis and
area...tended to take on a very "French from France" lilt and vocabulary
for a while there.

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.

The Michif word for buffalo (according to Laverdure and Allard) is "li
bufloo, li bofloo".  The Michif word for York boat--I don't know.

> >
> >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
> dictionaries......
> >
> >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?

I don't know the word for leggings---probably along the line of "li

> Mike
> Mike Cleven
> ironmtn at
> The thunderbolt steers all things.
>                            - Herakleitos

All the best folks,
Talk to you later,
Bob Rock

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