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Chinuk Wawa

Chinuk Wawa is an Indigenous language of the Pacific Northwest

Chinuk Wawa Language Program

The Chinuk Wawa Program at Lane was started in 2006 in collaboration with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community. Together we have built a program that allows students to learn a universal intertribal language of the Pacific Northwest while also learning about the history and culture of Native peoples in this area. For more information, you can continue reading below, or for more information view the recording of a spring 2022 panel discussion about Chinuk Wawa for LCC faculty.

Chinuk Wawa courses meet World Language requirements for admission and graduation in the Oregon University System. With a qualified teacher, high school students can also receive college credits for studying Chinuk Wawa via the College Now program.

 

Fall is the time to begin your Chinuk Wawa studies!

We offer beginning Chinuk Wawa only in fall term.

If you have already learned some Chinuk Wawa, you may be able to join a different course level. Please feel free to reach out a current instructor via email: sheppardb@lanecc.edu

Currently, all classes are live streamed via Zoom, so students can join us from any location.
All students are welcome!

A limited number of non-credit students may enroll in the course at low cost via LCC’s continuing education (CE) program. CE is an alternative way to enroll in the very same classes along with credit students, and the course has the same attendance and homework requirements for credit and CE students. CE enrollment for fall classes will open in September.

 

What is Chinuk Wawa?

Chinuk Wawa has been called the first language of Oregon, and also shawash-wawa, Chinook Jargon, and Chinuk. Historically it was a language of intertribal and intercultural communication, and currently it is being revitalized as the heritage language of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Chinook Indian Nation. Grand Ronde has consistently invested in the revitalization of Chinuk Wawa for decades, including their ongoing support of the Chinuk Wawa Program at LCC. Individuals from tribes throughout the language's historic range and beyond have also contributed and benefited from this unique and important program.

Chinuk Wawa arose along the lower Columbia River from the mouth to The Dalles. It began as a Pidgin – a simple language used for communication between speakers of other languages. Over years it developed into a Creole in several communities – a community language used for all communicative purposes.

At the time European Americans first arrived, 18-25 languages of many different families were spoken (Gross 2007; D. Hymes 2007) in present-day Oregon. The following map shows where the different languages of Oregon were spoken before contact with white settlers.

oregon native languages map

As the lingua franca of the Northwest, Chinuk Wawa served as the language of communication between speakers of different languages in our region – tribal and non-tribal. It was the language of exchange and trade at Celilo Falls and at other sites along the Columbia River, and was also used in all areas west of the Rockies, from Northern California to Alaska.

Chinuk Wawa includes words from several different languages. The following percentages come from Zenk, Johnson, & Hamilton, 2010:

  • 40% Lower Chinook
  • 9% Coast Salish
  • 3% Nuu-chaa-nulth
  • 18% English
  • 17% French
  • 3% Kalapuyan and other Indigenous languages
  • 10% words of mixed or unknown origin

As a creole language, the grammar of Chinuk Wawa is different from some other languages you might have learned in school. You don’t have to add endings to any words. Instead, you use the word order and combination of words to make your meaning clear.

There are many sounds in Chinuk Wawa that are different from English. The sounds of Chinuk Wawa are beautiful, and they are quite similar to those of many other Pacific Northwestern Indigenous languages you might hear or study in the future. 

 

Chinuk Wawa classes

Our Chinuk Wawa program includes six courses, taught over two years.

  • Chinuk Wawa 101 (fall)
  • Chinuk Wawa 102 (winter)
  • Chinuk Wawa 103 (spring)
  • Chinuk Wawa 201 (fall)
  • Chinuk Wawa 202 (winter)
  • Chinuk Wawa 203 (spring)

In Chinuk Wawa class, a cohort of students moves together from one course to the next, learning about both language and culture. The cohorts usually include students from a variety of generations and cultural backgrounds. On Zoom you will practice speaking, listening, and reading with your classmates, sometimes all together and sometimes with partners or small groups. At home you will practice vocabulary, pronunciation, and writing. In the winters you will read Indigenous creation stories in Chinuk Wawa. In the fall and spring terms you will learn to describe yourself, your family, your home, tell stories, and describe images. You will also learn and write about the plants and animals of the Northwest. At the end of the CW203 class, we publish a magazine in Chinuk Wawa created by students.

 

Chinuk Wawa Course Objectives 100 Level

Upon successful completion of this year-long course, students will be able to:

  • Recognize and produce the sounds of Chinuk Wawa.
  • Speak using memorized phrases and everyday expressions, identify familiar objects, hold basic conversations using simple sentences, and give short presentations in Chinuk Wawa.
  • Respond appropriately when listening to words, phrases, sentences, and questions.
  • With help, read both brief and extended texts in Chinuk Wawa.
  • Write Chinuk Wawa words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs with emerging accuracy in spelling and word order conventions.
  • Describe elements of the history and culture of Chinuk Wawa speaking peoples.

 

Chinuk Wawa Course Objectives 200 Level

Upon successful completion of this year-long course, students will be able to:

  • Accurately recognize and produce the sounds of Chinuk Wawa for clear communication
  • Describe the basic grammatical structure of Chinuk Wawa.
  • Use a broad vocabulary in Chinuk Wawa.
  • Converse in Chinuk Wawa with emerging fluency.
  • Read and demonstrate comprehension of extended texts in Chinuk Wawa.
  • Write narrative, descriptive, and opinion texts in Chinuk Wawa.
  • Describe elements of the history and culture of Chinuk Wawa speaking peoples.

 

Why study Chinuk Wawa?

By now you probably have your own reasons to study Chinuk Wawa. Students say it helps them be more open to seeing the world differently. The courses give them an appreciation of the people of this area and their lifeways. They learn about the land they live on. They feel good about supporting Chinuk Wawa language revitalization. They have fun learning new sounds and connecting with people who share their interests.

"k’uyʔ aɬqi nsa nanich mayka kʰapa chinuk-skul!"
"Hopefully we'll see you in Chinuk Wawa school!"

 

Top photo by Amiran White