Red River Dialect

Bungi (The Red River Dialect)

Red River Dialect is a name that I took as the mantle for my songs in 2005. At the time I had an emerging interest in anti-colonial politics and postcolonial history, and I found this name in a book about the subjugation and colonisation of North America by white Europeans. ‘The Red River Dialect’ is an alternative name for Bungi, a dialect of the Red River Métis people in Manitoba, Canada, who trace their descent to First Nations peoples and European settlers. Bungi is a creole language of English (Scottish dialect), Scots (Orcadian dialect), Scottish Gaelic, Cree and Ojibwe.

The Orcadian and Gaelic influence is due to the fact that the white male settlers hired by the Hudson Bay Company were sourced primarily from the Orkneys, an archipelago to the north of the Scottish mainland. These white settlers took First Nations women as wives, and this accounts for the presence of Cree and Ojibwe vocabulary. When I took this name, I did so out of interest, not realising that in some ways I was replicating the colonialist method and what is called ‘discursive violence’: taking what is desired, marrying my music to a name that was not mine, and contributing to the obscuration and disappearance of the colonised culture.

Should you have arrived at this page looking for resources on Bungi, or indeed looking for our songs, I hope that the resources below may be of use and interest. It is said that this dialect may now be spoken by less than 100 elder Métis.

David Morris

Resources

A one page summary of the characteristics and origins of the dialect, with an extensive reading and resource list. Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell, Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research for the Louis Riel Institute. https://www.scribd.com/document/45214267/Bungee-Bungi-Bungay-Language

Eleanor M. Blain’s MA thesis ‘The Bungee Dialect of the Red River Settlement’ (Universty of Manitoba, 1989) is described by Barkwell as ‘the only major academic study of the Bungee language’. https://mspace.lib.umanitoba.ca/handle/1993/3572