Absorbing tid- bits of knowledge during functions, meetings or parties is a workplace perk.. But for today’s luncheon, I would remain clueless to the importance of Chinook Jargon. As a proud British Columbian, it escapes all reason why school aged children don’t learn this chapter in Canadian history. Hard as I ponder; reasons for failing to include Canada’s first language in school curriculum eludes me.
Chinook evolved from the need to communicate; a simple tool consisting of fewer than 500 hundred words – easily mastered by Europeans, Chinese, Japanese and Polynesians. The common language of trade and commerce. A universal tongue in an increasingly multicultural colony.
Chinook jargon was one of those casseroles your Mom plunked on the table – a little of this, a little of that, crush corn flakes or potato chips on top and you had dinner. Somehow it just worked. Chinook took away barriers; people could appreciate similarities rather than differences, learn from one another and developed a sense of community. Chinook Jargon reflected the true meaning of a multicultural society. From the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s, Chinook was spoken by as many as 250,000 people.
Chinook’s march towards obscurity is understandable; the first world war, Spanish Flu epidemic, increased movement of people across the country, and changing attitudes towards “colonial” thinking. What I don’t understand is how I managed to live in B.C. for over 50 years and not hear mention of it until today. Canada is a special place, a place built on principles of acceptance, inclusion and tolerance – regardless of race.
The more I ponder – the angrier I’m getting. Angry is perhaps too strong a word – flabbergasted that we squander one of the most useful and valuable learning tools to cross my path in a very long time – a concept rich on so many levels, an opportunity to teach our kids the value of not only communication but acceptance. Not to forget how amazing it would be for kids to speak to each other at recess in Chinook. Kids would gobble it up -my head spins with possible angles to enrich young lives.
This link is to an article The Tyee is a great place to start thinking Chinook.
“Konoway tillicums klatawa kunamokst klasa mamook okoke huloima chee illahie” – Everyone was thrown together to make this strange new country.