Mitchif vs. French vs. English

Mike Cleven ironmtn at BIGFOOT.COM
Sat Mar 6 21:18:17 UTC 1999

At 05:03 PM 3/6/99 -0400, The McDonald Family wrote:
>At 12:34 PM 3/6/1999 -0800, you wrote:
>>Anyway, the mixing of peoples and tongues is what brought about the Jargon
>>(and its Michif "cousin") into being, so this to me is on-topic.  It's a
>>pity that there weren't Gaelic and Erse words added to the Jargon's mix,
>>considering the amount of Celt-native intermarriage in the early years......
>Really? That seems rather surprising, considering the prominent role that
>Scots and Irish generally played in the expansion of the British Empire. I
>seem to remember anecdotes about British traders assimilating fairly quickly
>into the pre-existing societies of the Pacific Northwest.

Yes, they did - but none of their ancestral languages did, apparently,
although there was a time at the turn of the century when Vancouver must
have been part Scots-speaking (what I mean is that Scots must have been
spoken in a lot of bars and private saloons).  It's very true that the
British traders (mostly Scots and Irish and some Welsh) assimilated well
into local society for years before the railway, even moreso before the
gold rush.  Nearly all "took wives according to the custom of the country",
that is, in accordance with native law and tradition, and some notable
"half-breed" families resulted (including the "Wild McLean Boys", sons of
famous trader Donald McLean and his Chilcotin wife (Klymtedza? - Terry?).
Governor Douglas' wife was native, and I think even Seymour kept a "country
wife" before importing to the colony his British betrothed.  There was an
article a while back about the tragedy of the "country wives", many of whom
were disowned and disenfranchised as the colony and early province became
"more civilized" and their former mates turned to marry imported wives.
Nearly all the major figures of early Gastown - from Gassy Jack up to the
mill-owners - had native wives, and this is pretty much true elsewhere in
BC until the coming of the railway in the 1880s.

All the main British figures in BC were by and large Scots or Irish (or
Welsh) - even if they were American in character.  "Anglo-Saxon" is a term
bandied about rather loosely to describe "British Canadian" culture, but in
reality it was a Scots-dominated effort with notable contributions by other
Britons, the English less so than the Irish or Welsh; this was apparently
extremely so during the great boom of the '00 decade in Vancouver, which
was said to have more than a passing reference to Glasgow and Edinburgh
because of all its wrought-iron work (afterwards melted down for bullets
for the Great War).  The Gaelic presence in BC remains strong even today
with a large expatriate population; I grew up used to hearing Scottish
burrs and other "imperial" accents within the civil service and education
system and local neighbourhoods in BC (the recent death of the most notable
of BC's Scottish voices, one Jack Webster, duly noted).  Welsh names are so
common as to be mistaken for English ones, also.  So despite the early
mingling of the exiled Brits with the natives, later generations retained
their distinctiveness; although the tradition of the highland games goes
back to the earliest days of the province, and is very much part of the "BC
identity" for many small towns.  One hopes that many of those natives with
Irish or Scottish ancestry did some digging on that side of their "tribal"
heritages.........rather than be ashamed of or negative towards a
part-British ancestry, perhaps.....

Mike Cleven
ironmtn at

The thunderbolt steers all things.
                           - Herakleitos

More information about the Chinook mailing list