Language

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.