Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Calling All Canadians

If you live in the Yukon and know what a bakneesh vine looks like, can you contact me?  I’m trying to find out if it’s a real plant or something James Oliver Curwood made up.


Bunnykins said...

Just guessing here, but the Pacific Red Elderberry, aka Sambucus racemosa, looks like a good candidate given its range and hardiness.

Everything I found looking for bakneesh vine ended in what I think are Ukrainian language sites, or maybe Russian or Innu. https://plus.google.com/communities/106626712441872176507/stream/ff842ca3-6fc0-44cc-9573-587eca614690
It wouldn't be unusual to find Ukrainian names or anglicized versions in Canada due to the federal government's recruitment of large numbers of Ukrainian farmers in the late 1800s to settle the empty prairies.

Shay said...

I had a message left me on a western fiction website by a gentleman who says he is translating James Oliver Curwood's books into Ukrainian and was puzzled about references to bakneesh. I thought it might be kinnikinnick.

Bunnykins said...

Well, I'd say the message is right, it's a smoking/ceremonial mixture. The plants mentioned here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinnikinnick) are common and have a wide growth, some varieties which grow in the far north, and most have similar common names (squashberry, bearberry, nannyberry, and the like.)

But, it's also a low growing plant. (go down to the section on pink flowers)

Here's a map of aboriginal lands in the Yukon just so you can see how interesting tracking down a commonly used word in different languages, some with different alphabets.

What I'm trying to remember is where I've heard the word kinnikinnick before. From what I remember, it was a crisp, clipped pronunciation. Hope this helps a bit. What makes sense from the story?

Shay said...

From what I remember, the writer is adding background color and writes something about the bright red bakneesh vine flowers. Curwood and James Hendryx both mentioned it but those are the only literary references I can find.

I have a vague recollection that in the lower 48, kinnikinnick was a name used for something also called Indian tobacco, which may have been a different plant.

This is enough info for the Ukrainian gentleman. I think I'll suggest that he contact someone in the department of the Environment for the Yukon. Surely they have a 1st Nations botanist they can ask?

Bunnykins said...

I'd try these people at the Environment Yukon site: http://www.env.gov.yk.ca/animals-habitat/plants.php

This page has links to pdfs with pictures and info on plants. They're worth a look as the area is very diverse, from woods to what looks like desert.


Anonymous said...

Apparently, reading the descriptions in the books online, it's a vine, the flowers are blue, so presumably the red is leaves or stalks. SO some blue -flowered vine - this one has red stalks at least http://climbers.lsa.umich.edu/?p=446

Anonymous said...

The Honor of the Big Snows - Google Books Result
James Oliver Curwood - 2015 - ‎Fiction
Jan's blood filled with pleasure, and at the bottom of his next letter he wrote back: “I think you have beautiful hair. I love it. ... The changing lights in her eyes fascinated him, and he rejoiced again when he saw that they were deepening into the violet blue of the bakneesh flowers that bloomed on the tops of the ridges.

Shay said...

Thanks, I'll send these on to the Ukrainian gentleman.