Quick Guide for Native Language: Ichiskíin Łkw’íłkw’i

This is a great resource for learning or teaching native languages.

The greetings and daily words are in Ichiskiin  

If you are just learning, this will help you pick up the language.

If you are refreshing your language, this will be a good visual.

If you are teaching, this will serve as a tool to use.

With the summer, brings some time to visit with friends and family. Often that brings up language use. Maybe you want to speak more. Or, you just want a quick reminder of how to spell or say a word to share on social media. So, I’ve made this little visual tool to help with that.

Skip to the bottom to see the greetings and daily words.


I want to offer some insight on the three common language topics discussed often which are spelling, alphabet, and dialect. These challenges will be relatable for other Native American languages. 


When it comes to spelling native languages I am cool as a cucumber. You should be too.

Speak and spell the native language with pride. I spell native language words different ways. Guess what? I still get 100% on the Ichiskiin Spelling no matter which way it’s spelled.

If you want to speak or write in the language but you feel the need to make a disclaimer of, “Oh, I’m not sure how to spell it.” My first response is, “No worries, I understood you.” Or sometimes people really want a certain way to spell something, which is okay. Even though it’s not always convenient to carry a dictionary around with you. There is often not an autocorrect function for our native languages.  

Some limit native language because they fear of spelling it wrong. Unfortunately, this is true of beginners and people that grew up hearing it, people that took many years of language classes and even fluent speakers. Long-term, this type of mindset can block our native language use. We need to remember the big picture.

Linguist, Michael Erard said,
“And when ancestral tongues die out, their communities don’t become mute children and adults learn to speak something else, often a language connected to the demise of their ancestral one” (Babel No More, p. 10).

It’s soul crushing to think of spelling as a barrier. Spell conversational Native American language how you want in conversational settings. Our kids, peers, friends, and family need to hear the language. 

Phonetic Alphabet & Native Language

The Ichiskiin or Sahaptin language is spelled phonetically. Yes, even in by Ph.Ds, linguists, and elders. Even the published books about Ichiskiin are all characterized as phonetic alphabets by linguists. This is true for many of the Native languages.

Over the years, we have had partnerships with linguists. You can see the variation of the phonetic alphabet systems among linguists that work with one language. You know why? Because they decided they wanted to spell the language a way that worked for them. So, that license to spell is hereby extended to every tribal member speaking the language as well.

Plus, sometimes western society get things wrong. For example, linguists call our language “Sahaptin,” which many in our tribe try to limit the use of because it is an incorrect translation of our language. This refers to “stranger in the land.” So when you worry about spelling something wrong, at least you weren’t the person that gave an incorrect translation that is in the western linguistic record.


We have different dialects within Native American languages. For example, the 14 Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have different dialects. Additionally, there are different Ichiskiin dialects in the region.   

For many of us, we have a lot of pride in our band and our identity remains strong. Sometimes it is hard for elders or tribal band members to hear the words in another dialect if they haven’t heard you speak in your specific band dialect. This can leave people feeling all sorts of ways. But, there is usually a lesson or something they will offer when teaching you. I have people requesting me to switch to other dialects or language that I only know a few words in. And by request, I mean they just switch and start talking as I scramble to keep up. Sometimes, a person will give me a language lesson about a native language I have never spoken before.

Just try to go with it. I was writing in Ichiskiin at a conference and someone walks up and asked if I was writing my language. Then they start teaching me Chickasaw. Chin-Choo- ma-ta? (How are you in Chickasaw). This is still the way I greet this elected official each time we see one another. This tribe's language advocacy can be seen by the resources they offer. Chickasaw has a TV station, language website and a Rosetta Stone program for tribal members (you cannot get it if you are not a tribal member, already asked). In terms of listening and speaking languages, we can learn many great things from others.

Another option is to take a lighter approach and think of dialects in terms of spaghetti. Here’s why we are super duper hungry for our language. If we are away from home and someone else has that language then we take it in. The same way we would if we were offered spaghetti. Does it taste like mom or grandma made it? Probably not. Do we recognize the differences? Can we appreciate what is offered? Yes, we can.

With that, here are greetings and daily words.

ICHISKÍIN ŁKW’ÍŁKW’I - means Language Daily in the Ichiskiin. 


She-ya-ux Migh-t-ski 
Níix (knee-x)  Might-t-ski (2nd option)
Good Morning 


She-ya-ux Patch-why
Níix Patch-why (2nd option)
Good Afternoon


She-ya-ux Klough-it
Níix Patch-way (2nd option)
Good Evening

  • ÁAY Ah-eye - Hello
  • ÍI Ee-ee -   Yes
  • SÍKS - Six - Peer, friend
  • NÁY - Ni-ghh - That's all (or group response)
  • CHÁW - Chow - No
  • HANANÚY - Hun-ah-noy - Annoying
  • WÍNUM - Win-um - Come here
  • TÚKTU - Took-two - Hurry up
  • MƗ́Ł PANÍWA - Methhl Pan-E-wa - What time is it?
  • ÁW - Oww - It's time/now

When beginning, try for a few minutes. Practice a phrase or a few words throughout the day. Remember to have fun. Shíyax̱ ichiskíin.    

Was this helpful?

If so, leave a comment or share on social media. Bonus points if it includes one of these words.  

Is there a native language you want to be included?

It can be tough to get native language resources. Send me a message or the words. These greetings and daily words are inspired by an email subscriber sent me a message requesting this topic. 


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  • Thank you, helpful and will pass this pn to relatives living off the reservation. Thank you. (Klathwanii?)

    Georgette Abrahhamson

  • Shiraz pachway I am a first descendent, love learning this language and teaching to my son’s and grand children. Thank you very much for sharing.

    Hazel Walker Broughton

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