Siuslaw/Umpqua – sunk-in-the-water

A common hazard when out canoeing is navigating over or around sunken logs.  In the Siuslaw/Umpqua language,a waterlogged log, part of which still sticks up at the surface, was called tl’muuxwa, meaning heavy, waterlogged, ‘deadhead’.  Per Frank Drew & Clay Barrett, ‘So called because one end sticks up all the time, swings with the tide.’  When sunk to the bottom of the river, it became known as tl’mu’waxw.  (See Harrington 23:1204a)

tl’mu’waxw was also the posthumous nickname for a cruel Lower Umpqua chief who was killed by his own people for his crimes.  He was also the father of Louisa Smith, who was one of Leo Frachtenberg’s principal informants for his Lower Umpqua texts; her son Spencer Scott was one of  JP Harrington’s Siuslaw/Umpqua informants.  Here is the story Jim Buchanan told about tl’mu’waxw:

[There was a chief of Wu’alach who married a Siuslaw woman].  After two years [after the wedding] this chief came north to Florence to reside, Chief John was his son and successor.  dilmi was Coos name of tl’mu’waxw (name after death) was the name of the Siuslaw chief before this wu’alach chief came north… [tl’mu’waxw] wasn’t liked much, and was a troublemaker; he traveled all over, captured miluk, kalapuya and other slaves, and went up to Portland or other places to sell his slaves – always with 12 men.  So he was succeeded by the wu’alach man.  A crowd of the people, women and all, convened, and agreed about no longer consider tl’mu’waxw chief.  tl’mu’waxw’s last (of 4 or 5) wife ran away because of his cruelty, went toWinchester Bay where her younger brother was living, a chief down at that village, with 2 or 3 wives.  tl’mu’waxw when he found his runaway wife had gone to his brother’s house at Winchester Bay (who was going to let her stay for a while).  tl’mu’waxw with 6 of his best men (from Mercer Lake) went to Winchester Bay with his best large canoe, went by beach carrying the canoe so as not to be held up at rivers, he shot his brother within from the door, when no one was suspecting.  He died in 2 days.  tl’mu’waxw and his men returned that night.  It was quickly reported that he had done it.  His sister was taken along by avengers as decoy.  An envoy was enduced by her to send her brother across to talk to her. Jim says tl’mu’waxw was shot with 3 men, just before landing.  Jim says no fine was paid – it was an even thing now. (Jacobs notebook 92:157-158)

So, after death this man became known as tl’mu’waxw – sunk-in-water because he was shot in his canoe and fell into the river.  According to his daughter Louisa Smith, he was originally from Tsalila, the uppermost of the Lower Umpqua villages.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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