beboots: (Canada "discovery" history)
[personal profile] beboots
 I actually spent a ridiculous amount of time today working on my History of Translation paper. I'm planning on writing about Métis translators and the numbered treaties in the 1870s.

(Quick, for those not in the know: the Métis are the "children of the fur trade". They were also called "half-breeds", the bois brulés AKA the... burnt wood? All right, it sounds cooler in French. They're the children of Euro-Canadian fur traders - generally Canadien (AKA French speaking Canadians) or Scottish, but there were a few Norwegians and others thrown into the mix - and native (generally Cree or Chipewyan, but always other tribes) mothers. They generally spoke the languages of both parents, and took pride in knowing as many languages as possible. They are also awesome.)

Anyway, in my research I've run across a few interesting passages that I thought I'd share with you all. If you would like to know which book or article I pulled the quote from, please feel free to ask! I have a giant document with them all properly cited. :)

“The painter Paul Kane visited Fort Edmonton in December 1847." He attended a Christmas party at the fort, and described the scene:
". . . half-breeds glittering in every ornament they could lay their hands on; whether civilized or savage, all were laughing, and jabbering in as many different languages as there were styles of dress. English, however, was little used, as none could speak it but those who sat at the dinner-table."
I was really happy to find this quote because I had heard while working at Fort Edmonton that the English language wouldn't get you very far in fur trade society, and I was pleased to find a passage detaining precisely this fact! Scottish fur traders, if they were planning on staying for more than their first five year contract, often learned Cree and other native languages. I really want to hear Cree spoken with a Gaelic accent. I'm sure it sounds... interesting.

“…John McDougall, a Methodist missionary who had learned Cree. He found it ‘easier. . . to speak in Cree than in English’ in the 1860s. He remembers a meeting with a Métis at the Assiniboine River around 1870. When asked for directions, this man ‘began his reply in Cree, then went into broken English, and was bringing in some French when I quietly interjected an inquiry if he could speak Cree. He laughingly apologized and then became intelligible.'”
This may be one of the earlier examples of Michif, the Métis language, which essentially amounts to the most tricky parts of Cree grammar and verbs mixed liberally with French vocabulary and the occasional random English word for variety. I've put a graphic novel on hold from the library entitled "Stories of our people = Lii zistwayr di la naasyoon di Michif" That last bit looks completely unintelligible unless you understand French and say it out loud when you realize that it's really an alternate way of saying "Les histoires de la nation des Michif"  - the stories/history of the nation of the Michif/Metis. There was also a children's book aimed at teaching the alphabet called "Lii yiiboo nayaapiwak lii swer : l'alfabet di Michif = Owls see clearly at night" The first part is derived from "Les hibous [Cree verb for see clearly] les soirs".

If you're interested in learning more about Michif, check out this video in which two Métis elders have a demonstration conversation in Michif, or this one in which they discuss supper. In tone and rhythm it sounds so very Cree, but if you listen closely, you can pick out French vocabulary, especially nouns. In this one, listen closely and you'll pick out "mes enfants", "les tomates", "une assiette" and other pieces of French vocab. But in so many other ways the Cree influence shows through very strongly.

“Alexander Ross also describes a skirmish between a group of Métis and a group of the newly arrived Selkirk settlers in 1812. . . : ‘The settlement of this contract between parties ignorant of each other’s language, furnished a scene as curious as it was interesting: the language employed on one side being Gaelic and broken English, on the other, an Indian jargon and mongrel French, with a mixture of signs and gestures, wry faces, and grim countenances.’”

Interesting note on the voyageurs:
“One measure of distance on land, for instance, was la pipe. This measure originated with the paddlers’ habit of pausing when their pipes became empty after they had gone a certain distance, so that a time measure on water became a distance measure on land.”

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT:
While researching for my honour's thesis yesterday in "Resources of the Southern Fields" (pub. 1862), I ran across what essentially amounted to a Civil War recipe for root beer. See page 353. Beware, though, because the recipe's main ingredient, besides molasses, is sassafras, which can apparently damage the liver in large doses. Makes it more beer-like, I suppose?

Non sequitur #2:
This message is brought to you by: my new laptop! The screen of my loyal, three-year-old one was getting glitchy (goes pixellated without warning), overheats a LOT, and has frozen alarmingly on several occasions. I'd been meaning to get a new computer for a few months, but I suddenly realized that if it crapped out on me at the worst time - like, say, this week or the next, right before everything is due - I will be totally screwed. Hence, the new computer. Backing up my files = also very good. Friendly reminder to anybody reading this: have YOU backed up your important documents recently? If not, DO SO NOW. 

While the shift key on the left, the one I actually use, is ridiculously small on this keyboard compared to my old one, making me frequently go \\\ instead of making a capital letter, it does have one distinct advantage: a number pad. I'm really bad for aiming for the numbers that line above the letters, which is bad given my propensity for typing up random dates. 1877 is just as liable to by typed as 2088 by accident. BIG difference. ;) BUT the number pad is amazing for another reason: shortcut keys. Now I don't have to go and change my keyboard to "French" every time I want to write the accented "E" in Métis: I just go alt+130. As a French immersion student, I learned ALL of the shortcut keys for common French letters, including the ç in Français, so I hardly slow down. Unfortunately, the number pad shortcuts only work with, well, the number pad. I've been struggling whenever I have to write a French word, or even the word café. BUT NO MORE.

On a final note, I've also been preparing the powerpoint slides for my presentation at the upcoming History of Medicine Day conference. I will share them at a later date, when I actually have a significant amount of spare time to do stuff besides schoolwork. (Conveniently ignore what I'm doing now. I'm taking a break after working for over 9 hours on homework today. My brain is melting out of my ears.)
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