Chinook Wawa

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Tillikum


[TIL'-i-kum] or [TIL'-LI-kum] —  noun.

Meaning: Person; people; relative; relation; kin; friend; ally; associate; folk; tribe; nation; population;  

Origin: Chinook  tilikhum  people

Commonly spelt “tillicum”, and sometimes pluralized in the english style as ‘tillikums”, the word means means “person” or “people,” and often has the connotation of a friend or relative, but has also come to signify a friend or ally. It usually means those who are not a “tyee” (chief), but rather common people, and can refer to any people, and can be used to signify one’s social group, band, tribe, or even nation.

It can be used to describe one’s "ahnkuttie tillikums" (ancestors), “cultus tilikum” (ordinary people; insignificant people; nobodies), or just "konaway tillikum" (everyone, everybody), be it "nesika tillikums" (our people) or "yaka tillikum" (their people).

“Klahowya tillikum” (Hello, people; greetings, my friends/family) is a standard greeting in Chinook Wawa, and serves as a good way to address "huloima tillikum" (strangers, different people from our people) which one might encounter in a large "hiyu tillikum" (a crowd; a gathering). And of course celebrating a "ahnkuttie tillikum yiem wawa" (tradition) with friends and family also makes for a good time.

Spelled either as tillicum or tillikum, it is a common place name in Cascadia; Tillicum Centre is a shopping mall along Tillicum Road in Victoria, BC, and a Tillicum Street in both Seattle and Vancouver.  Tilikum Crossing is a bridge in Portland, Oregon, while Tillicum station is a planned commuter rail station in Lakewood, WA. Tillicum Village on Blake Island, accessible from Seattle by ferry, offers a Cascadian First Nation’s equivalent of a luau, complete with a stage show, for the hungry tourist. Blake Island is believed to be the birthplace of Chief Si'ahl.


Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Tyee


[ty-EE' ] or [tahy-EE]  — Noun, Adjective.

Origin: Nuu-chah-nulth  ta-yi  "elder", "brother", "senior"; allegedly resembles Inuktitut toyom "chief"

Meaning: A chief; leader; a superior; a boss; an officer; a master; a gentleman; a foreman; a manager; an important person; superior; best; important

Occasionally spelled tyhee in some place names, and as tayi in older publications, tyee is one of the most commonly used and wide-spread words in Chinook Wawa. Originally used to only describe a chief, it would later be applied to any anyone or anything in a leadership position, as seen in “tyee lamel” (boss mule), “klootchman tyee” (a matron), or "Tyee kopa Washington" (the president of the United States). The title of  “Sagalie Tyee” is usually translated as "Great Spirit" or "God" but literally means "chief above".

The title of “hyas tyee” (Great Chief, King) was traditionally used by Maquinna and Wickanninish, the two principal chiefs of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation at the time explorers Vancouver and Bodega y Quadra made contact.This was also the title of the famous chiefs Khatsahlahno (of the Squamish) and Cumshewa (of the Haida), etc. and also of the British king or local governor. In later years, it could also mean a high company or government official or chief military officer. Today the title of “hyas tyee” could be applied to a senator, a longtime MP or MLA, or a business magnate with a strong local powerbase, long-time connections, and wealth from and because of the area.

The title “Hyas Klootchman Tyee” (Great Woman Ruler) translates roughly to "Her Majesty", and was  used to refer to Queen Victoria in public proclamations during her reign. In theory, this title also applies to Queen Elizabeth II but it is no longer used by the BC government.


Occasionally it could be used as an adjective, as seen in  "kahkwa tyee" (kingly; like a king), or "tyee salmon" (king salmon), a term still used today in the Campbell River-Johnstone Strait region to refer to a large spring Chinook salmon of extraordinary size, usually anything weighing more than 13.5 kg (29.76 lbs).


Tyee is an extremely common name for places and businesses, with the spelling Tyhee occasionally showing up in Idaho and some parts of British Columbia. Tyee Drive is located on Point Roberts, while there is a Tyee Court in Vancouver, BC and a Tyee Road in Victoria, BC. Tyhee Elementary School is located in Bannock, ID, while Tyee Middle School and Tyee High School are located in Washington. The Tyee Restaurant and Motel, established in 1926, is located in Coupeville, WA, while Oregon has Tyee Camp, along with Tyee Wine Cellars and Tyee Lodge, just to name a few.


There is a popular BC news site named The Tyee, and beginning in 1900, Tyee was also the title of the University of Washington Yearbook.

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Cosho


[ko'-SHO] or [KU'-shu] — noun.

Meaning: Hog; pig; swine; pork; ham; bacon.

Origin: French, le cochon, ‘pig’

“Oink, oink indeed,” said the Harbor Seal.

“Oink, oink indeed,” said the Harbor Seal.

Sometimes rendered as gosho, legosho, or lecosho in older sources, “cosho” (with the accent on second syllable) was a French loanword used to mean pig or swine, but by context can be said to refer to the meat of the animal, though if one wanted to specify they could say "cosho itlwillie" (hog meat; pork). Variants included  "klootchman cosho" (sow pig), “tenas cosho” (piglet), and "cosho glease" (lard).

The word was also use in “siwash cosho” (aboriginal pig) used to refer to the meat of a seal, being somewhat similar in appearance, if not in taste, to that of swine,  and was as much a staple of coastal First Nation life as pork was to the British or the Americans. It's worth noting that this expression was purely a jargon creation, and an equally prevalent word used throughout the region was “olehiyu” (seal), which was of Chinookan origin.

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Delate


[de-LATEY'] or [de-LEYT'] — adjective, adverb.

Meaning: Physically straight, direct, true, truly, exact, definite, definitely, sincere, sincerely, sure, authentic; accurate; without equivocation; without hesitation.

Origin: Either a corruption of English, straight; or Norman French drette > standard French droite ‘right’, both the directional and legal senses.

Often used to mean "very" or "truly", delate makes a statement positive and removes any element of doubt; "Delate nika wawa" (I am speaking the truth) or "delate kwinnum cole ahnkuttie" (exactly five years ago) illustrate that anything ‘delate” is the genuine article.

It can emphasize an affirmative, such as in “delate klosheh” (very good; right on), "okoke delate" (that is right; it is correct), “nawitka, delate kloshe” (yes, perfect), and "delate hyas kloshe" (majestic; magnificent; awe-inspiring), or can also emphasize a negation, such as "wake delate" (not right; imperfect).

It can be used in the directional sense, such as "klatawa delate" (to go straight ahead), or when describing size, as seen in "delate hyas" (very big indeed; enormous; immense). It can emphasize an exact time, such as "delate tenas sun" (dawn; daybreak), or state that in a legal sense that one is "delate yaka illahee" (a native of a country).

And of course all important baking instructions, ranging from “delate tenas" (just a little) to "delate pahtl" (full to the brim; chock full).

It can be used to say "delate nika sick tumtum" (I am very sorry), or tell someone that something is “delate ticky” (really necessary). If one is "delate yaka kumtuks" (an expert) and can "delate kumtuks" (know for a certainty; sure, to prove) "delate wawa" (the truth; a promise; a fact), then it is easy to "wawa delate" (speak the truth; speak correctly).

This Delate Road is located just outside of Poulsbo, Washington, across from Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula. There are many roads and streets with Chinook Wawa names in Cascadia.

This Delate Road is located just outside of Poulsbo, Washington, across from Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula. There are many roads and streets with Chinook Wawa names in Cascadia.

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: 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


[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


[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: 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


[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


[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


[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.

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Opitsah


[o'-pit'-sah] — noun.

Meaning: A knife; dagger; razor; something sharp

Origin: Chinook óptsakh "a knife"

Illustrating the flexibility and poetic nature of the Jargon, the word for knife forms the bases of many other words and terms within Chinook Wawa. While a fork was sometimes called “lapooshet”, it was usually addressed as “opitsah yakka sikhs” (the knife's friend) or “opitsah yaka tillikum” (the friend of the knife), an expression also used to mean "beloved" or "sweetheart" in the sense that love "cuts to the heart", or that "every knife has its fork". In a more general sense, it also refers to the fact that a woodsman survives by his knife, therefore his “opitsah sikhs” ("knife-friend") is someone he can't live without, be it partner, best friend, or lover.

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Snass


[snas] or [snaws] — noun.

Meaning: Rain.

Origin: Chinook Jargon; From unknown origin, likely a manufactured onomatopoeia.

A highly expressive word for rain, "snass" is said to have rhymed with “moss”, and is the foundation for many Chinook Wawa words and expression regarding meteorological activity. One can inform another that it is currently raining by saying "snass chako", or say "tomollah snass" (rain tomorrow) if it is expected in the near future. A light rain shower outside is called  "tenas snass", while while a drop in temperature might bring "kull snass" (ice) or even "cole snass" (snow; hail). Occasionally the word "makah" would be used for both rain and snow, though this appears to be a local variant, possibly derived from the name of the Makah First Nation which makes their home on the western tip of the Olympic Peninsula. The expression for "storm" was a little more fluid, with a rain storm being referred to as "hiyu snass" or "mesachie snass", or occasionally "tamanass makah", though wind storms would be addressed as "tamanass wind" or "mesachie wind".

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Mahsie


[MAH-sie] — verb.

Meaning: Thanks, thank you, thankful.

Origin: French, merci  thank you.

Sometimes rendered as ‘masi’, ‘mausie’ and even as “masiem”, the world was adopted from French as a way of saying ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you”, or to show that one is ‘thankful’, "wawa mahsie" ( to give thanks, to praise), “kloshe nesika mahsie kopa Saghalie Tyee" (let us pray to God), and "mahsie kopa Saghalie Tyee" (the Doxology). However,  unlike French, the accent is placed on the first syllable when pronouncing the word in Chinook Wawa.

As in many languages, there is evidence in Chinook Wawa of calque, a process wherein the components of a word or phrase from one language is translated into another, preserving the direct meaning even if original source words become lost. This is evident in the expression “hayas mahsie” (thank you very much), an approximation of the French “grand merci”, both cases literally meaning ‘big thanks’.

The word saw the most use in northern British Columbia and the Yukon, and is still used in broadcast English in those areas.

Although Cascadia was never part of the French colonial claims in North America, and only one or two French ships ever visited the outer coast during the early fur trade era (the explorer-scientist La Perouse being the most significant), the French language was the main outside influence on the development of the jargon until the widespread influx of English-speaking Americans and British from the 1830s onwards. The cause of this was the important role played in the regional economy by the French-speaking Métis employees of the fur companies, including the Boston-owned Astoria Company.  The Métis voyageurs were the main contact the companies had with their native suppliers and customers, and many key words of the jargon were adapted from the patois spoken by these intrepid travelers and woodsmen. The French borrowings were more widespread in the more northerly reaches of the jargon's territory, and in other areas where the voyageurs played a prominent role (including the Lower Columbia fur trade forts).


Demonstrating Cascadia Decolonization - Recognizing Indigenous History

Demonstrating Cascadia Decolonization - Recognizing Indigenous History

In this brief essay, contributor Trevor Owen outlines a decolonization strategy he learned while living in Australia. The practice of starting meetings down under with a “Welcome to Country” intro and sometimes presentation shifts the focus towards indigenous power and place.