JULY 17, 1855

TSIMSHIAN ODILLE MORISON BORN–LINGUIST

Born in the Tsimshian village of Lax Kw’alaams, then known as Fort or Port Simpson, Odille was the daughter of a Tsimshian traditional healer & midwife and a French-Canadian worker at the fort.  She grew up speaking English, Tsimshian, French, and the Chinook Jargon trade language.  In 1862, an Anglican missionary founded the utopian Christian community of Metlakatla, in British Columbia.  Odille’s family moved there and she was educated in its mission school.  Odille translated sections of the New Testament and prayer book into the Tsimshian language, Sm’algyax.  Her work became the basis for the first practical spelling system of Tsimshian.  In 1888, anthropologist Franz Boas helped the publication of her article on Tsimshian proverbs for the Journal of American Folk-Lore.  She also gathered for Boas over 140 artifacts displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, including two totem poles.  She died in 1933 in Metlakatla. 

Source:  Atkinson, Maureen L. (2008) "One Sided Conversations: Chapters in the Life of Odille Morison." Unpublished MA thesis, Athabasca, 3/2008.  Retrieved 5/28/2020, Universityhttps://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ce1e/763efd6e429f74eae3ac9e3e5def8a2da171.pdf
Photo:  Hannah Maynard, circa 1880. Public Domain. 

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