Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Cheechako


[chee-CHAH’-ko] — noun.

Meaning: Newcomer; stranger;  just arrived

Origin: Lower Chinook t’shi ‘straightaway’ + Nuu-chah-nulth chokwaa ‘come!’

A common compound word formed from the Chinook Wawa words  “chee” (new; lately) and “chako” (to come; to arrive), it was an primarily used to refer to a non-native person.

While it can mean ‘stranger’ in some circumstances, cheechako can also mean “tenderfoot”, meaning one in need of learning about the land, wildlife, weather, and cultures of the region, although this mild derisive context is later and more regional, being associated with the Klondike gold rush in throughout Alaska, the Yukon and northwestern British Columbia.

One historic example of its use comes from Fairbanks hostess Eva McGown, who is quoted: “I never had any children of my own, but as someone once said, I am the mother of all the cheechakoos.”

This word is still in local use in Alaska as slang for a newcomer to the state. As a side note, historically any person who survived at least one winter in Alaska was graduated to the title of “sourdough”, meaning they had become humble as they embraced the lessons that land teaches.

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