Chinook: Hiyou Chickamen!


Fraser Canyon, BC

hiyou chickamen!
plenty of gold!
the rallying cry of gold fever
was scarcely told
when the throngs of gold seekers
found themselves in uncharted land
with a new tongue
Chinook they called it
phrases were published
in guidebooks with long titles
Dictionary of Indian Tongues, Containing Most of the Words and Terms Used In The Tshimsean, Hydah & Chinook with their meaning or equivalent in the English Language
passengers wedged themselves between their shovels and gold pans in Coast Salish canim
and held on as they crossed the Strait of Georgia
the paddlers shouted above the crash of the waves of the salt chuck
and prospectors grabbed the bailers made of cedar bark
hoping they would make landfall before it got dark
the paddlers sang their ancient songs, keeping time with their strokes
and scarcely a miner spoke
the majestic rise of the mountains
would later be recorded in their diaries
by nightfall they were at the gates of Fort Langley
grateful none were memaloost
they all knew
at least one story of miners who had drowned
the Hudson’s Bay factor called them cheechakos
green as dense young firs
some thanked the paddlers and called them heroes
they sat down to eat their grub
and some remembered their previous big meal
hiyou muck-a-muck
at night they talked with their tillicums
about where there was hiyou chickamen
or cultus
nothing much

hiyou chickamen – plenty of gold (or other valuable mineral)
canim – canoe
chuck – water
memaloost – dead
cheechakos – newcomers
hiyou muck-a-muck – plenty of food
tillicums – friends
cultus – not much