Notes/questions on words in Hancock list PART ONE

Peter Cawley pcawley at ISLAND.NET
Fri Mar 26 00:44:06 UTC 1999

At 04:56 PM 99/03/24 -0800, Mike Cleven wrote:
>Comments please.

>smenus, shmenus - hill.  Appears on the BC map as the town-name Chemainus;
>doesn't surprise me that it was considered Jargon by whichever source gave
>the word to Hancock; AFAIK it's not Hulqiminum (the language area that
>Chemainus is in).

As there is a Chemainus First Nation around Ladysmith who use the name
"Stzu'minus" on their official newsletter, I was a little suprised to hear
it is not an Hulqiminum word.

Asking around (I do not speak Hulqiminum, or Chinook Jargon), non-First
Nations Colleagues reported hearing from Elders that "Chemainus" derived
from "Stzumenitzs" (and various alternate spellings were thrown in to the
conversation), and either refered to the horsehoe shape of a bay, or the
People Who Live On The Estuary. As this explanation was at least third-hand
and unsatisfactory, I inquired further.

The museum in the town of  Chemainus has a pamphlet that gives the original
word as "Tsa-mee-nis" and meaning "broken chest" (as in body part).

The Ladysmith Branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library cited a
history of Chemainus,  _Water Over The Wheel_   by W. Olsen, which gave the
meaning as "bitten breast". This apparently describes a local hill
resembling the shape of a human figure lying down with a chunk bitten out
-the bite of the shaman-. This gets a little closer to Hancock's "smenus,
shmenus" cited above.

Tomorrow, I hope to get a more informed opinion from a Hulqiminum speaker
who works in the Band Office.

Peter Cawley
pcawley at

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