Dancing Red Cedars

Last week I got to tag along on Morgan’s class field trip to a local forest. It was a lovely day and we got to see some wild turkeys, several deer, a ton of oaks, bay laurels (that is what Californians call myrtlewood trees) and some other lovely trees. In the afternoon it got breezy & some tall douglas firs were swaying in the wind. Listening to the trees reminded me of a place on the Coquille River.

Lottie Evanoff learned from Lower Coquille friends that there was a place on the south bank of the river (somewhere downstream from the town of Coquille but upstream of Proper and another place called ‘snake place’) that was called in Lower Coquille buuwas niksdiida which means red-cedar dancing place. The story was, long ago there were some dancers who were turned into red cedars. The treetops bent and danced in the wind.

From this Lottie thought that the Milluk word for red cedar was buuwas. And it may have been in the Lower Coquille dialect. According to George Barney (St Clair’s Milluk informant) and Annie Peterson the South Slough Milluk word for red cedar is the same as that in Hanis, tlahaimihl.

Interestingly though, the word buuwas does show up once in the Hanis vocabulary – Jim Buchanan used this word to refer to young red cedar roots. Annie Peterson used the words pgi’ik’ (Hanis) and pgiik’ (Milluk) to refer to cedar roots of any size.

So here we might have a case of dialects diverging – a word that once meant cedar roots coming to mean red cedar tree in Milluk. Or, perhaps they were just playing with the words to make the place name. I haven’t seen that much with place names, but with personal names sometimes people had fun twisting the language for a bit – as an example Doloos Jackson’s nickname Doloos actually came from the Coosan word diiluutl, meaning ‘young man’.

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About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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3 Responses to Dancing Red Cedars

  1. Shirod Younker says:

    tlaha is the miluk word for paddle…so would that have any connection to tlahamihl?

    • shichils says:

      Interesting thought…except in the old days they didn’t make canoe paddles out of cedar but out of hardwoods like Oregon Ash (H: tlpai, M: tlpa) and Maple (huulik’ in both).
      Then again I noticed in Hanis (and maybe Milluk too but I am missing a couple of words) that there are several trees plus a fern that end in a variation of -mhl (which happens to be the Siuslaw genitive – aka possessive – make of it what you will. I am not aware of -mhl being an active case ending of any sort in Hanis. Don’t know so much about Milluk ones)

      red cedar – tlahaimihl (both H&M)

      white cedar-la’lomhl (only recorded in H)

      western hemlock tree-chemehl (H&M)

      spruce=chishiimohl (H), chishiimhl (M)

      fern=hlkwitiimhl (H), hlq’watimhl (M)

      myrtlewood the tree not the nut=wegenhl (recorded in Hanis only; yes I see it is an n not an m in there but they are both nasal consonants before the -hl & who knows it if really fits this pattern or not)

      So, is this -mhl/mohl/mihl ending on these 4 trees and a fern the remnants of an ancient worn out pattern in the languages, or coincidence? I’ve no idea. I just thought it was kinda interesting it appeared on several of the conifers. (Not that it holds for all; shore pine is tsipkw)

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