Story of “The Flood”

So there a couple of versions of a Coos Bay great flood story.  There is a version published in Frachtenberg’s Coos Texts that he translated from Hanis Coos to English.  And a short version given years later by Lottie Evanoff to J. P. Harrington.

But Frachtenberg got a version from Buchanan that is quite different from his published version.  Here is the unpublished version from his notebook:

[That way they claim. There were two men. They give a name to them. One they call tcêxtī´yu Kwî´sîts, the other they call cīɫwā´ya. They act like persons. Sometimes they steal women for their wives. tcêxtī´yu Kwî´sîts has very strong power. If you meet him and wrestle with him, and if you can throw him down he will kill you. If he has the best of you he disappears and you don’t know how and where you fall in a sleep. And when wake up you are a strong man. cīɫwā´ya was a rich man.]

There are very many people living on one river. The place is chuck-full of people. It was in Coos Bay. One day the tide came in. River kept filling up all the time. The people didn’t notice it at first. Afterwards the bottom of the river is covered up with water. One man says, “What’s the matter, the water keeps filling up. We never get as big a tide.” Another says: “It must be something wrong.”

Some of the fellows had a big canoe, some have small canoes. Some have grass-braided ropes. They keep it. Some have none, most of them. Some have very long (?). The water came up to their houses. The people get their canoes, and get ready to get in the canoes. The water was rising. All the places are covered in the water. The water was very swift. They tied their canoes to the tops of trees that stretch out from the water. Some of the people have no ropes and have to hold on to the tops of trees – for a while. Most of them have no canoes. A little piece of land remains dry, and those that have no canoes, go on this piece. About half of the people pile up there. The place is called qaláL it is a hill and creek and both still exist today (in Coos Bay right across the North bend on the east side). People (?) up there very thick in pairs. Also beasts came there in pairs. And also birds of all kind.

The people that are in the canoes, drift and drift on though not knowing where they go. They had no ropes to tie their canoes,and are carried by the water in all directions. Those that have ropes tie their canoes to trees, but some of the ropes break and the canoes began to float.

The flood lasted one day. Then the water began to recede. Slowly the trees, hills emerge from the water. Night comes. The people get sleepy, those that have their canoes tied. The water runs swift. The people do not watch their canoes, who break loose, and tip over and the people die. Good many of them tip over. The people on the piece of land are safe.

In no time the land is dry again. The people in the land are scattered about, because they want to find their homes. They go away in pairs. The land looks different after it got dry and they cannot find their homes. The game goes back in the hills. The people settle down where they can and make a living. All canoes are lost. Only one big canoe come on land somewhere. I do not know how many people wre in this canoe. They go out from (it), came and look around. They do not know where they are. One says: “Let us turn over the canoe.” They left the canoe that way.

The other fellows in canoe that broke and drift in all directions. They cannot come back where they lived before. They scatter all over the land and become wild people. They are called tcêxtī´yu Kwî´sîts.

The main different in this version from the published one is it mentions the tcêxtī´yu Kwî´sîts (chextiiyu kwisits); and cilwaya (shiihlwaya).  The shiihlwaya were mentioned in a few places – they were some kind of hairy giants, who rarely interacted with human beings.  There is a legend of one shiihlwaya giving a weapon made of a giant wrist bone to a man; and a story of shiihlwaya stealing salmon from a fishing camp up Coos River.

There are references to a forest being called qetlogwosots, which means ‘ long quiver’, and in Milluk Coos a nogwostse k’a – quiver person.  It was said they liked to wrestle.  So the chextiiyuu kwisits is a quiver person.  I think they word chextiiyu is based on the word for small.

Only in this version of the Flood story are the mysterious Quiver people and giants mentioned, and apparenlty the Quiver people came about after the flood.

Also, I noted that Buchanan mentions one canoe of people landed on some ‘land some where’.  They tipped the canoe over, and went to find their home.  Lottie Evanoff told Harrington that the place where the canoe landed was on top of Jogiiyat -Blue Ridge mountain.  Here is Lottie’s version of the flood story that she remembered:

A boy was told, don’t you ever kill crows, and he killed them, several, only one crow was saved, one crow flew away. That killing was what started the flood, thereupon it rained fine rain for five days.

It was this flood, that the canoe landed on top of Blue Ridge….

The Indians that had no canoes, drowned.

They call fine rain crow’s tears, when fine rain always call it thus, for the surviving crow wept, má•ĸɑtɫ’ ts’xwá•’lɑs.

My mother’s grandfather told the flood story. The water was just rising slowly when the flood came but when the flood subsided, then it went fast & that was when lots of Indians got drowned. A woman grabbed a standing spruce tree as the log she was clinging to butted against that standing spruce, and the woman fell loose but grabbed the spruce and as the water subsided found herself high above the ground in that spruce. She decided to jump to the ground and as she did so, she broke her back.

My mother’s grandfather saw that woman who had a broken back, she was already old, her back was broken near the shoulders, at Yachats, she was a heavy-set woman, awful white.

Lottie also told Harrington that the flood got started because a boy used his new bow and arrows to shoot at crows – until he had killed all the crows but one.  His family had told him to leave the crows alone, but he had not listened.  The lone surviving crow cried for five days, and that is what started the flood.

What Frachtenberg identified as qalaL, the one place spared in the flood and a sanctuary for the birds, beasts and people, is Kentuck Slough.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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