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Jemmy Jock Bird (James Bird Jr.) interpreter

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  • Jemmy Jock Bird (James Bird Jr.) interpreter


    James Bird Jr. (1798-1892), also known as “Jemmy Jock Bird,” “Jimmy Joke Bird”, “Jamey Jock Bird,” and many variations in between, was a man of many languages. Bird spoke at least seven: Cree, Stoney, Sarcee, Blackfoot, French, as well as the English he had learned from his father. Even at his death at an advanced age, Bird’s English still had a “lingering echo” of an English Middlesex accent. During his long life, he interpreted for the Hudson’s Bay Company, the American Fur Company, Christian missionaries, and even at treaty negotiations both north and south of the 49th parallel. Bird made his living mediating between not just language groups but between cultures: an essential role in the pluralistic society of nineteenth-century Fort Edmonton.

    ...These documents give the misleading impression that English was a widely spoken language in the Saskatchewan District at this time. This was not so. The artist Paul Kane complained in his description of Christmas dinner at Fort Edmonton in 1847 that he could only understand a handful of people at the head table: the only ones who could speak English. Cree, Blackfoot, French, Gaelic, and various First Nations languages were far more commonly heard than English along the North Saskatchewan River. To do business at Fort Edmonton and beyond, one needed..."
    BIRD, JAMES (also known as Jimmy Jock), fur trader, hunter, interpreter, and guide; b. c. 1798 probably at Carlton House (near Fort-à-la-Corne, Sask.), third son of James Bird* and his Cree wife, probably named Mary; he had several wives and at least 11 children; d. 11 Dec. 1892 on the Blackfeet Reservation, Mont.
    Last edited by KC; 27-03-2016, 09:05 AM.