Alex DeVeiteo

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Hyak

HYAK

[HY'-ak] — adverb.

Meaning: Swift; fast; quick; hurry; make haste

Origin: Chinook ai-ak

Used to denote speed, urgency, or even frequency, as seen in “hyak hyak” (so often) or “hyak kilapi” (return quickly), and could even be used as an imperative simply meaning “Hurry!” or “Hurry up!”

The word is also used for the name of the Hyack Festival held on Victoria Day weekend in New Westminster, BC, distinguished by the Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery Salute, a tradition created by The New Westminster Fire Department — known as “The Hyacks" — in 1870 as a surrogate for the royal 21-gun salute usually performed on the Queen's Birthday. With no cannons available in the early colony, the Fire Department improvised by placing gunpowder between two anvils, the top one upturned, and igniting the charge from a safe distance, hurling the upper anvil into the air.

This celebration continues today as an important civic tradition, lending the city the distinction of having the longest-running May Day celebration of its type in the British Commonwealth. Within B.C., at least four other communities still celebrate May Day: Port Coquitlam, Ladner in Delta (whose May Day Festival began in 1896), Bradner in Abbotsford, and The Sunshine Coast's Pender Harbour.

There did exist an interesting regional variant of Chinook Wawa; in the Fraser Canyon "holaporte" was heard to mean "hurry!". It comes from "all aboard", a cry uttered from many of the steamboats which piloted the Fraser River in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Chuck

CHUCK

[chuhk] or [tsuk] — noun.

Meaning: water; liquid; river; stream

Origin: Nuu-chah-nulth chauk, chahak; Chinook, tltsuk; Clatsop, tl'chukw, fresh water

Used to refer to any fluid or body of water, such as "cooley chuck" (river), “tenaschuck” (lake; pond), "sagalie chuck" (holy water; magical potion; hot spring), and "cultus chuck" (alkali water; poison).

Perhaps the most widely used variant was "skookumchuck" (whitewater rapids), a compound word literally meaning "strong water" that is found in many place names throughout Cascadia.

There was also "saltchuck", which referred to salt water or the ocean as a whole. The word was also used as part of a number of  related marine descriptors, such as "solleks chuck" (a rough sea), “chuck chako” (incoming tide), “chuck kilapi” (outgoing tide), "saghilli chuck" (high tide) and "keekwillie chuck" (low tide).


Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Tenas

TENAS

[TEN'-as]  — adjective.   [ten'-AS] or [dun'-US] — noun.

Meaning: Small; few; little; lesser; weak; young;  a child; a youth

Origin: Nuu-chah-nulth tanassie; Toquaht tenas, “child”

Opposite of skookum, hyas, and hiyu in differing contexts, tenas often occurs in place names in northern Cascadia, as at Tenass Lake, just north of Pemberton, BC.  In the Lower Columbia and Grand Ronde Chinuk-Wawa, the distinction between ten'-as and dun'-us (not GR spellings, just approximations of pronunciations) is between ‘small/little’ and ‘child/young’.

In some usages, “tenas” means ‘child’, as in “mokst nika tenas” (I have two children) and is used to describe youths as either “klootchman tenas” (girl; young woman)  or “tenas man” (boy; young man), but these terms could be used in some cases to mean ‘daughter’ and ‘son’ respectively. These titles were also extended to describe a "tenas yaka tenas" (grandchild), like a “tenas yaka tenas klootchman" (granddaughter) or a “tenas yaka tenas man” (grandson). It was also extend to mean the young of any living creature, such as “tenas puss-puss” (kitten).

The word can be used to describe the "hyas tenas" (very small) version of something, as evident in "tenas house" (hut), “tenas labal” (bullet) and “tenas lop” (string; cord), or can denote quantity, as in  “tenas hyiu” (a few), "tenas weght" (a little more), or “tenas sitkum” (small half) which is used to describe a quarter or 25% of something. Man, those tickets were amazingly "tenas mahkook" (cheap; inexpensive)! You could say that the discount really caused the price to “chako tenas" (decrease; diminish), though the expresion "mamook tenas" was another way of expressing the same idea.

Geographic features such as a  “tenaschuck” (lake; pond) or a “tenas saghalie illahee” (hill), seasons like “tenas waum (spring) and “tenas cole” (autumn), times of day such as “tenas sun” (early; early morning) or “tenas polaklie” (evening), or recent events, like “tenas ahnkuttie” (recently; a little while ago), and “tenas laly kimta” (a little while after).

While pushing a "chik-chik kopa tenas" (baby stroller) through the park, one might engaging in “tenas wawa” (small talk) by discussing  weather conditions like a pleasant “tenas wind” (breeze; light wind) or mentioning that "tenas snow chako" (a little snow has come). However, if someone you encounter is “tenas sick” (hung over) they are not likely to be very sociable.


Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Cheechako

CHEECHAKO

[chee-CHAH'-ko] — noun.

Meaning: Newcomer; stranger;  just arrived

Origin: Lower Chinook t'shi ‘straightaway’ + Nuu-chah-nulth chokwaa ‘come!’

A common compound word formed from the Chinook Wawa words  “chee” (new; lately) and “chako” (to come; to arrive), it was an primarily used to refer to a non-native person.

While it can mean ‘stranger’ in some circumstances, cheechako can also mean "tenderfoot", meaning one in need of learning about the land, wildlife, weather, and cultures of the region, although this mild derisive context is later and more regional, being associated with the Klondike gold rush in throughout Alaska, the Yukon and northwestern British Columbia.

One historic example of its use comes from Fairbanks hostess Eva McGown, who is quoted: "I never had any children of my own, but as someone once said, I am the mother of all the cheechakoos."

This word is still in local use in Alaska as slang for a newcomer to the state. As a side note, historically any person who survived at least one winter in Alaska was graduated to the title of “sourdough”, meaning they had become humble as they embraced the lessons that land teaches.


Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Puss-Puss

PUSS-PUSS

[puss'-puss] general, [pish'-pish] Puget Sound — noun.

Meaning: A cat. Also used for cougar, lynx, bobcat, etc.

Origin: English, An informal term of address for a cat. From a common Germanic word for cat, perhaps ultimately imitative of a sound made to get its attention.

While the term for a house cat in ‘standard’ Chinook Wawa was “puss-puss”, occasionally it was shortened to just “pus”, while in some localities along the Puget Sound region it was pronounced “pish-pish”. A young kat was called a “tenas puss-puss” (kitten; kittycat), while "hyas puss-puss" (a cougar; big cat) was used for the mountain lion (Puma concolor couguar), and was even used on the Canadian comedy-drama television series ‘The Beachcombers’. This term could be conceivably used for a lynx or a bobcat, but probably in the context of a large one.

It is worth noting that the St'at'imcets and Nlaka'pamux First Nations of British Columbia used their own word for cougar, “swaawa”.

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Hiyu

HIYU

[hi-YU'] or [hy-IU'] — adjective, noun.

Meaning:  Much; many; lots of; plenty; enough (to go around), abundance.

Origin: Nuu-chah-nulth, iyahish; Toquaht, aiya

Used with reference to quantity and numbers rather than size or degree, the term hiyu is used to describe "many", "several" or "lots of" something,

If one went to a convention or party, one would expect a "hiyu tillikum" (crowd, lots of people, a big party), and likely experience "hiyu wawa" (much talk; clamor). Even if one was “hiyu chee” (entirely new) they would reasonably expect there to be  “hyiu muckamuck” (plenty of food), or at least "kopet hiyu" (enough) for all of the "hiyu tillikums kopa house" (audience; many people in house).

Hiyu can also be modified with other worlds to show lesser degree, such as "tenas hyiu" (some; a few) or "wake hyiu" (not many; not much). Also, though the word “town” was used in Chinook Wawa, it was not uncommon to hear of anything from a village to a city described as “hiyu house”.

While less common nowadays, hiyu is still heard in some places to refer to a big party or gathering of people, as in Lillooet's one-time annual "The Big Hiyu" (also known as "The July"), a week-long joint celebration of Dominion Day and the Glorious Fourth in the Fraser Canyon town of Lillooet, featuring horse races, gambling, a rodeo and other festivities. Of a similar nature, Hi-Yu is a non-profit organization established in 1934 by West Seattle's service clubs to produce a summer festival to promote the West Seattle Community, which celebrates the month of July with the HiYu Summer Festival.

It is worth noting that some historical accounts list the word “hyo” as meaning "ten" in the early Jargon used at Nootka Sound. Some Jargon scholars believe that the words “hyas” and “hiyu” share the same origin and only one or the other may have been known or used in certain areas or periods.


Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Saghalie

SAGHALIE

[SAGH-a-lie] or occasionally [SAH'-ha-lie] — adjective.

Meaning: Up, above, high, heaven, sky, celestial, top, uppermost, over, upwards, holy.

Origin: Chinook, sakhali; Clatsop, ukhshakhali. Up; above; high.

Sometime rendered as ‘sagalie’, ‘sagalee’, ‘saqalie’, and even ‘sahhalie’ or ‘sahali’, this word was usually pronounced as if it were spelled ‘sockalie’ by Euro-Americans, while the indigenous pronunciation was closer to ‘sag-ha-lie , with the ‘g’ sound a guttural deep in the throat rather than an aspirate h.)

An adjective encompassing concepts of upwardness in direction and elevation, saghalie was used to describe action, like "mamook saghalie" (to lift / raise), as well as physical features, such as “saghalie illahee” (mountains or highland), and even natural phenomenon, such as “saghalie chuck” (high tide) or “saghillie piah” (lightning).

Zealous in their search for  converts, early Christian missionaries quickly came to learn that there was no one universal deity among the FIrst Nations. For want of a native term, the evangelists instead coined “Saghalie Tyee“ (Chief Above) as a word of ‘God’ or ‘Great Spirit’, implying a ruler over all. This lead to several other phrases, such as  "Saghalie Tyee Yaka book" (The Bible) and "Saghalie Tyee Yaka wawa" (a sermon or religious talk). Even Jesus Christ was translated as "Saghalie Tyee Yaka tenas" ( God, His Son).

As a result of its use, “saghalie” also came to mean ‘sacred’ and ‘holy’, as seen in “saghalie illahee” (now taken to mean sacred or holy ground, a spirit-place, or a churchyard, but not a graveyard, which is “memaloose illahee”). There were even occasions where “saghalie” would refer to magic of the sacred or ‘pure’ kind, or be used to describe a spirit world or a spiritual state.


Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Hyas

HYAS

[hy-AS']  or [hay-ASH]— adjective, adverb.

Meaning: Big, great, vast, large, auspicious, powerful, important, celebrated, very.

Origin: Possible corruption of Nuu-chah-nulth, iyahish  "many"

While similar in use to the word skookum, hyas generally has connotations of greatness, importance, or auspiciousness rather than outright strength or power.

"Hyas Sunday" was a term for a holiday, like Christmas or Fourth of July, and “hyas mahcook” could mean “a great price” or “something dear”, while “Hyas Tyee” refers to a high chief, a big boss, or even a king. This was also the common title used for the famous chiefs of the early era, such as Maquinna of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation.

The word can also be applied to size, such as “hyas wawa” (to shout), "hyas ahnkutte" (a long time ago), “hyas stick” (big tree/log; big/great woods/forest), or “hyas lamonti” (the high mountains).

One might exclaim "okoke house yaka hyas” (that house, it is large) upon seeing a  "hyas house" (mansion), and it would not be unexpected to find a large "hyas tick-tick” (clock) inside. It could even be duplicated for emphasis, such as in “hyas hyas lamonti” (the deep mountains; remote faraway mountain country).

In addition to its use as a general term for size, hyas could also be used to mean "very" or "very well", in which case it usually comes in front of the word or phrase it is modifying, such as “Hyas tenas” (very small) or "hyas kloshe" (very good), as in "hyas yaka mamook wawa Chinook lalang" (they can speak Chinook very well) or "nika hyas ticky klatawa" (I very much want to go).

The word also appears as “hyas hyas stone illahee, meaning the "greatest and biggest land of stones", or "the great barren high country" in Paul St. Pierre's novella Breaking Smith Quarter Horse. The context of the title is the vast and diverse inland alpine areas of the Coast Mountains, flanking the Chilcotin region of British Columbia where the action of the novella takes place.

The expression ‘High muckamuck’ or “High Mucketymuck’ is a corruption of “hyas muckamuck”, meaning "one who sits at the head table", i.e. an official, a bigshot, or a VIP. In modern blue-collar usage, this word is one of many mildly sarcastic slang terms used to refer to bosses and upper management.

Some scholars of Chinook Wawa believe that the words “hyas” and “hiyu” share the same origin and only one or the other may have been known or used in certain areas or periods.