Grandmother Rock of Bandon

I recently visited my dad who lives at the place along the Coquille River where Grandmother Rock (also known as Tupper Rock, for a Capt. Tupper who once ran a hotel by it) once stood.  Poor grandmother!  She was a huge outcrop of blueschist rock, standing near the bank of the south shore of the Coquille River.  Unfortunately for her, this kind of rock was an excellent material for jetty building.  So, poor thing, she was blown up and carted to the water to build the jetties in the late 1890s/year 1900.

Here is a photo of her before her destruction (courtesy of Dr. Beckham, taken from Dow Beckham’s book Bandon By the Sea):

Tupper Rock.1On page 141 of “Coos Myth Texts” Annie Miner Peterson told the story of grandmother rock.  Once, most of the people in a village went to the beach to carve up a whale.  Two grandparents and her brother stayed home to care for a tetsewis girl – a girl going through the puberty ceremony.  The girl roasted a sea anemone over a fire, making it whistle.  Until a certain point in the ceremony, girls were forbidden to cook, and she broke the rules.  Her grandparents were horrified and ashamed.  They all turned into rocks there at the mouth of the river from the shame, with Grandmother becoming the big blueschist rock whites later dubbed Tupper Rock.

Annie’s niece Lottie said Tupper was the grandmother and the granddaughter rock was a small rock with moss growing on it.  She said her uncle Tom Hollis once climbed up on Grandmother Rock and saw a great big snake coiled up in the middle of it, which scared him badly. (Harrington 24:16, 24:144b)

Annie said the legend of grandmother rock was well known among the Lower Coquille and the Hanis and Milluk people of Coos Bay.  She said she had heard the story from many different people.  She said ‘If you are a newcomer [visiting lower Coquille] it throws lightning from those rocks at Bandon where this story is; then a newcomer is to have a short life if such lights throw from those old rocks. (Jacobs 93:136)

According to Coquelle Thompson, this rock was known to the Upper Coquille too, though he called it ‘red rock’.  Why red I do not know, as it was not red in color – perhaps red has other meanings in Athabaskan, like beautiful.  He called it théhlsik nadii’a (as rendered in our current orthography), with nadii’a being a verb referring to vertical, growing, living trees.  He said the rock had grass on it, seagulls laid eggs on it, and gúshtle – brodiaea harvest lilies (in Athabaskan, literally ‘little camas’) grew there.  Upper Coquille people canoed downriver to visit it and summer.  Thompson complained that the whites destroyed the rock.  Indians, he said, would never have disturbed that rock, but whites spoiled everything. (Harrington 26:1241-1243)

So now most of grandmother rock lies in the water, forming the jetty at the Coquille river mouth.  A few large fragments of her still sit in and on the ground around Heritage Place.  If you happen to be there to visit friends or relatives, say hello to her.  Poor, poor grandmother.

So far as I know the other 3 rocks – those of the grandfather, granddaughter and grandson in the story – are still there, on the south side of the mouth of the river.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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9 Responses to Grandmother Rock of Bandon

  1. Shirod says:

    I’ve always heard it referred to as “Owmosh”….not sure what that means exactly (and in what language: Coquille, Miluk, Hanis or Chinook?? You have any info on this.

    • shichils says:

      Apparently that word is both Hanis and Milluk for ‘grandmother’; in Hanis it is uumash (OO – mosh) or uumashii (oo mosh ee); in St Clair’s Milluk list grandmother is also uumash (in 1903 St Clair worked with a Milluk speaker named George Barney who lived in the little intertribal community that formed on the SIuslaw River after Yachats subagency closed); but Annie Peterson pronounced it uumatl’i to Jacobs. Lottie (Annie’s niece) recalled a few Milluk words for Harrington-she said uumatl’ach, which I think is the same as Annie’s uumatl’i and with the relationship suffix -ach (which is usually -ech in Hanis but can change to -ach because of vowel harmony – meaning how it is pronounced depends on the vowels in the stem).

      Did I give you a big ol’ headache yet?

    • Tom Hundhausen says:

      My grandkids call me Opa…German for grandfather. Oma is German for Grandmother. “Owmosh” probably drank too much fermented cranberry juice.

  2. Shirod Younker says:

    yup headache here!…but glad it confirmed my belief that “owmash” meant grandmother.

  3. Prairie Moser says:

    Thank you for the history here.

  4. Pingback: Grandmother Rock of Bandon | NDNHISTORYRESEARCH | Critical & Indigenous Anthropology

  5. Thanks Patti. Working on my own history of this rock and the incident of blowing it up. If you have found anything new about this can you send to me? thanks

  6. Pingback: Interview with Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Kassie Rippie - Women In Archaeology

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