A confusion of names

So off and on for awhile I’ve been building on my dad’s work and trying to build databases of traditional place names (mostly in the Hanis, Milluk and Siuslaw languages but I keep notes on interesting Athabaskan, Alsea and Tillamook names too).

All too often I run into some problems.  The only individual who was really interested in native place names was Harrington, who worked in Oregon in the early 1940s, and by then his informants could recall certain words but not always where they were located.  And sometimes there would be these big discussions between informants as to the name of certain landmarks – sometimes after these discussions, a consensus was reached; sometimes not.  And sometimes, more than one name (in a given language) was given for a landmark.  When this happens, I have to wonder – are both names correct?  Is only one correct and if so, which one?  Are neither correct?  Can these questions even be answered?  Sometimes I have no good way of answering these questions, but sometimes I do.

My current conundrum is the correct Hanis place name for the “Hollering Place” site in Empire.  In one proposal for a commercial project at the site, the Hanis name is given as Qaimisiich; whereas I had long understood the name of the village site was Hanisich.  I spent a few hours of crazy word-hunting research, and it turns out that both the names Q’aimisiich and Hanisich are both in some sense correct, but I think Hanisich is the main name of the site.

I’ve put the chart I made of most of the references I could find for both names at the end of the post here, but here are my conclusions and how I got to them.  The word q’aimis, or qa’áimis means ‘bar, river mouth’ in the Hanis language (and in Milluk also).  Therefor Q’aimisiich would mean something like river-mouth-place or even imply view-of-river-mouth.  The name Q’aimisiich only appears twice, recorded both times by Melville Jacobs – once on a list of place names he got in 1932 from James Buchanan and once again the next year from Annie Peterson.  Both Buchanan and Peterson place the name at the “Magee springs” (which are springs on the old Magee house property in Empire).  But Buchanan and Peterson also both talk about Empire as being called ‘Hanisich’.

Lottie Evanoff and Frank Drew also connect Empire to Hanisich.  Lottie (daughter of Chief Daloos Jackson & Fanny, who was Annie Peterson’s older half-sister) said her paternal grandfather was chief of Hanisich village and in her telling, Hanisich included the springs.  She also said that the word for a spring or well is met.  It may even be her grandfather (or his father or uncle) was the “Chief Hanness” who was known to the Camp Castaway survivors of the Captain Lincoln wreck of January 1852.  One of the survivors, Henry H. Baldwin, wrote to local historian Orville Dodge that “A few men, well conversant with Indian jargon, by words and signs satisfied them no harm was intended.  The old chief, named Hanness, with a few others who were brought to camp, informed us they were Cowan Indians, and resided where Empire now stands.” (Dodge 1898:120)

So, the stories mostly agree – everyone says there was a place in Empire known as Hanisich – but two people specify the springs as Q’aimisiich.  Are both names right, where the springs may have been known to some people as Q’aimisiich and the village as Hanisich?  I think so – and, given that the name Hanisich is used more often by more people in reference to the village at that site, Hanisich is the more correct (or dominant) name for that site.

Which kind of gets back to, how can we know this?  Whose stories are more reliable, and why?  Both Buchanan and Peterson specify the name Q’aimisiich with the springs, and those two people spent little time together after the break up of the Yachats reservation (After 1876, Buchanan spent his whole life on the lower Siuslaw river; whereas Annie Peterson went all over the place, from Siletz to Coos Bay).  Since Annie* did live much of her adult life on the bay, she probably knew Coos place names fairly well.  So did Lottie, who spent many years living with her parents on Coos Bay (and after her parents died, she spent many years living on Catching Slough; her old floathouse collapsed a decade back or so).  So I am pretty confident they knew place names.  Frank Drew only knew what he could remember Jim Buchanan telling him; he never lived on Coos Bay.

The interesting puzzler is – how did Buchanan recall where these place names were?  He was born on Coos Bay ( to a Wu’alach Hanis father and Upper Coquille mother) sometime in the late 1840s to maybe 1850; then was removed with the rest of the people in 1856 to Fort Umpqua; then Yachats, then settled on the Siuslaw.  He never lived at Coos Bay after 1856, rarely even visited.  It seems odd he could recall where place names were on the bay with such clarity, and yet it seems he did.  I’ve checked his place name information against Lottie Evanoff and Annie Peterson, and his names match up quite well with theirs.  I have come to the conclusion that he had a well trained memory.  He was a storyteller and, so it’s been said, was active as a tribal speaker for many years.  I think he had a well trained memory and along with learning and telling stories he also was careful to learn place names – and he had them memorized in a certain order; a kind of memory chain.  He also remembered many people’s genealogies and what village they or their parents were born.

*I will point out here that many people regard Annie Peterson as ‘an unreliable narrator’ as she herself proudly owned the nickname Tsmiixwn, tricky, and many people say she lied to Jacobs about some things.  I’ve been mulling over a long post on just this issue, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  Needless to say, on the issue of place names I’ve cross checked her place name information against other people and so far, no red flags have shown up there.

EDIT:  Sorry, I noticed that the table cuts off the last column (source) so if you want to view the entire table, email me at miluk (at) dslextreme (dot) com or leave a comment – thanks.





Lottie Evanoff


Lottie said “The old Cap McGee house is still standing & that is where the famous boiling spring of cold water was & where the Hanisiich chief lived, Lottie’s paternal grandfather, which place was called Hanisiich

[Note from Patty: Captain Magee built a house next to the Hanis springs in 1873; house still stands to this day]

Harrington 24:473

Lottie Evanoff


My grandfather lived at Capt McGee’s place, in the very heart of Empire, cold water was boiling out there…. Capt McGee was a nice man, capt of a tug boat. He used to tell my father: I am a chief now, I lived at the chief’s place. That place & spring was called hánisich. Where the main present town of Empire town is now was a kind of “lake” grown to willows & crabapples & the coast line consisted of sand that changed from year to year, some years sticking out.

Harrington 24:693b-694a

Lottie Evanoff


hɷ´•nIs̥ɑmæ•t‘ = Hanis’s springs [mæt = spring, well]

Harrington 24:37a

Lottie Evanoff


Há•nIsI•t$ the spring or well at McGee’s

Harrington 24:37b

Lottie Evanoff


Q14: Tell us the names that you can remember, as you remember them from your father or your mother or other old Indians, of the Indian villages in the Coos country.

A. I can remember some of them but I couldn’t tell it all. Yah-ai-khin-kitch [her name for South Slough], Kahowah, Wait-The [probably Waiqdii which is a little below Empire], Hanasitch, Intesedge [ntise’ich, the old Luce sawmill], Walatch [Flanagan Cemebery], Kl’tasch. From there they cross to Donse [Danis; North Bend];…

1931 land claims trial transcript, page 56

Jim Buchanan


hānîsītc = Empire (town). (This is one of the few village names Buchanan gave to St Clair)

St Clair vol 2 page 237

Jim Buchanan


The Indians used to live in Coos Bay. They had many villages. They called their country kū´kwîs. They call their language hā´nîs Lē´îs. The biggest village was Hā´nîs, one mile west of North Bend. Other villages were: 1) Lxaï´tᴱxas, on the present site of North Bend….

At the time of the Coosbay {sic} treaty (1855) there were the following Coos villages: 1) Tī´sēᴵˆtc*, above the Empire City, about one mile North-East of Empire, Jack Rogers, being the chief in my days. Jim Tā´yī (=Rich man) was the head chief of the two.

  1. Hā´nîsîtc, on the townsight of Empire.

3)Waā´latc = miles from North Bend on the east side of the river going down.

4)*Wā´yêqtī – where they are digging shrimp about one mile southwest of Empire City.

5) Mîlᵘˆ´kwītc= situated about 4 miles south-west of Empire on east side of river going down

Frachtenberg’s Buchanan ethnography

Jim Buchanan


q’áimisi•tc; ‘bar’ (at Magee’s place at Empire)

Jacobs 92:150

Jim Buchanan


há•nisitc, há•nisi•tc, “Hanis Indians (at Empire)

Jacobs 92:150

Jim Buchanan


Q: I now ask him to name all the villages within the Coos Indian country, large and small, that he can remember. A: Milokwitch, Hanasitch is one of the biggest villages, Wahlatch, Intesedge….

1931 land claims trial transcript, page 33

Frank Drew


há•nIsI•tʃ = Empire

Harrington 22:1164, 24:17b

Frank Drew


Frank: háˆnIsI•t$, name of the tribe. The name of a village is the same as a tribe, while all the time you are a Coos Indian all around generally. The singular of this is Hanis, one Empire Indian

Harrington 24:19b

Frank Drew


The biggest village was há•nisitc (Empire City now).

Jacobs 92:54

Annie Peterson


q’áimisi•tc, name of the village where the Magee house at Empire is.

Jacobs 93:36

Annie Peterson


11Q. Where did you go from Siuslaw?

A. Coos country.

12Q. What place in the Coos country did you come to?

A. Hanasitch.

1931 land claims trial transcript page 61

Annie Peterson


[speaking of Indians punished for running away from Yachats subagency] I know the names by their villages. Their names go by the villages that they belong to. Those who were punished were: Milokwitch, Hanasitch—would be about two or three from Hanasitch, and about the same amount from Intesedge. That is as much as I remember.

1931 land claims trial transcript, page 65

Annie Peterson

Hanisidja (in Milluk)

“Then I went away from there (about 1880). I came back here to Hánisidja (Empire). Some of the Coos people (including) my older sister (Fanny) were living there.

Coos Narrative & Ethnologic Texts page 108 (Annie recounting her autobiography)


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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