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WHAT IS CHINOOK WAWA? Chinook Jargon (also known as chinuk wawa) originated as a pidgin trade language in Cascadia long before the first European explorers arrived, incorporating elements of the Wakashan, Salishan, Athapaskan, and Penutian languages. After contact, many new words were added from French and English.

During the fur trade in the early 19th century,  Chinook Jargon spread from the lower Columbia River, first to other areas in modern Oregon and Washington, then British Columbia and as far as Alaska and the Yukon Territory, quickly becoming the lingua franca of Cascadia. It is related to, but not the same as, the aboriginal language of the Chinook people, upon which much of its vocabulary is based. Modifications were made in pronunciation to suited those accustomed to different sounds, using only those that could be pronounced by all speakers. Grammatical forms were reduced to their simplest expression, and variations in mood and tense conveyed only by adverbs or by the context, thus while the basic vocabulary was small, it was possible to say almost anything with a little patience and imagination. While Chinook Jargon has virtually died out since the 20th century, it lives on in many place names throughout Cascadia, within many indigenous languages, and in some regional English usage, to the point where most people are unaware the word was originally from the Jargon.



As a trade language, Chinook Jargon is by its very nature meant to be usable to people from many different linguistic backgrounds, so naturally there is no “correct” pronunciation. An individual’s pronunciation of a Jargon word was necessarily going to be dependent on that person’s own language and dialect, be it English, French, Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth or even Hawaiian. Further more, all published lexicons were created by English speakers influenced by standard English spelling methods (and, as everyone knows, there is no consistency at all in English spelling). Still, the wide variation in spellings for many words can give a clue to their potential variation in pronunciation, or for a pronunciation that falls “in between” the sounds represented.  Hiyu / hyiu / hyo is one example, and tikegh / tikke / ticky is another.









For sure! / Right on! / Indeed!



Good Day

Kloshe Sun


Hello everybody!

Kloshe Konaway!


How are you?

Kahta maika?


Good, thanks.

Kloshe mahsie


My name is____

Nika nem ____


I’m Cascadian!

Nika Cascadia tilikum!


Take care. (stand guard, watch out, ect.)

Kloshe nanitch.


Do you have a crush on someone?

Maika na iskum kat kopa klaksta?


You make me feel good.  (You make me think good thoughts. / You give me hope.)

Maika mamook naika tumtum kloshe.


Cascadia is where tech and games become the best

Cascadia kah tech pe game chako elip kloshe


While you’re here, could you fix my laptop?

Pe kloshe spose mamook kloshe nika laptop?


All your data belongs to us

Iskum konaway mika data


Green power will help our world

Pechuk-powa elann illahee nah



[o’-pit’-sah] or [up-tsêh] — n.

Origin: Chinook Jargon: A knife; dagger; razor; something sharp < Chinook óptsakh “a knife” (Chinookan languages of Washington and Oregon)


Illustrating the flexibility and poetic nature of Chinook Jargon, the word for knife forms the bases of many other words and terms within Chinook Jargon. 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 backwoodsman survives by his knife, therefore his opitsah sikhs (“knife-friend”) is someone he can’t live without, be it partner, best friend, or lover

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