When you live on an Indian Reservation, you’re exposed to a whole new way of talking, which I refer to as rez talk.
Moccasin Telegraph. This is the form of communication that works faster than the speed of light when anything and everything needs to be told. Got a secret? Sorry, but there are no secrets on the rez. Once you’ve told your BFF, it was texted, Facebooked and on the scanner in the blink of an eye. If you think that having a party line back in the day when people used real telephones were bad for letting everybody know your business, move up to the rez and see those old bitties put to shame.
49er. If your immediate thought was a member of a football team, you’d be dead wrong. Instead, this is s get-together that generally follows a local Powwow. Mostly attended by the “young folk”, it’s a place for people to hang out and relax after a long day of dancing and drumming. It’s also a great place for snagging that guy you did the Potato Dance with.
Ho-wah. This expression is akin to “wow”, “good job” and “I agree”, depending on the circumstance. If your cousin’s sugarbush boiled 3 gallons of sap, you’d exclaim: “Ho-wah!”. If your nephew made it through the school year without getting suspended: ” HO-WAH!”. When your neighbor told you that the ricing on North Lake was pretty bad this year: “ho-wah”. It’s a pretty easy word to slip in when you really can’t think of something better to say.
TGB: This is the meat and potatoes of any rez – The Tribal Governing Board. Think of it as any local government in any town or city, but replace the “average citizen” with “tribal member only.” These people make the rules on the rez. If you come up here and stop at a business that should be open and find a sign that reads “TGB”, that means the person is at one of the meetings.
Shinnob: Before the Europeans decided to descend on the Upper Great Lakes, the Natives were known as Anishinaabe (meaning First or Original Peoples). Shinnob is a slang word used by many locals (not just here but all over Indian Country) when referring to other peoples of similar heritage. Writer Jim Northrup makes great use of it in his books. Case in point: What does a Shinnob Santa Say? Ho, ho, ho-wah! (Enter cymbal crash here)
Snag: Here we come with another great slang term, otherwise known as “hitching up” with the opposite sex. I mostly hear this term coming from the woman around this area, and let me tell you, these gals can be quite a hoot when they see some guy that they like and throw this term around. When they start talking about Snag Bags, you know they have some serious business they’d like to do!
So if you ever find yourself on the rez and hear somebody talking about how they heard on the moccasin telegraph that at the last TGB meeting some Shinnob got up and talked about all the snagging going on at the last 49er, you can say “Ho-wah!” and not seem like an outsider.