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.