Chinook Jargon Phrasebook

Kahta Mamook Kopa Chinook Wawa - How to speak Chinook

Fun & Games

Potlatch - a feast, a gift-giving, generally very elaborate but can also mean a small gathering.  Also the verb for "to give".
The lore of the great potlatch is too elaborate to delve into here, but suffice to say that the institution was the centrepiece of the Northwest economy, society, and culture and could involve days of eating, dancing, and singing, in addition to the gift-giving.  Although it would also be used to describe one of the great feasts, potlatch is also the jargon verb for "give".

Lahal, slahal - a native gambling and social game common throughout the Northwest Coast and Plateau.
Involves bluffing and sleight-of-hand in a fashion similar to the "shell game", although using sticks and bone-pieces. Not necessarily a gambling game, but betting is widespread and often feverish. Like the potlatch, it was banned for many years in Canada as were most native social activities.  It is still widely played in the Chilcotin region and variants are known throughout the tribes of the Plateau and Columbia Basin.

Itlokum - the game of "hand".
Something like "scissors, paper, rock".

Tanse - dance.
Used more to refer to British-American folk/country dancing, which was popular among natives, as opposed to traditional native dances.

Shantie - sing.
Note that this word's origins are both from the French "chanter" and the English "shanty", and seems to have been introduced to Chinook both via the voyageurs and the crews of the fur trade ships.

Laball, laboul - ball, a ball game
i.e. soccer-style football, rather than stickball or baseball.  Both soccer and baseball are extremely popular with native peoples throughout the region, especially the dry Interior.

Heehee - laugh, laughter

Pukpuk - blow with a fist, fight, brawl.
The English word "box" would have been used to refer to the sport of pugilistics, i.e. any "organized" fight.

Big Hiyu - literally "the big many" - a large public gathering, a big party.
Not strictly speaking a jargon phrase, but using a jargon word.  The Big Hiyu was Lillooet's annual gathering, also known as "the July", spanning the Canadian and American national holidays from the 1st to the 4th of July.  During this extended "weekend", miners, cowboys, and natives in large numbers gathered on Lillooet's Main Street for horse races, gambling, and copious drinking.  The term was also used in other Interior towns for large holiday gatherings, and can still refer to a big party, as at one time did hiyu tillikumsSkookum hiyu, on the other hand, would refer to an extremely large number of anything.


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Chinook-English reference (by category)
Kamloops Wawa Word List - NEW
Jim Holton's Chinook Jargon Book (draft)
George Lang's Chinook Jargon Website
Dakelh (Carrier) Chinook Jargon Website
Jeff Kopp's Chinook Wawa Website
Duane Pasco's Tenas Wawa On-Line
Chinook Night Before Christmas
Chinook Lord's Prayer & Hymns

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