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’.