Jim Buchanan’s testimony at Chemawa

This is the full document I mentioned yesterday. It’s a transcript of Jim Buchanan testifying before some Congressional reps visiting Chemawa in 1932. Frank Drew acted as interpreter. In 1990 Dr. Beckham added some editorial notes in square brackets (this document is in the Beckham archives):

I, James Buchanan, the sole and only survivor of the three Confederated Tribes of Indians of Oregon, viz: Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaws, offer the following testimony, the same being from my own personal knowledge and observation of the treaty of 1855, made between the United States Government and the three Confederated Tribes of Indians.

In the beginning Gen. Joel Palmer, acting for the Government, accompanied by two men, called the Indians together to hold a council. In this meeting General Palmer told the Indians that the whites were already settling on lands in the Coos Bay country, and that two sawmills had already been built, one at Empire City and one at North Bend. I have personally heard and I was present when General Palmer said that the United States Government had authorized him to make a treaty with us and to hold some terms with us. As part of the conditions of this treaty, we Indians were to be moved from our Coos Bay country to the Umpqua. General Palmer at that time said: “You will leave a valuable country, but the United States Government will pay you for it as soon as you Indians move. You Indians will be paid for the timer, for the land, the river, coal and gold.”

An Indian whose name is hard to spell but when translated means “smart man,” came from the audience and brought and placed an old basket in front of General Palmer saying: “If this big man or United States Government fills this basket with gold as it is a big thing for you white men-and we might learn the value of ths land and how to use it, then I will move.”

Then General Palmer said: “Sure the United States Government will pay as soon as you move to Fort Umpqua. And on that same morning General Palmer said he was instructed by the United States Government. He also said that a schoolhouse would be built for us and our children, so that the children would be taught the words of he white brothers, and after learning the ways of his white brothers a land of 160 acres would be given to each Indian for his own use. Also that an Indian agent would be appointed to look after and provide for the welfare of the Indians. Then General Palmer said that later on he would visit us to see what progress the Indians were making and to see how they were treated, and that they should be treated well.

Just about this time a war, or Indian war broke out in southern Oregon, or better known as Rogue River War and the Government fearing that we might join with the Rogue River Indians put us under guard of soldiers at Fort Umpqua, and we became prisoners. We never had any intentions of joining with the Rogue River Indians, but have always been peaceful. We have never had any trouble with the whites.

Then a schooner came into the Umpqua River, bringing a cargo of foodstuffs and clothing for us, and we received rations each month. We were placed on the north side of the Umpqua near the mouth of the river, right in the open sand.

Doctor [Edwin P.] Drew was our first Indian agent. He held the position four years and treated us pretty good. Doctor Drew built schools for our children and about 50 scholars attended the school. The children learned rapidly. We were pretty well satisfied with Doctor Drew’s administration. At the expiration of his terms another agent was appointed; his name was Ben Sampson [Simpson]. [Simpson did not assume duties until April 1, 1863]. As soon as Ben Sampson became agent he went to Doctor Drew and told him that he got orders from the United States Government to move us to Yachats. Doctor Drew did not like the idea of moving us, and at his suggestion a council was held with the Indians, when it was agreed to send four Indians with Ben Sampson to look over the lands at Yachats. They were gone about two weeks, and on their return they reported that the land was good and would be suitable for raising produce. Ben Sampson promised that we Indians would receive instructions in farming and that schools would be maintained there and that we would continue to receive our monthly rations. The Indians who made the trip were Joe Scott, Tyee Jim, Smart Man, and Go Back Charley, the latter being my brother, and who did the interpreting. They all reported in favor of making the move.

Ben Sampson was good to us after making the move to Yachats. But we failed to receive our monthly rations and no school was built nor any school held. He was agent four years. He did not do us any good.

Sampson was succeeded [in 1861] by a man named [Linus] Brooks. While he was good to us, he never did anything toward improving the welfare of the Indians. Brooks was agent for four years. He was succeeded by George Collins [in July, 1864]. He allowed the Indians to fish and hunt, but he did nothing toward bettering conditions, claiming he was powerless to do so. For two years he carried on gold mining, with Indians to do the work. I was one who helped and received $4 per day for what time I worked.

Collins was agent for two terms of four years each. During his second administration a clerk of the agency by the name of [Thomas] Clark shot and killed an Indian by the name of John Winchester. Clark had been sent to Alsea Bay to instruct Winchester to give up his salmon fishing and return. Winchester asked to stay another day and finally the men wrangled, when Clark shot him dead. Clark escaped at once to Newport, where he remained about three weeks, when he returned with a body of soldiers, explaining that he feared an uprising among the Indians because of the shooting. They found the Indians peaceable and the soldiers returned at once. [Thomas Clarke became “Superintendent of Farms at Alsea Agency” on April 1, 1864.]

Conditions were very poor during Collins’s second term, and many of the Indians had but very little on which to live. Some in their desperation ran away, hoping to do better. If they returned, they were tied to a post and flogged almost to death.

Lieutenant [F.A.] Batty was the next United States Indians agent, and servied four years. He appealed to the United States Indian Department for relief for us but fialed. He never received any appropraition for our support during his administration. [Battey replaced Collins in July, 1869].

Question: What did the Indians do for a living during this time?

Answer: They hunted and fished. They hunted deer and elk. They caught perch, flounders, eel and salmon. Some fished for perch and rock cod off a rock called “Scow” and they also gathered mussels, a shellfish off this rock. It was very dangerous to fish off this rock and three women nearly drowned, being rescued just in time.

There was no school during Lieutenant Batty’s time.

The next agent was Sam Case, who served four years [commencing in 1871]. He maintained a private trading post, buying provisions from Newport and selling it to the Indians. Case started a school for the Indian children.

The last agent was George P. Litchfield, who served four years [commencing July 1, 1874, as sub-agent]. Litchfield maintained the school and gave the children some clothes. During his term the reservation was thrown open to settlement without compensation on April 28, 1876.

In 1876 the Indians were turned loose without any instruction. Some of them returned to their native homes and some just squatted on a piece of land that looked good to them. They remained on the land where they had chosen until the white men filed on it and forced them off. The Indians were ignorant of the rules nad regulations of the Land Department. The white man took it all. The Indians got nothing.

Question: Do you remember what the Yachats country looked like at first?

Answer: The country was rough, no broken ground. The Indians used oxen teams to plow the soil. They build their first houses of fir boughs. Later they used split shakes and clapboards instead of lumber promised them. They put up houses and barn for the Government. They build a barn of logs about 60 by 200 feet. They also built a lot of fences. The Indians were paid $1 per day for 12 to 14 hours work. The Indians were held at Yachats for 20 years and were turned loose without a cent. Most of the Indians who were brought to Yachats died of hunger and exposure. They were very unhappy.

The above testimony was given by me at Florence on this 14thday of October, 1931.

James (his X mark) Buchanan.

The statement was witnessed by the following; F. H. Drew, Coos; Clay Barrett, Siuslaw; Madge Drew, Coos, Hattie Martin Hatch, Coos; Mrs. Martha Johnson, Coos; Margaret Benasco, Coos; Howard Barrett, Siuslaw; A. S. Charles, Coos; Louis Smith, Umpqua; Lillian Severy, Coos.


So the man with the ‘hard to spell name’ was K’aish nbohene meaning ‘small (person) with a lot of sense’. He was a famous speaker. Jim Buchanan said he was from Wu’alach, an upper Empire village. Frank Drew had undoubtedly heard stories of him from Jim, and in 1932 he told Melville Jacobs about K’aish nbohene: “They still talk about him to this day, that was his ‘good name. He was a most remarkably able speaker-there were many sensible, able speakers, but he towered above the others in ability. This was the man who appeared before Gen. Palmer about 1855 at Coos Bay. They remember what he said that day. Aug. 14 1855 the treaty was made. There was discussion for four days. “Lot’s of sense” demanded a basketful of gold in a káwol basket (pack basket) before he’d agree to surrender his land. But the other Coos disagreed with their Speaker, wanting valuables, not gold.”

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Well, THAT explains things a bit more

AAS -Umpqua Res. PortraitUnidentified man in photo taken at Fort Umpqua, 1857-1862

So back in 2014 I wrote about finding an 1860s newspaper article on the Indians of the Alsea Subagency attacking an employee, Thomas Clark or Clarke (who was supposed to teach the Indians farming) with a hatchet. The Agents agreed for him to leave and never return, which satisfied the Indians at the agency.

Anyway, to refresh everyone’s memory, this was the article from the newspaper in 1867:

Indian Troubles At Alsea – Agent Ben Simpson [note, at time he was agent at Siletz Agency, to whom the Alsea subagents reported] who returned Friday evening, after an absence of three months on active duty, informs us that the trouble at Alsea arose from the refusal of the Indians to dig their potatoes when directed so to do.  Of course, it is most necessary that their crop be safely gathered, as their subsistence depends upon it.  They are not particularly fond of work, and the refusal to attend to their duties brought on a scuffle between Mr. Clark, an employee and a refractory Indian, which resulted in Mr. Clark being overcome and held prostrate by the friends of the Indian, who was about to chop him up with a hatchet, when Clark fired his pistol at him with fatal effect.  He fled to Siletz, and informed Simpson that matters were in a critical condition at Alsea and that Sub-Agent Collins desired him to come down and bring some men with him.  Mr. Simpson took three men and went.  He found the Indians much excited, and held a council with them, and talked the matter over.  They came at last to peaceable results; concluded to be satisfied if Clark was not sent back and, as an earnest of their good intentions, the whole tribe set industriously to work digging potatoes.  So all is quiet on the Coast Reservation.  -The Oregon Sentinel 11/2/1867

Well, I found a somewhat different account as told by Jim Buchanan, who was a Coos resident of Yachats in 1867 and would’ve been about 20 years old at the time of this incident. I found Buchanan’s account quite by accident. In Dr. Beckham’s archives he has a transcript of Jim Buchanan’s testimony in front of some congressmen that came to Chemawa in 1932. As was usual for him, he gave his testimony in Hanis and Frank Drew translated into English (Jim’s first language was Hanis, he knew some Siuslaw and certainly knew Chinook Jargon, but I don’t know how much English he knew but he did not ever testify in it, to my knowledge). The whole thing is quite interesting – he talks about the treaty of 1855, Fort Umpqua, Yachats…if people want me to put up a transcript of the whole thing, let me know in the comments.

Anyway, he mentions an incident involving Clark. Buchanan said “During [Collins’] second administration [of Alsea Subagency] a clerk of the agency by the name of [Thomas] Clark shot and killed an Indian by the name of John Winchester. Clark had been sent to Alsea Bay to instruct Winchester to give up his salmon fishing and return. Winchester asked to stay another day and finally the men wrangled, when Clark shot him dead. Clark escaped at once to Newport, where he remained about three weeks, when he returned with a body of soldiers, explaining that he feared an uprising among the Indians because of the shooting. They found the Indians peaceable and the soldiers returned at once.”

So the newspaper account can’t resist a dig at ‘lazy Indians’, but it sounds like John Winchester and his relatives or friends were busy salmon fishing. No doubt they wanted to get enough salmon to dry for winter. Digging potatoes could wait one more day. Apparently Clark/Clarke was too impatient to wait one more day, or perhaps he could not tolerate an argumentative Indian who would not obey arbitrary orders without question instantly. So Clark lost his idiot temper, it sounds like, and the Indians fought back, and John Winchester was shot.

The matter was resolved at Yachats by Clark being removed from his position. I don’t know if he were fired from the Indian service, or if he were transferred elsewhere, or what became of him. But people at Yachats were happy to have Winchester’s killer gone, Note that no criminal charges were filed against Clark. In the 1860s, an Indian could not testify in court against a white man. So if there were NO white witnesses to the killing, then there were no witnesses to testify in court and so charges were unlikely to be pressed (and even if it did go to court, would an all white male jury of the 1860s convict? It seems unlikely).

I did find a little bit more information on “John Winchester”. Turns out he has family around today, those descended from the Macy family. Jim Buchanan listed some names of people he knew in 1932, and he said that John Winchester was a Lower Umpqua man, his Indian nickname was Pqáyak’ (no etymology given, unfortunately) and he was an uncle of Charlie Macy’s mother.

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Raid on the Siuslaw: Part 2

old indian danPhoto of  Tankuksii (Indian Dan, Dan Johnson, Dan Quixote), a Lower Umpqua man who might have been part of the party that fought off the Chinook raiders.


Yesterday I wrote about some of the Siuslaw chiefs involved in the slave raid incident when a large canoe full of Chinooks attacked. Although several people talked about the two chief Johns that were involved in the fight, only Frank Drew recounted the event itself. Below is what he told to Melville Jacobs in 1932, which Jacobs wrote in his notebook 91, pages 74-75. I have put in some paragraph breaks just to make it easier to read.

Drew says his people had no warfare, hence no slaves (pú•kwǝs) at all. Drew tells of a large “Chinook” or Columbia River Indian canoe that came, long ago to the Siuslaw R. by way of the ocean, 10 or 12 men in the boat-the biggest canoe the Coos or Siuslaw had ever seen. The “Chinook” chief and his boy were in the canoe. They offered valuables for slaves. They tried to kidnap some natives here. They had established a camp, and tied some kidnapped (children and women) natives in the canoe in midstream. The Siuslaw-Umpquas here (Coos tell this) tried to buy off the Chinooks to get back the kidnapped people. The Chinook chief refused to be bought off. He insisted he wanted slaves.

The young chief, the Siuslaw chief’s son John (lǝgá•D-a French name) was one of the captives. The Columbia River warriors seemed fearless, with their bows and arrows, and were adamant. So the Siuslaws sent off a man to the Lower Umpqua River and asked for the best warriors to come up at once. Next day the Columbia R chief carefully alert in his camp, saw only one Umpqua coming. But a large bunch of Umpqua warriors had come, unseen further upriver, and proceeded unseen to surround the Columbia River canoe, and attacked the Chinooks, who were massacred, all except some, who fled. The captives were freed. The Old Chinook chief had one young Siuslaw boy he dragged along as he fled. The old [Chinook] chief was overtaken at Sutton Creek (tl’iyax-both a Siuslaw and Coos name)- some 9 miles north-seeing he was overtaken, the Chinook chief offered all he had for his life. He had a 2 foot long dagger (wá•l’wal)(Material in doubt) [I suspect this was a ‘whale bone sword’, the wollek]. The Siuslaws refused his money. He told his son to run for it, and then the [Chinook] chief was killed. The son escaped. The chief, just before dying tried to slash the captive he was dragging, and stab him, but missed, and then the enveloping pursuers killed the chief. In the chief’s leather shirt they found a purse with several hundred dollars worth of dentalia in it. The Siuslaws all survived. Not one was even wounded in this fray. The Siuslaw chief took all the money captured. Maybe, Drew thinks, some was shared with the Umpqua assistants. [According to the customs of the day, the captured wealth was almost certainly shared].

The Columbia chief’s son escaped wounded in the arm but was never captured. Four or five years later this fellow came south again, to make peace with the Umpqua-Siuslaws – but he got as far as the Alsea River only. An Alsea further south came with a message from this Chinookan fellow. The Chinook admitted blame for the fray of the preceding 5 years. The Siuslaw-Umpquas would not accept any peace, would take no chances, they could get along without the friendship of the untrustworthy Chinook and so they wanted to have nothing to do with the northerner. He never appeared, then, but returned, unsuccessful in his mission. The three tribes here didn’t believe in slaves, would have nothing to do with any such thing….

So Drew thought slaves (Hanis and Milluk puukwis, Siuslaw tsaxw) were not a part of CLUS societies. I am not so sure, but slaves are so seldom mentioned in either the ethnographic notes or legends, it is next to impossible to figure out if in CLUS society slaves were rare or not, and how they were treated. Some of the mentions warn of being kidnapped such as this incident recounted here, more than CLUS people keeping slaves. Recall from yesterday the hated Ts’aliila chief Tl’muuwax (Sunk in the water) kidnapped people from many tribes and sold them north. Now the rest of the CLUS people hated this so much (along with other crimes like killing his brother) that Tl’muuwax was killed. After that, Chief John Sr. became chief of a village near Florence and it was his son who survived an attempted kidnapping by the Chinooks.

In Hanis and Milluk the root of the word puukwis is puukw-, which means to be kidnapped or enslaved. Basically, it seems that kidnapping was regarded as the equivalent as slavery – likely because inevitably any kidnapped people were treated as slaves. I don’t know the etymological origin of tsaxw, the Siuslaw-Lower Umpqua word. The word barely appears in any legends – Jim Buchanan mentions that nuuskili, the pitch-dress-ogresses, puukpuuwak (kidnap and enslave) young men, and there is a story of an old trickster type man who has a stltsawaq (an ‘inland whale’) as a slave. Annie Peterson talks about it more than anyone. She told about a Lower Coquille man who had been kidnapped and sold north. He wound up on the Columbia River, fishing for people of some village there. He waited and watched, and was able to run away and escape all the way back home. After that he had earned the nickname Mahluush, Columbia River, for his daring escape. She also said poor people would try to keep their marriage-aged daughters away from rich people, because if a rich person wanted to marry her (even if she did not want him) they would be too afraid to say no because the wealthy family could just kidnap her.

And that so far is all I can find on the subject. I do recall seeing mention in early fur trappers and explorers accounts of young people enslaved in southern Oregon (as I recall, Jedediah Smith’s party picked up a boy from the Coquilles, and he was from the Umpqua or Willamette Valley), but there is no clear picture there of how many there were, how they were treated, and so on. The practice seems to have swiftly died out at the beginning of the reservation period.


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Raid on the Siuslaw: The Background

Drew Buchanan Metcalf

Above: l to r Frank Drew (Hanis), Jim Buchanan (Hanis) and Eli Metcalf (Miluk & Coquille?)

There was a slave raid, some time in the 1840s, when the Siuslaw people were attacked. It was memorialized in stories by James Buchanan and Frank Drew. The people involved were: a dozen or so attackers from the north (probably Chinook or northern Tillamook), a Siuslaw chief, his son, and numerous Siuslaw and Lower Umpquas who came together to fight off the raiders.

I wanted to first provide some background on the chief and his family that were involved, as some of the information is a little confusing or contradictory, but I am trying to sort through it as best I can.

For the background, we have to go back a few years before the raid, and to the death of an unpopular chief, who after his death became as ‘Sunk in the Water’ (Hanis Dilmi, Siuslaw Tl’muuwax). Unpopular, perhaps, undersells it – he was reviled. You can read a bit more about him here.

After his death, a Wu’alach (a village in the Empire region of Coos Bay) chief came north to serve as chief of the Florence area. I have not found a name for him yet, but his son would one day be known as Chief John (as well as Lagat or Lokkayat) so we shall call him John Sr. for now. Jim Buchanan, who was born in Wu’alach some time in the late 1840s, said this about Chief John Sr. –

[Chief John Sr. went] with 20 men and some women came up to a Siuslaw village near or at Florence to look for a wife. There was a simet dance that night, one long line of dancers. The chief was tipped off as to the girls, he decided which one he wanted, so he sent 2 messengers-good talkers-to the girl’s father next day. The girl’s father agreed to marry his daughter off. That evening the presents were sent, and accepted. $100 was given, in dentalia. The girl’s parents, after some days of feasting and dancing here, go down in a long procession of people from here and the villages along the way. A long long procession, walking in pairs, goes down the beach. Everybody crowds into Wu’álatc, into the richest man’s house in Coos Bay. (This seems to have been a most famous wedding). There was a feast and simet dance.

After 2 years this chief came north to Florencto reside; Chief John was his son and successor. Dílmi (Tl’múwax – Siuslaw name after death) was the Coos name of the Siuslaw chief before this Wu’alach chief came north. (Jacobs 1932[92]156-157)

So John Sr. married the daughter of a Siuslaw chief. Per tradition of the region, gifts between families were exchanged (though the groom’s family gave more presents to the bride’s family than vice versa) and, since they were from chiefly families, there was days of feasting and a procession all the way from the Siuslaw down to Coos Bay. Then a mere 2 years later, the cruel Tl’muuwax was dead and John Sr. moved with his family to Florence.

His son became known as Chief John. He was also known as Lagat, which Melville Jacobs thought might come from the French LaGuard, but his name was later given by Lottie Evanoff and Frank Drew as Lǝkkǝyat (Lokkoyat). Frank Drew and Lottie Evanoff said Chief John/Lagat/Lokkoyat was an Indian doctor (shaman) and his wife Maliyán was as well. She was regarded as one of the most powerful doctors of her time in the Siuslaw region and understood the language of crows. Frank said John was a short statured man with short hair. He was a boy when the Chinooks attacked. In spite of his Hanis Coos father from Wu’alach, as an adult it was said he could understand Hanis but not speak it. He spoke Siuslaw and Chinook Wawa. Later he was at Yachats and was one of the speakers at the meeting of June 17, 1875 between the Alsea, Siuslaw, Lower Umpqua and Coos Bay residents of the Alsea Subagency and Indian agents. I will include his speech at the end of the post here. After the Alsea Subagency was closed, he apparently lived in the Florence region. Lottie said of him in those years that “[he] was always called Uncle John… when he was drunk he would never get mean, would sit half shot, putting his arm around some fellow Indian as he said looking at the river. He was called by every body Uncle John-he was not really uncle” (Harrington 1942[24]891a). In CLUS culture, referring to an older person as ‘uncle’ or ‘aunt’ – regardless of actual degree or lack of kinship – was a sign of affection and respect. Frank Drew said he was regarded as a bright, honest able man. He had a fish camp just a few miles up Qa’aich (North Fork Siuslaw) and also had homes at what is now Florence and at Tsat-haus, a prairie not far from Frank Drew’s home.

There was another Siuslaw chief, or possibly subchief, known as Inyas. He was also one of the signers of the Omnibus treaty of 1855 for the “Sius-sla” tribe (as it is spelled in the treaty) where his name is spelled Eneos. He is often referred to as the chief who preceded Chief John/Lagat, although Frank once thought perhaps he was John’s subchief. It isn’t clear, but he may have been a chief to a neighboring village where Chief John was living. Frank Drew and Spencer Scott (Siuslaw/Lower Umpqua) said Inyas had crippled legs. Spencer saw him when he was a boy and said he and his fellow boys would imitate Inyas’ walk (Harrington 1942[24]:825b). Inyas had two brothers; Kmiital (Whiskey George) and Shakuu. Shakuu’s wife Makalíít was related to a distant relative of Spencer’s. She ran away to Grand Ronde and remarried there. Spencer also casually mentions that the brothers poisoned Inyas. He doesn’t mention why this happened or what happened after – or what he meant by poisoned. It could mean a doctor cursed him, or they fed him something dangerous. I wish Harrington had asked about this, because this is an awfully strange thing to mention and then not say any more about it.

And that is all I know about the immediate background to the attack on the Siuslaw by northern slave raiders. Next up will be an account of the raid.

As promised, here is Chief John’s speech at Yachats in 1875, when they met with Indian agents Fairchild and Litchfield:

I do not know you Mr. Fairchild. I know you Mr. Litchfield. I will give you my mind. You understand our language. I will not talk much. Ever since you have been here I have talked to you. I have always wanted you to send my words to Washington. I do not want to hear any more about this thing. A long time I have heard it. I thought it was all settled long ago. As long as I live on my land I am not sorry if I have nothing. My people have all the same mind as I have on this point. I don’t want you to help the Chief in Washington get our land. I understand the Washington Chief wants to send us money. What for? I know the mind of my people. They do not want money. It is long since we have money and we no longer care for it. I have only a little place and no money, yet my heart is not sick. The Great Chief sends money to the Indians but does not understand their hearts. At first, the whites promised many things. The people will never do again as they once did – sell their land. If I was to talk many days, I should say the same thing. It was not my wish to comer here at first, but the Great chief desired it. This thing I will not give up. Gen. Palmer gave us this country and I will never give it up. That is all.


Harrington, John P. 1942. Alsea, Siuslaw, Coos, Southwest Oregon Athapaskan: Vocabularies, Linguistic Notes, Ethnographic and Historical Notes. John Peabody Harrington Papers, Alaska/Northwest Coast, in National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

Jacobs, Melville. 1932-34. Coos Ethnologic Notes, Notebooks 91-99, 101, Jacobs Collection, University of Washington Archives, Seattle.

Beckham, Stephen Dow, ed. 2006. Oregon Indians: Voices from Two Centuries. Oregon State University Press. Corvallis, OR.

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A Trickster fragment


When Melville Jacobs worked with Annie Peterson in 1933 and 1934, he got a long saga of five generations of tricksters (which was printed in his “Coos Myth Texts” printed by University of Washington Press in 1940). She also told a couple of other trickster fragments. This one is very short, in Hanis, about how a trickster (perhaps the fourth one, Coyote) walked around the world and left his foot prints in the rocks. I’ve transcribed it out of Jacobs’ notebook 101, pages 33 and 35:

lɛ-t’łda hauts, t’ǝ´m•a lɛ´-ła’áyáq’ham, t’łǝm•ɛ´’ní.

lo-tl’da hauts, t’oma lo-hla’ayaqam tl’omeni.

The-earth make.TR, at.same.time-the-go.PASS, weir.VRB

He was making the earth, at that time he was going around, he was making a weir.


lau-Gɛntc-hí’ní tsxít’s

lau-qanch-hi’nii tsxits

DEM-place-there step.on-TR

He stepped there at a place.


yu’wúts hats yixɛi haq’.

Yuwuts hats yixei haq’

sometimes just one track

Sometimes just one track (was left there).


lɛ´u-wɛntc tł’ɛ´ts x-yaGandjim mɛ´• hantł lɛ´u-kwnáiwa‘t nǝ´n-haGádi.

Leu-wench tl’ets xyaqanchim me hantl lau-kwinaiwat non-haqati

DEM-thus speak.TR ERG-after people FUT DEM-see.ITR my-tracks

So he said “The next people will see my tracks.”


wɛ´ntc wɛ´•u nɛ•djis lɛ´-t’smí•xwn

wench weu nechis le-ts’miixwon.

Thus ? Tricks the-Trickster

That’s they way the trickster was being tricky.


Yú’wɛ t’łdá cyǝ´Ɣitci’áq’miya.

Yuwe tl’da shyoghichi’aq’miya

when earth turn.around-PASS-INCH

Whenever he was going around the world.


x-wɛ´ntc-wɛ• lɛ´wɛ•lɛ´u x-mɛ´kwnáiwa‘t la•haGadi.

Xwench we leu-leu xme kwinaiwat la-haqati

ADV-thus at.that.time DEM-DEM ERG-person/people see.ITR the-tracks

That’s why the people see the trickster tracks.

Her niece Lottie also mentioned hearing stories of Trickster tracks left behind in the rocks. She said “Coyote made the land. The mountains were made by the waves. You used to see children’s tracks on the rocks, they ran around when everything was soft. My father said when he was young he used to see lots of those tracks. Now they all wore out.” (Harrington 1942[24]:555a)


Jacobs, Melville. 1932–1934. “Coos Ethnologic Notes,” Notebooks 91–99, 101, Jacobs Collection. University of Washington Archives, Seattle.

Harrington, John P. 1942. “Alsea, Siuslaw, Coos, Southwest Oregon Athapaskan: Vocabularies, Linguistic Notes, Ethnographic and Historical Notes.” John Peabody Harrington Papers, Alaska/Northwest Coast. National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

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Waterfalls and dams

Coyote went up the Coos River and made several small falls, everywhere he said not water enough. So he went finally to the Columbia River and made the big falls up there, he said there plenty of water. -Lottie Evanoff, 1942, in Harrington’s notes reel 24:134a

So the other day I wanted to look up the word ‘waterfall’ in Milluk. It’s a word that has already been found in wordlists for Hanis (huunat’) and Siuslaw-Lower Umpqua (huunat’a). So resolving the Milluk word for waterfall should be fairly simple, yes? There are only a handful of sources of Milluk language: J.O. Dorsey’s short wordlist of Lower Coquille dialect he got from Coquille Solomon in the 1880s, about 200 words Harry Hull St. Clair got in 1903 from George Barney near Florence, a sound recording from 1953 with sisters Daisy Codding and Lolly (Laura) Hodgkiss Metcalf, and the voluminous notes, texts and recordings Melville Jacobs got with multilingual storyteller Annie Miner Peterson (plus a little bit from recordings Enna Helms and I have made over the last two years, and that’s a work in progress). Jacobs’ and Peterson’s work account for the overwhelming bulk of Milluk. So, it ought to be straightforward to simply do a word search for “waterfall” and see if anything turns up? Well, some answers come up, but it is not straightforward.

There are two things that can make the job a little more complex – one is that translations (particularly in Jacobs, as Annie often provided rather loose translations rather than literal ones) are not always simple and direct, and another is the range of meanings a word can have. Words in one language don’t necessarily map ‘one to one’ in terms of meanings with its equivalents between languages. For example, the word nik’in in Hanis can mean tree, log, wood, lumber. So nik’in has a broader meaning than its English equivalents.

Doing a search in Annie Peterson’s Milluk texts, the word for ‘waterfall, falls’ only comes up in the English translations a few times. When it is used, it is also coupled with ‘dam’. Waterfalls and rapids were popular seasonal fishing sites (for salmon and lamprey) and often special weirs (fish dams) and trap baskets were set up in these areas. Weirs were all over the estuaries (See here for some examples of PNW weirs).

I’ve also noticed in Hanis, at least, that huunat’ doesn’t mean just waterfall but also rapids or riffles. In Hanis, weir is tl’om (tƚ’ǝm) or tl’im – a word that comes up once, so far as I can tell, in the Milluk texts. Discussions of a ‘waterfall dam’ come up in a few sentences in the Trickster narrative, which was published in “Coos Myth Texts” in 1940 by Jacobs, and his transcription begins in notebook 96, page 105. The Trickster narrative was Annie’s telling of the changes made in the world by five generations of ts’miixwon, the tricksters. The First Trickster is the one who has some struggles with fish traps.

In this example, we find the one example I have found (to date) in the Milluk texts:

Jacobs 96:105:    Gɛt’łǝ´m•ɛ•ní•we

My breakdown: qe-tl’om-eni-iiwe


My translation: He began to make a weir.

Jacobs translation: “Now he was making a fish dam.”

Then there are the examples of tlot Jacobs translates variously as ‘dam’ or ‘waterfall’:

Jacobs 96:141: kwí•-hántł-dzí•ya tłədǝtłǝt

My breakdown: kwii-hantl-dziiya tlo-do-tlot

EST-FUT-make? ART-POSS-”dam”

My translation: He will make a falls, dam

Jacobs translation: Now he’s going to make a falls, dam


Jacobs 96:141: tsú-ma•łúcidjá‘dj tsú-gwum-tłǝ´tdzÍ•ya.

My breakdown: tsu-mahluush-ijaj tsu-gwum tlot-dziiya

now Columbia.River-LOC? Now-at.that.time dam/waterfall-make?

My translation: Now he got to the Columbia River, now he made the dam/falls.

Jacobs translation: Now he got as far as the Columbia River, now he made the falls.


Jacobs 96:143: gú•s-idjáu tłǝthu•t’súwa

My breakdown: guus-ijau tlot huuts’uwa

all-where fall/dam make

My translation: Everywhere he made dams

Jacobs translation: He made dams in every stream.

So in the examples above, tlot can mean ‘waterfall’ as waterfalls can act as a sort of dam, and the Trickster was going about making these ‘dams’ in rivers.

However in the next example Jacobs translates tlot as some kind of trap, rather than a waterfall:

Jacobs 98:79: dzáitstís-hantłkwǝ´-n.tłǝ´t

fix? – FUT my-dam/falls

Jacobs translation: We’ll fix my fish trap.

But one must look at the context – at this point of the story, the Fifth Trickster is being given advice by Seagulls on how to outwit his new father-in-law, the father of Moon and Sun, when he tries to fool the Trickster and kill him. So it is possible the tlot,the ‘trap’ here is a waterfall, rather than the kind of dam or trap a human being would or could build because the Father-In-Law and Trickster are supernatural beings.

And that is all the Milluk references to something that might be ‘waterfall’ that I have found so far. And given that each appearance it is translated as a dam or trap, I am not absolutely sure if it can mean both waterfall and dam, or if it is primarily ‘waterfall’ and its secondary meaning is a dam or trap given that it is translated this way in the Trickster cycle, where the world is being built up and altered by their various adventures and misadventures.

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“June Hogs”

“June Hog” was a name given to large Chinook salmon that ran in the Columbia River system in late spring. Some stories say that some fish were over 100 pounds. They were said to be the largest of all salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Of course they were important to tribal fisherman for millennia, and post-colonization were for a brief time important to commercial fisherman and canneries. Unfortunately due to overfishing, habitat destruction and dam building, this unique run of large Chinooks were driven extinct. This video gives a great, brief visual overview of the history of the end of the “June hogs”. Some more information is in these online articles, part one here and part two here.

In the Coos and Siuslaw-Lower Umpqua languages there are words for all the local species of salmon. For Chinook, Hanis is domsiiwaq,Milluk domsiiwax, and Siuslaw qiiyaiyaq. But Hanis speakers Lottie Evanoff and Frank Drew briefly mention to JP Harrington in 1942 that there was another type of Chinook, a spring Chinook they called domalii. They said this type of Chinook ran in the Columbia, but some were caught at the Coos Bay bar in April or June, and near the Umpqua River as well. (Coastal tribes had many methods of fishing; not just in the estuary or upriver, but also fished regularly just offshore as well). Could the domalii be the legendary “June hogs”? I think they might be. Their size isn’t mentioned, but the mention that they were Columbia River fish caught offshore from Coos Bay and the Umpqua River hints that they may have been.



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