The phrases in order are:
- Huy chexw
- Huy chexw a
- Chen kw’enmántumi
- Chet kw’enmántumi
- Chen kw’enmántumiyap
- Chet kw’enmántumiyap
Huy chexw a is a phrase often used in the community. It’s similar to our neighboring language of Halkomelem who say “Huy ch q’u”. We use it for “Thank you” often, but it does have deeper meaning. First, let’s look at what each word means: Huy (stop; finish; but; ultimate; only; finished, be), chexw (you), a (added to the end of a sentence, somewhat similar to “eh” in English; emphasizes sentence). But “Be finished you!”? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to mean “Thank you”.
Huy chexw a is what would have been said in a type of curcustmance. Imagine we’re at a feast, you the host pouring soup into my bowl, and I say “Huy chexw a”. It’s like, “Oh thank you; that is enough”. That’s nothing like how modern English uses “Thank you”. We say “Thank you” in English as a pleasantry, similar to please. (Squamish language has no word for please, FYI.)
Huy chexw a became the standard phrase for “Thank you” after English became the dominant language. The phrase itself in its meaning and usage has been altered, and is now used more like the English phrase “Thank you”, then it would of been used traditionally. Most understand the phrase as “Thank you”, not “You be finished!”.
I remember my late auntie Yvonne Joseph, late Lena Jacobs, and my own grandmother teach me an important lesson about the phrase “Huy chexw a”. They told me, “That is not what you say when speaking publicly, when speaking on the floor making speeches. It’s improper to use that in the floor”. My uncle/cousin Sempluyan (Stewart Gonzales) also elaborated and likened the use of “Huy chexw a” to ‘slapping the people in the face’ when saying it on the floor. The snewiyelh (teaching) being that you treat the people with respect, your guests with respect, and use formal language. More specific and elaborate language.
Let’s look at another phrase because there is two ways to say “Thank you” in Squamish language. The first is Huy chexw wa and the second is Chen kw’enmántumi.
Chen kwenmántumi is another phrase often heard in the community. Let’s look at what each word means: chen (I), kw’enmán (thank [someone]; greet [someone]; grateful), and –tumi [to you]. This seems to be a more clear phrase. ‘I am thankful to you’ or ‘I am grateful to you’. It can be expanded further because we have chen (I), and chet (we). Chet kw’enmántumi becomes ‘We are thankful to you’. It can be further elaborated with –tumi (to you) and –tumiyap (to you all) for Chen kw’enmántumiyap (I am thankful to you all) or Chet kw’enmantumiyap (We are thankful to you all). As through each version, created different by the use of I or We, and you or you all, we build a more specific phrase. In Squamish culture, at least within the language, it becomes a matter of wénaxws (respect) to honor the person you are speaking to by acknowledging who your talking about and who your talking to, frequently.