Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Illahee


[IL’-la-hie] or occasionally [ilee-ee]  — noun.

Meaning:  Country, land, ground, earth, region, district, soil, dirt, the place where one resides.

Origin: Chinook, ilahekh  ‘land’, ‘earth’ < From a Lower Chinook stem -lkh, preserved intact in the Kathlamet and Upper Chinook forms ilkh ‘land’; contracted in Lower Chinook due to the presence of a following accented vowel: thus, ilíi ‘land, country’

Sometimes rendered as ‘illahie’, ‘illahe’, or in the case of Grand Ronde Chinook Jargon, ‘ili’i’, the word encompasses concepts like “land”, “earth”, and “country”, and lends itself to a number of terms related to these concepts.

A “stick illahee” (forest) differed from a “tupso illahee” (prairie; pasture), while “kloshe illahee” has a similar meaning, but could also be used to mean a garden, a plot of land, a farm, or a ranch. The phrase “saghallie illahie” (mountain; highland) would later take one the additional meaning of  “sacred ground” and even “Heaven” as seen in the Christian neologisms “Saghalie Tyee yaka Illahee” (God, His Country) and “Keekwullie Illahee” (Hell).

A graveyard or cemetery was referred to as a “memaloose illahee”, while explorers would mark “tzum illahee” (surveyed land) on their maps, and one could refer to something as “hyiu illahie kopa” (dirty), or state “okoke illahee yaka hyas kloshe” (this land is very good).

Of course, “illahee” could refer to the land in both a physical and a political senses; someone might ask “kah mika illahee?” (where is your country? where do you come from?), since Illahee could also be used to denote “delate yaka illahee” (one’s native land), such as “Boston Illahee” (United States), “Passaiooks Illahee” (France), “King George Illahee” or “Kingchauch Illahee” (England). It is worth noting that, as far as members of the First Nations were concerned, all other white Europeans came from “Dutchman Illahee” or “Dutchman yaka illahee” as they commonly expressed it.

Within Cascadia, “illahee” could also be used to specify specific areas, such as “siwash illahee” (First Nations territory; Reservation), or even more specifically, “Chinook Illahee” would be the term for the Chinook-speaking region or the land of the Chinook people (the lower Columbia)

Of course, one could also go the opposite direction and apply illahee to big-picture concepts, such as “konaway okoke illahee” (the world) and “konaway illahee konaway kah” (the universe).

The word ‘illahee’ and its variations lends itself to a number of names in Cascadia:


The MV Illahee was a Steel Electric Class ferry operated by Washington State Ferries which served on the inter-island route in the San Juan Islands.

The entire Steel Electric class was withdrawn from service on November 20, 2007 due to hull corrosion issues. In the summer of 2009, the Illahee and her sisters were sold to Eco Planet Recycling, Inc. of Chula Vista, California.

In August, 2009 the ferry was towed out of Eagle Harbor and was scrapped in Ensenada, Mexico.

Illahe, Oregon is an unincorporated community located in the Klamath Mountains along the Rogue River about 13 kilometers (8 miles) upriver from Agness, Oregon. The area was home to Takelma people, then to white and Karok settlers, before becoming part of the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest. In the 21st century, it is a stopping place for hikers, boaters, and other visitors. The area has a riverside lodge and a nearby campground, both named Illahe.

Illahee, Washington is an unincorporated community that lays between Bremerton and Silverdale. The Port of Illahee community dock was built around 1916 to serve the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet, and in later years this port was used by the United States Navy to demagnetize ships.

Illahee State Park is an 82-acre (33 ha) Washington state park located in the hamlet of Illahee, just north of eastern Bremerton, on Port Orchard Bay, and is part of the Washington State Park System. The park was established when Kitsap County donated 13 acres to the state in 1934. The park’s old-growth stand is home to one of the nation’s oldest Pacific yews, which has been standing for approximately 400 years.

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The Illahe Vineyards and Winery, located near Salem, Oregon, is an 80-acre vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Committed to dry agriculture and responsible water practices, the winery does not utilize electricity or machinery, and is one of Oregon’s few horse-powered vineyards, utilizing a team of Percheron draft horses to mow and deliver grapes to the winery at harvest.

Other locations include Illahee Meadows, which can be found 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) northeast of Clinton, British Columbia, and Illahee Elementary School is located in Camas, Washington.

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