Chinook Trading Language

Chinook was essential to know during the gold rush years. Chinook was the trading language that was used throughout the colony of British Columbia. There were several First Nations languages and Chinook was used between tribes and as well it was adapted by fur traders working for the Hudson’s Bay Company who added their own French influenced words.

When the Fraser River gold rush was declared, it was common to hear the expression: Hiyou Chickamen – meaning plenty of gold. Hiyou – plenty Chickamen – gold

Several guides were published that had handy Chinook expressions for gold miners such as the following:

I want to buy a canoe with four paddles  Nika tikke mokook kanim pe locket issick
Very good Closhe
What is your price? Konsick dollar mika tikke?
Thirty dollars Klone totilum dollar
No sir, I’ll give you $20 Wake six, nika marsh copa mika mox totilum dollar
I don’t know; I’ll see Klonass, nika nanitch
Will you find three more paddlers and go with us to work canoe up Frazer River to the gold land?
Mika klapp klone alloyama siwashe pe klatawa copa nesika mammook kanim sockally Frazer river copa gole ilahe?
Yes, that’s my mind, if there is plenty of gold
Nowitka, coqua nika tum tum spose mika marsh hiyou chickamen

Note: early maps and documents used the spelling ‘Frazer’ – it wasn’t until the mid 1860s that ‘Fraser’ became the norm.